Walking is N.E.A.T!
Dr. James Levine and others at the Mayo clinic published the most detailed exercise study of its kind in January of 2005 in the journal Science. The study shows that Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is more effective in terms of maintaining a healthy body weight than organized exercise. Or as I like to put it, you are doing more to maintain a healthy body weight by walking on a treadmill daily while you work than you would going to the “Power Stomp Dazzle Step” class at your local gym. (OK – I made the name up, but not the study – you can find more details of the study on the Mayo clinic’s web site. http://mayoresearch.mayo.edu/levine_lab/neat_things.cfm)
Not to mention the fact that you can’t get other work done in an exercise class like you can on a treadmill. I am certainly not advocating giving up your other forms of exercise (personally I do Yoga as well). I only want to emphasize that walking while you work is not just about being able to multi-task (though the “type-A” side of my personality LOVES that). It is a really important category of exercise that used to be a part of our daily lives that we have essentially lost due to technology that allows us to avoid manual labor.
What is Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)?
Human Energy Expenditure – Definitions
There are three principal components of human energy expenditure (EE):
–Basal metabolic rate (BMR) – BMR is the energy expended when an individual is laying at complete rest, in the morning, after sleep. For people with sedentary jobs, BMR accounts for about 60 percent of total daily EE. This is a proven correlation between this percentage and body fat. In other words, the higher percentage of your time you spend in a resting state (like you do sitting at a desk all day) the more statistically likely you are to be overweight.
–Thermic effect of food (TEF) TEF is the increase in energy expenditure associated with the digestion, absorption, and storage of food. In other words, our bodies expend energy in the process of taking it in. TEF accounts for around 10-15 % of total daily energy expenditure.
–Activity thermogenesis is made up of two parts: Exercise and Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) Even in gym rats who are avid exercisers, it is NEAT that is the predominant player in activity thermogenesis.
Examples of NEAT Activities: All of the normal movement we do in our daily lives are NEAT activities. These can be job related or leisure activities, and even fidgeting counts! This had made NEAT difficult to quantify and study, which is why we have not had a lot of good research on the topic.
What Dr. Levine’s study found is this: 75% of the difference between “Person A” who is lean and “Person B” who is overweight can be accounted for by NEAT. Evidence supports it. NEAT is highly variable and ranges from ~ 15 percent of total daily EE in very sedentary individuals to >50 percent in highly active persons . Even minor changes in physical activity throughout the day can increase daily EE by 20 percent. NEAT is impacted by environment, but is also under biological control .
So what now?