Vigorous exercise is one way to burn calories. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is another. That’s a mouthful, but NEAT is simply the actions you take that get you out of your seat during a normal day. These activities include walking to lunch, pacing while on the phone, cleaning the house, cooking, climbing stairs, standing while talking to a friend—even fidgeting.
NEAT is important because it significantly influences whether we gain weight or stay trim and fit, according to research conducted by James Levine
, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Levine confirmed that people who spend their waking hours sitting weigh more than people who move around. His conclusion? Living in a chair-based environment can result in obesity.
Unfortunately, the chair-based environment is everywhere. We may sit at a table to eat breakfast, sit in a car or bus on our way to work and sit during our workday. We may sit during lunch and sit driving home, only to sit before the television with a remote control in hand. On the weekend, we may sit through a movie, ride a lawn mower or snow blower or sit in a car as we pick up fast food at a drive-through. For some people, 23 out of 24 hours are spent sitting or sleeping.
Dr. Levine has a visionary plan to create more opportunities for NEAT that will get us moving and keep us fit and trim. He’s designing dynamic environments for offices where work stations are mounted on treadmills. Instead of meeting in rooms with tables and chairs, employees conduct meetings while walking on specially designed parallel tracks. Walking side by side, the employees conduct business while engaging in exercise.
Dr. Levine is also continuing an educational drive to make people aware of how much they sit and suggest ways they can introduce more movement into their lives. Walking, shopping and moving around for any reason shouldn’t be underestimated, according to Dr. Levine.
After thinking about the implications of Dr. Levine’s research, I appreciate the layout of my home even more. I live in a two-story house, so I am constantly running up and down stairs. In addition, my office is located outside the house over the garage. If I’m working in my office and want to throw in a load of laundry, I have to walk down a flight of stairs, walk upstairs to get the laundry, back downstairs to the washing machine and then back upstairs to my office. To accomplish my task, I am forced to move because of the different levels.
Besides appreciating the layout of my home, I welcome Dr. Levine’s development of the NEAT concept for a distinctly female reason. His research gives me another excuse, in addition to retail therapy, to go shopping.
- Carole Carson