A NEAT Exercise for people who don’t exercise

It’s January. The gyms are filled, everyone is selling you on their exercise programme, and despite the cold weather there seems to be high numbers of people pounding the streets, complete with water bottle and flashy new running gear. But, if the thought of exercise sends you running to the comfort of the pantry, or into the arms of your favourite box set, read on…

I hear you

First of all, I hear you. In general, I hate exercise. I’d rather be anywhere other than a gym or spin class. And, when I think of exercise, they’re the images I usually conjure up. But there are two important things to realise:

  1. Exercise is physical movement and that comes in many forms, from walking the dog (my favourite thing in the world), to taking a dance class, practising yoga, or running a marathon. There are so many options when it comes to how we can move our bodies, that it’s fair to say that there’s probably something that you will enjoy.
  2. We need to do it. 150 minutes a week, minimum. That’s 30 minutes a day, five days week.

Do we really need to exercise?

Yes, we do. Sorry fellow couch potato, but it’s true. Simply, exercise improves our overall health and wellbeing, and makes us look better to boot. Regular exercise:

  • Increases our longevity.
  • Reduces our risk of disease and infection.
  • Improves our sleep quality.
  • Gives us greater energy, focus and strength.
  • Can help ease depression and anxiety.
  • Improves your sexual wellness.
  • Gives you an outlet for the pressures of modern life, helping us to manage stress, achieve balance and avoid stress-related ailments.

Not convinced?

If I gave you a pill that did all of those things, would you want to take it? Did you answer yes? Well, let’s get on to your non-pill prescription.

For the next month I’d like you to get NEAT

If you are genuinely new to exercise, or haven’t exercised in a long time, you’ll be pleased to hear about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT for short. This is the calories we burn from everyday life that aren’t related to sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It’s the energy we expend at work, fidgeting, shopping, gardening, and generally going about our daily business.

As a first step, I recommend focusing on NEAT and looking to see how you can incorporate more movement throughout your day. This could involve:

  • Walking home from work.
  • Taking the dog out for an extra walk in the evening (Snuzzles will love it).
  • Taking the stairs instead of the escalator or lift.
  • Pull up the weeds in the garden.
  • Pick up the groceries every day, rather than doing one big weekly shop with your car.
  • Do some stretches as part of your morning routine, or try the Plank for 10 seconds and build each day until you're up to a minute.
  • Get up and walk around every 30 minutes or so at work, and add in some squats.
  • Wash your own car.
  • Try to walk everywhere.
  • Put on some great music and dance around while cleaning your house (think Mrs Doubtfire vacuuming to Dude Looks Like a Lady. You'll find the clip at the end of this blog.)
  • Stand on one leg while waiting in line for something.
  • Fidget, tap your feet, gesture while speaking, twirl your hair.
  • Pace while talking on the phone.
  • Play with your kids.
  • Get a pedometer and track your steps every day. If you have an iPhone, did you know that there’s a pedometer built into Health app? Try it out.

As always, start simply. Think of one or two ways you can incorporate NEAT activity into your life and try them for a week. The next week, add a couple more. You’ll be moving more and you’ll be able to see for yourself how easy it is to incorporate physical activity into your life, whilst reducing your chance of developing Sitting Disease.


p.s. Here's the video clip from Mrs Doubtfire, guaranteed to make you smile 🙂