Theoretically, the key to weight management and healthy weight loss is simple -- eat healthily and exercise. But it's so much more than that.
Although we may workout a few times a week and eat pretty well, things we often neglect are sleep, stress, hormones and -- one you may not have heard of -- NEAT.
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and refers to the energy (calories) burned for everything we do that's not sleeping, eating or exercise. It's activities like doing housework, fidgeting, stretching, walking to work or up stairs, or carrying food shopping.
"When you're active in any way, that is burning calories," accredited practising dietitian Chloe McLeod told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Whether it's getting up and walking into the bathroom or hanging clothes on the line, that physical activity is still burning energy, which is what that thermogenesis is."
This spontaneous physical activity is what boosts our overall energy expenditure, which in turns helps us manage our weight and assist with weight loss. Unfortunately, the majority of us are sitting for most of the day, which doesn't do much for NEAT.
"Being sedentary for long hours of the day can suppress your body's natural thermogenesis (calorie burning capability)," dietitian Robbie Clark told HuffPost Australia.
"Your body is programmed to burn calories, but the issue is that you can't stimulate your body's full capacity to burn calories if you are sitting for too long. In fact, extended periods of inactivity is not only a depressant for thermogenesis, but also for your brain."
"The terms that's been thrown around is 'sitting is the new smoking'," McLeod added. "Research has shown that sitting down all day has a negative impact on our health.
"When we're generally physically active over the course of the day, it does burn more calories, but more importantly, it really helps with brain function."
So, what are we supposed to do if we have desk jobs? A lot of things. The key is to find a hobby you love.
"With hobbies, we do them because they're fun. If we find the activity we're doing fun, then we're more likely to continue to do it and make it a part of your daily or weekly routine," McLeod said.
"One of the reasons I love incorporating active hobbies is because you're going to be more physically active without even noticing.
"An example of that is the Pokémon GO craze. There were all these people saying they were losing weight because they were walking more than ever before or because it was a hobby they enjoyed. This is how a hobby can impact on people's NEAT, or even exercise activity."
There's also a ninth activity that significantly increases NEAT.
"Get intimate -- intimate activities such as kissing, undressing and sex all burn calories. It's been proven that sex can burn 100 or more calories per half hour," Clark said.
"Incorporating some of those NEAT-type activities into the day is really useful," McLeod said. "Whether it's getting up every hour and filling up your glass of water, or walking to the further away printer, it sounds small but over the course of the day, weeks, months and years, it does add up."
"This is highly beneficial for weight maintenance and weight loss," Clark added. "Additional benefits of moving your body more include better cardiovascular and respiratory output, improved fitness, healthy bone density, better mental health, better general health and quality of life."
You can also include NEAT activities while you're working.
"It's important to note that most people spend the majority of their day at work. One way to increase caloric burn is to implement non-exercise movement throughout the workday," Clark said.
Some examples of NEAT activities during the work day include:
- Change your mode of transportation -- Walk, bike, train or bus to work instead of driving.
- Implement walking meetings -- If your work permits it, head outdoors for a walking meeting. Walking is an effective way to burn additional calories.
- Take the stairs -- An obvious one but for good reason. Skip the elevator and take the stairs to keep the body moving throughout the day.
- Stand instead of sit -- Adjustable desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. Investing in one of these may help to increase caloric output because resting heart rate is higher when standing than sitting.
And, don't forget, some forms of exercise can become a fun hobby, too.
"For example, part of cycling is getting all the gear, catching up with your mates and being part of a community," McLeod said. "The same goes for going to a yoga or Pilates class. Part of the reason you go is because you like the teacher or the people you go with or meet there.
"It's just about getting started and choosing something you enjoy. If you don't know whether you'll enjoy a new activity, just try it -- you might be pleasantly surprised."
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