NEAT and Easy Weight Loss
Besides diet, one issue contributing to obesity and many of the health problems associated with weight is simply a lack of movement. The problem is not spending hours at the gym or running a marathon as much as not using our bodies on a daily basis for the things we need to do. The average desk-bound American takes only 5,000 to 6,000 steps a day, which is less than half of the 14,000-18,000 an Amish person takes. This lack of movement is largely due to all our modern conveniences such as cars, computers, elevators, etc that we have created to make our lives easier but are actually making us sicker. Some have even used the term "sitting disease" to describe this epidemic.
So what's wrong with sitting?
Even in healthy people who exercise regularly, it has been shown that those who sit the most during the day have larger waists and worse blood pressure and blood sugar profiles than those who sit less. So for those that do not exercise at all, sitting is even worse. It has been revealed in men who walk a lot that reducing their walking by 1,350 steps for 2 weeks,reducing their walking by 1,350 steps for 2 weeks, leads to more abdominal fat as well as reduced sugar and fat metabolism.
The main reason for this is the more we sit the more we negatively impact our metabolism. For example, the molecule, lipoprotein lipase that plays an essential role in how our body processes fats is only produced when our muscles are in use. So when you sit a crucial part of your metabolism slows down. Other substances that benefit the way we store and utilize fats and sugars are also produced during muscle contraction.
Too much sitting is also affecting our children. A Canadian studied showed that children between the ages of 2-4 who sat watching 18 hours of television per week lead to 7.6 mm increase in waist and decreased ability to jump by age 10 in comparison to children who watched less.
What is NEAT?
NEAT stands for "Non-exercise activity thermogenesis," which accounts for much of our movement and therefore our daily caloric expenditure. These activities include walking, pacing while on the phone, cleaning the house, cooking, climbing stairs, standing on line, and folding laundry. It doesn't include the calories you burn during intense exercise: jogging, aerobics or power walking. According to endocrinologist James Levine NEAT is a crucial part of our total caloric expenditure, which unfortunately has greatly declined as part of our lives. As a result, many of us are being robbed of using 1,500 to 2,400 calories a day leading to excess weight, obesity, and many health problems.
How to get more NEAT?
For those of us living in New York City, getting more NEAT should not be difficult as there is plenty of opportunity. By choosing to stand rather than sit on the subway, walking to work, the store, or the theater, living in a 4th floor walk-up, the list is endless. We can actually burn an extra 100 calories by talking on the phone for an hour if we pace around or stand. On the job, we can choose a standing desk or use an exercise ball as a chair, which will work our abdominal and back muscles. Rather than take the escalator or elevator, we can choose the stairs. We can also consider actually walking to a colleague's desk to talk to them rather than calling or emailing. Finally we can make our meeting a walking meeting and be amazed at the flow of ideas that come as well as the shedding of pounds.