That’s NEAT: Burning calories without “exercise”
January 6, 2015

As I pointed out last week, it can sometimes be difficult to stay on an exercise routine while traveling as a digital nomad. While the last post offered some advice for getting to the gym or exercising at home, this week I’d like to present a counterpoint. Sort of an “exercise for lazy people” post.

Exercise for lazy people?

We’re always burning calories. Your “basal metabolic rate” is the rate at which you burn calories just laying down, completely sedentary. Burning more calories than you take in generally results in weight loss. However, if you’re hunched over a laptop all day it can be difficult to get calorie-burning exercise in.

Also, if you’re the type (like I am sometimes) who just can’t get themselves to the gym or other exercise (otherwise known as lazy), there may be a way.

Enter “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis”:

According to Dr. James Levine, “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.” One physiologist states that you can raise your calorie expenditure by 25 percent just by moving from the floor to a chair to check email and other small bits of movement that we wouldn’t traditionally classify as “exercise.”

Being naturally active, rather than making specific appointments for gym time, can be a better solution. This is particularly true when the activity is spread throughout the day instead of concentrated into a 1-hour gym session.


What can you do to promote NEAT in your life?

There’s a few things that people can do to add a bit of NEAT into their daily lives. Try concentrating on a few of these to increase calorie burn throughout the day.

  • Get up from your desk intermittently (say, once every hour) to roam around a bit, even if it’s just a trip to the restroom or a refill on a cup of water
  • Track steps with a pedometer to ensure that you’ve naturally reached your exercise quota for the day
  • Get small bits of exercise while waiting in line by balancing on one leg at a time or doing calf raises
  • Do those same calf raises while sitting in your chair
  • Sit on a stability ball to add constant NEAT movements while working (don’t try this while working in a cafe, though)
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Walk to the cafe instead of taking a cab, car or public transportation
  • Set aside part of your lunch break for walking

Try implementing these techniques into your daily routine for a week and see if there’s any results. If nothing else, a little movement can help you feel better, both mentally and physically.

Got any other tips on introducing some NEAT to your life? Leave them in the comments!

photo credit: momentcaptured1 and t r e v y via photopin cc

About author

Zachary Strebeck

I'm a solo practice lawyer and full-time digital nomad. I run my law practice at, representing Internet, mobile software and gaming entrepreneurs. I also blog about digital nomad travel at A Lawyer Abroad.

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