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Regular Exercise: The N.E.A.T Way To Get It

by Sarah on October 16, 2010

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You know, an hour-long, intensive workout may not be the best way to lose weight.


Here’s why:


In 2005, Mayo Clinic researchers led by Dr. James Levine embarked on a study to figure out why some people tended towards obesity and why others stayed lean.  They gathered two groups of people – one group obese and one group that was thin.  And then they issued them special undergarments with finely-tuned electronic sensors in them.  The study participants had to wear these undergarments and they ate the food issued by the clinic.


The researchers found out that the people who tended to be lean were up moving about an average of 150 minutes more each day than the people who tended to be obese.  After looking at the data, they found that the people who tended to be thinner were just more fidgety and moved more over the day.  With all this extra "little" movements, thinner people were burning about 350 more calories each day than their more lethargic counterparts.


And even when they shifted the meals so that the thinner people ate more and gained weight, they found that they still moved more and got rid of that weight quicker.


This initial study has turned into a full-bodies area of research at the Mayo Clinic on what Dr. Levine calls Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT.


NEAT researchers have found that just by moving more overall in small ways throughout the day, you can burn more calories, lose more weight and increase your metabolism.


What does that mean for family fitness?


In our family we’ve got a bit of an advantage because we have a small farm.  So there are a lot of active chores to get done – whether it’s chasing the chickens into the coop, weeding or feeding the goats.


But you don’t have to be on a farm to get more active.


  • Instead of one of you pulling out the snow blower, shovel the driveway together.  We do this all winter and we’ve gotten pretty fast at it – plus we work up a good sweat. (And here’s a hint for those of you considering this:  We don’t wait until the snow has stopped and we have over 2 feet of snow on the ground. During a big storm, we shovel a couple times – mostly pushing until we get to the edges and need to shovel it off)
  • Everybody pitch in to clean the house together.  One study conducted in Britain found that on average a person burned over 50,000 calories each year doing housework.
  • Park the car a little farther from your destination and get a good brisk walk in.
  • Stand up more when you’re talking, rather than taking a seat at the table or on the couch.
  • Even preparing dinner together can get you all moving.


There are millions of household projects that you can all do together and get moving doing it.


Not only will you all get in shape, but you will also share in the sense of accomplishment of getting projects done.  In many cases you can save money (we don’t pay someone to plow our driveway and we didn’t buy an expensive snowblower and gas). And it’s a great way to help your kids (and you) develop new skills.

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