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NEAT- What Is It And Why Is It Important For Weight Loss?

NEAT- What Is It And Why Is It Important For Weight Loss?

In order to lose weight and maintain a healthy body, it is often believed that we must exercise really hard and avoid certain foods and food groups. One thing that is not talked about much when it comes to weight loss is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). 

NEAT- What Is it?

By definition, NEAT is all physical activity that’s not related to any type of formal exercise. Everything from fidgeting, walking to your car, walking downstairs, even maintaining and changing posture. In short, it is most of your physical activity during the day apart from any type of formal exercise.

When I talk about physical activity, people get so focused on exercise.

Exercise is only a small portion of the energy you expend each day if you are in a formal exercise program. NEAT accounts for much more energy expenditure than any planned physical activity. Therefore habitual daily activity and movement can contribute hugely to improving energy balance. 

If you go to the gym for an hour, there’s still another 14 hours or so that you are awake. This makes up a much bigger proportion of your daily energy expenditure than that 1 hour of resistance training.

Don’t get me wrong, exercise is extremely important, but If your goal is weight loss and fat loss, then you will want to focus on this key element that so many people underestimate. 

NEAT is also likely to be regulated through a central mechanism that integrates NEAT with energy intake and energy stores. This basically means that it is activated with over-feeding and suppressed with under-feeding.

NEAT- why is it important for weight loss?

So, we now know that NEAT comprises of most of the energy we expend throughout the day. But if you’re still sitting on the fence about the importance of NEAT, then take this for example;

An obese person loses 40 pounds. Their NEAT levels will go down in response to the weight loss. The person will now move less, fidget less, and take the elevator instead of the stairs. The person is not even aware that this is happening. This decrease in NEAT that you experience with weight loss can predict the amount of weight you’ll regain over time if you are not conscious of this reduction occurring.  

So, if you’re not taking NEAT into account when you are going through a weight loss period, and consciously making an effort to track your movement, to some degree, then you put yourself at risk of not losing any more weight and potentially putting it back on.

However, me telling you to move more isn’t as simple as it may seem. Some people in an obese egocentric environment still manage to stay slim. There’s data to suggest that these people have a higher biological drive to move more. They fidget more, don’t like to sit down for long periods of time and this seems to help against weight gain as opposed to other individuals. 

Is this NEAT down to choice or is it a genetic pre-deposition? 

There’s some data to suggest that the heritability of NEAT and physical activity can be anywhere from 30-50%. There’s definitely a strong genetic component where some people have a subconscious drive to move around more and naturally have higher NEAT levels. 

Everyone’s NEAT levels will also drop in response to the weight loss and you may not even be aware that this is happening.

However, even if there is a strong genetic component, we can all make choices regarding our physical activity. Those who are not so-called genetically blessed just have to be more aware of this. Basically, make sure your NEAT levels are high enough to help with their weight loss.

We all have the choice to be more active even if we don’t have the genetic drive to be more active, so start making serious changes to being an active human being because fat loss will never coincide with a couch potato lifestyle.

Here’s 10 ways that you can boost fat loss with NEAT.

Struggling with weight loss? download the activhealth “guide to calories” ebook now.