Why your NEAT matters in weight loss is really pretty simple: NEAT is an acronym for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.” Your NEAT matters in weight loss because it encompasses the energy we expend for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-related exercise. Makes sense, right? The energy you use throughout the day to walk across the house or the office, wrangling your kids, cleaning the house, typing, talking on the phone, preparing meals, doing yard work, or sitting watching TV in the evening — yep, all of that is NEAT. So knowing that NEAT matters, especially as it relates to weight loss, is one thing, but using that knowledge and combining it with accountability and tracking can take your personal fitness to a whole new level.
Why Your NEAT Matters in Weight Loss — In Spite of that Workout
So let’s go back to why your NEAT matters in weight loss. The problem with working out is that we are creatures of habit. We spend an hour at the gym or Pilates class, maybe even once a day, and call it good. The thing is, depending on your fitness and overall health goals, that’s quite likely not enough. In fact, it’s probably smart to look fitness from a more holistic point of view. Sure, you’re at the gym for an hour, but what are you doing the rest of the day? Are you sitting on your butt in an office all day every day? If so, that hour long workout, no matter what you did, probably isn’t going to help you if you’re looking to be more fit, manage your weight, and feel healthier overall.
Your NEAT Matters More Than You Think
Why your NEAT matters in weight loss more than most of us think, and that’s where we are kind of fooling ourselves. Think about it for a minute. Compare your daily NEAT expenditure to someone like your neighborhood mail carrier, a retail worker, food service worker, UPS delivery person, lawn care professional, or construction worker. Those people are up and on their feet and walking around all day, every day. I think we all agree that most people in any of these kinds of jobs are going to expend more energy, and have a greater NEAT factor, than those of us who work in an office or spend our days in a fairly sedentary manner. In general, those people tend to weigh less and generally be more fit than those of us who sit still the majority of the time. And when it comes to health, fitness, weight management and maintenance, and meeting fitness goals in general, those people who are moving on the regular—they’ve got an advantage over the rest of us.
Accountability — Why Tracking Is a Good Thing
I don’t know about you, but I like something that keeps me accountable for the level of fitness I’d like to achieve as well as maintenance of a goal weight. For instance, I don’t live and die by my scale. However, my scale, in combination with the regular use of a tape measure and tracking and recording those weights and measurements, keeps me accountable with regard to my overall weight and body composition.
That’s where apps and how they can help with accountability come in. I also use the MapMyRun app to track my weekly physical activity. I set a goal, and track my workouts so that I can see how I measure up in meeting that goal. My personal goal: Seven 45-minute workouts weekly. If I miss one daily workout, I can double up on another day. I don’t always meet that goal, but I work hard to try. Using an app helps keep me accountable.
I also track my food intake using the premium version of the MyFitnessPal app. This allows me to track not only food intake, but to also look at my caloric intake, nutrients, carbs, protein, and fat by gram, and work to keep those things on track with my personal nutrition goals.
And speaking of goals, how do you know you’re meeting them if you’re not tracking them? Ahhhh, accountability, it’s a beautiful thing. When you’re not tracking, it’s easy to ignore the fact that you’re mailing it in when it comes to fitness and eating right. When you’re tracking, it’s right there in your face—and much harder to ignore.
For More on Apps, Read: Six Best Fitness Apps for Workouts [in the Gym or on the Road]
Why Your NEAT Matters in Weight Loss and How Tracking Steps Helps
I’m a fitness freak and firmly commit to meeting certain fitness goals. That said, if I go to a Yoga class or to my favorite Reformer Pilates class, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m moving enough during the course of that day. If I go to Pilates and work out for 50 minutes, then come home and sit the rest of the day, it’s important that I don’t disillusion myself into thinking that I’m doing enough, especially if I’m working on weight loss in conjunction with working out.
Your NEAT matters, even when you’re working out, and your NEAT matters in weight loss. That’s where tracking steps comes in. I try to hit a 10k step goal every day. That doesn’t mean I always hit that goal, but the trying is as important as the achieving. So to hit that step goal in combination with a workout goal might mean that I walk to my Yoga class, do Yoga, then walk home. All in all, it’s a three mile walk and I do it in about 15 minutes per mile, and I get both my Yoga workout AND my daily steps in. That is a major win! As I mentioned, I use the MapMyRun app to track my steps, but you can just as easily track this using your cell phone, Apple Watch, Garmin device, or FitBit.
I also grab my trusty yellow Lab and go for a walk after eating dinner, and coerce my kids to go along. Sometimes I talk them into a bike ride through the neighborhood, which doesn’t get me steps in, but does get me (and us) moving.
Most importantly, if you commit to not only a certain workout goal per week, but ALSO a certain number of steps per day, I’m pretty sure you’ll notice that your level of overall fitness will improve because of that focus on your NEAT energy expenditure. And tracking is how you tie it all together and keep yourself accountable.
What about you? Have you heard of NEAT and does it make sense when I suggest that working out alone isn’t enough? Do you know why your NEAT matters in weight loss? What fitness tips do you use to get, and keep, yourself moving? I’d love to know your secrets!
Other things that might be of interest:
10 Bone-Strengthening Exercises You Definitely Should Be Doing
It’s Not Your Metabolism, It’s Your NEAT That’s Stopping Your Weight Loss