A more neat and tidy daily workout

July 19, 2010 at 2:19 a.m.

Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic has been studying the effects of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, for the last 20 years.

NEAT calories are the ones you expend every day just in ordinary living.

They are the ones you burn while standing, talking, cooking, typing, sitting and a million other mundane tasks.

They account for 60 percent of your daily total calorie burn. Studies show that people who are lean burn more calories during these every day activities because they simply move more than those who are overweight or obese.

But even lean people are moving less than our grandparents did. Dr. Levine concludes that the technological advances made in the last 2 decades are a major source of our obesity problem in this country. Innovations such as dishwashers, robotic vacuum cleaners and TV remotes have made our lives easier, but at a cost to our physical activity. This cost can be as much as 200 calories per day. This translates into as much as 20 pounds a year.

So what can you do to raise your NEAT value? Try these small but powerful changes that can get you moving more every day.

Pace while talking on the phone.

Walk down the hall to talk to someone instead of emailing or texting.

Don't roll around your office on your chair. Use every opportunity to get up and walk a few steps.

Go for a walk or climb stairs during the last half of your lunch. It does not take a full hour to eat, so use some of that time to get up and move around.

Don't sit during TV commercials. For that matter multi task while watching TV. Fold clothes, ride a stationary bike, anything that involves not sitting still.

Put things you use often in places that force you to get up and move more.

Schedule meetings where people can stand up and move around. Some companies are even installing indoor tracks to facilitate meetings on the move.

Park as far away as possible. The goal is to add as many steps throughout your day as possible.

Fidget. Swing your leg, jiggle your foot, chew gum. All of these things burn more calories than sitting still.

Get rid of some of the conveniences in your life. Push a lawn mower instead of riding one. Wash dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher. Hang clothes instead of using the dryer. Anything that gets you moving.

By making small but vital changes you could raise your NEAT value by 200 calories per day. That could mean the difference between gaining 20 pounds and maintaining you weight. Add that in with smart food choices and exercise routines that focus on strength training and cardio and you have an answer to this country's obesity epidemic.

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Melissa Bagnall is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University in physical education. You can e-mail her at fitnesolutions@gmail.com.



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