Ah, a new acronym; NEAT: non-exercise activity thermogenesis (thermogenesis means “to burn calories thus creating heat”) But what does it mean??
NEAT was coined Dr. James Levine, a pioneering researcher into the negative health effects of sedentary life-style at the famous Mayo Institute in the US. In a nutshell, NEAT is all the moving around we do in a day that is not classed as exercise; walking up the escalator, standing on the tram, hanging out the washing etc. etc.
Levine did a pioneering study of movement patterns in office workers to try and answer the question; why do some people gain weight and others don’t for what seems to be the same amount of food and activity? So he wired up a bunch of office workers with movement devices and put them on a diet of a 1000 calories greater than what was their usual; and forbade them from active exercise. At the end of the study some gained weight, some didn’t. Those who didn’t gain weight moved, on average, 2.25 hours more per day than the those that did; simple as that! They walked down the hall rather than send an email, took the stairs rather the elevators, walked up the escalators rather than just standing on them, etc. etc.
A simple study in the 1950’s compared the health of London bus drivers (sitting all day) to bus conductors (on their feet all day). No prizes for guessing who had the much poorer health!
What the research shows us is that every indicator of health we can measure, whether cardiovascular, inflammation, cognitive (brain) function, immunity (infections, cancer etc.), and life-expectancy are improved considerably with greater daily general movement; even without doing strenuous exercise. Conversely, of course, all the measures of wellness are trashed by being sedentary. So lack of NEAT-ness is a royal road to weight problems, diabetes, poor blood fat control, osteoporosis, and just about anything else we can measure regarding our health – both physical and emotional.
You may have heard the popular new mantra, Sitting is the New Smoking; well there is a large body of scientific research evidence to support that rather bold statement. It seems as though prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor for your health even if you exercise in your leisure time! The growing popularity of the sit/stand desk is definitely to be encouraged; it’s an excellent solution for the desk-bound of us to get some on-our-feet time during the course of the day.
We can’t overstate the benefits of getting more movement into our day if ones occupation is sedentary. From the improved strength of your muscles and bones, to reduced heart, diabetes, and cancer risks amongst many other benefits it’s all good news.
Want to know more about the Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks – check out “The Smithsonian Mag” on line article here :
So get on ya feet, and do some NEAT!
Best wishes and good health, Dr. Joshua Brohier – Osteopath