HEALTH & FITNESS
A NEAT Trick
ver known people who don't
have to diet or exercise, but never
struggle with their weight? Doesn't
seem fair does it? You are probably think-
ing they just got lucky and inherited a great
Well, this could be the case, but there may
be another reason and it's pretty neat. No,
really, it is NEAT — Non-Activity Exercise
Thermogenesis. Simply put, NEAT is the
energy expended in everything you do that
doesn't involve eating, sleeping or deliber-
ate exercise. This may include pacing while
on the phone, housework, shopping or just
plain fidgeting. Every time you stand up and
move, you're involved in spontaneous activ-
ity and you are burning calories.
Until recently, we haven't paid much
attention to NEAT because no one realized
how much non-activity contributed to our
weight problems. Obesity was rare a century
ago and human biology has not changed.
This suggests that a major cause of the obe-
sity epidemic is the pattern of desk jobs, car
pools, suburban sprawl, television and other environments to render active living the
environmental and lifestyle factors that dis-
convenient choice. To this end, Dr. James
courage physical activity.
Levine, a researcher from Mayo Clinic in
People are often so focused on structured Rochester, Minn., has pioneered the "Office
exercise and target heart rate
of the Future" — a workstation
zones that they overlook that
that combines a computer, desk
general activity can be a huge
and treadmill into one unit. Using
contributor to weight loss. A
the desk at the recommended
NEAT study of self-proclaimed
speed of 1 mph will burn about
couch potatoes found that
100 calories per hour. So, walk-
overweight individuals appear
working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
to exhibit an innate tendency to
burns 800 extra calories per day.
sit for 2.5 hours per day more
If food intake stays the same, this
than their sedentary lean coun-
could mean a loss of more than 50
terparts. Moreover, the non-
pounds a year.
exercising lean group burned
Scientists are also developing
an average of 350 extra calories
the "Classroom of the Future"
each day just by walking and
where they are examining a simple
standing more throughout the
question: Do children really need
day — no sweating required.
to sit at desks while they learn?
In order to reverse obesity,
To find the answer, they have
we need to develop strategies to promote
designed a chair-less school complete with
standing and moving time and also re-
"standing" desks and a host of sophisticated
engineer our work, school and home
learning technologies. One thing is clear
— despite generations of parents' admoni-
tions to the contrary, children should be
encouraged to be fidgety.
Ideally, walking workstations and chair-
less classrooms will be in everyone's near
future. In the meantime, hide the remote
and walk, stand and move every chance you
get. For example, instead of e-mailing your
co-worker with a question, get out of your
chair and walk down the hall. Have a "walk-
ing meeting" with your colleague. Take the
stairs instead of the elevator whenever pos-
sible. Walk around while on the phone or if
you are at home, multi-task by doing some-
thing else at the same time such as folding
laundry or cleaning.
It's the little things you do that will make
the big difference. El
Sharon Milberger, Ph.D., of Farmington Hills is
associate director for research at Henry Ford
Health System's Center for Health Promotion
and Disease Prevention in Detroit. Her e-mail
address is: email@example.com .
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