How NEAT Movements Add Up to Better Overall Health

By Krista


Last Updated: October 31, 2022

Intentional exercise, such as going to the gym or doing a home workout, is important.

However, NEAT movements have recently been making headlines—and this type of movement might actually be more important than hitting the gym. 

NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

These types of movements include a variety of activities outside of sleep, sports-related exercise, and eating. For example, the walking you do around your office is a form of NEAT. Even fidgeting or performing chores, like vacuuming or gardening, fall under the category of NEAT movements. 

In fact, all of these movements add up throughout your day! They can actually make a huge difference in your overall caloric expenditure, helping promote a healthy weight and facilitating healthy blood flow throughout the body. 

  • So, what should you know about NEAT movements?
  • What are the other benefits of NEAT?
  • And how can you improve your NEAT activity throughout your day-to-day?



Why are NEAT Movements Important?

NEAT doesn’t just mean more caloric burn. It also contributes to greater overall health and well-being, and it does this in a few ways. 

Experts claim that NEAT movements can actually lower one’s risk of:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • metabolic syndrome
  • even death from all causes

Basically, it helps combat all the negative repercussions attached to a sedentary lifestyle. In turn, you’re more likely to live longer and have an improved health span as a result.

If you think about it, evolution hasn’t come all that far in the last few hundred or even thousands of years. In fact, we aren’t that genetically different from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who definitely got way more daily movement than a modern human does.

All of this is to say that the human body thrives off movement.

For example, walking, a type of NEAT movement, helps improve insulin sensitivity and improves the movement of food through your digestive tract. All around, this leads to better energy and enhanced digestion.

NEAT also helps:

  • Improve muscle recovery
  • Relieve stress
  • Lower inflammation
  • Reduce the risk of most chronic diseases
  • Control your blood sugar and energy levels

When the pandemic hit, inevitably, many of us started moving even less. We didn’t have to walk as far or move as much to get to the “office,” with many of us working from home. It also wasn’t like we were meeting up with friends for a quick walk. In reality, most of us were straight-up scared to leave our homes.

It’s safe to say this probably had a much bigger impact on our health than we realize. Many people gained weight during this time, likely due to a lack of NEAT movements and due to treating ourselves to the various deliciousness of various foods (I mean, we had to have something to look forward to during our days!). 

Perhaps this is why, as of late, NEAT is creating noise in the health community. We need these little bits of movement to thrive and not just survive!



Are NEAT Movements Better Than Exercise?

NEAT movements actually account for a higher energy expenditure than planned exercise, such as lifting weights.

So, does this mean it's better for you?

Well, both have their benefits!

Lifting weights and other types of intentional gym workouts (or sports workouts) tend to build lean muscle mass, which contributes to better metabolic health and a higher caloric burn each day. However, you don’t really burn that many calories during a weight workout or light sports activity.

Yet, with NEAT movements, these are sprinkled throughout your day, which adds up to hours of your time and many calories burned.

So the bottom line? Both matter and you want to intentionally work on getting adequate bits of NEAT and exercise movements into your weekly routine.

Related Article: 7 Easy At-Home Exercises That Require Next-to-Zero Effort or Thought



How Can I Improve My NEAT Activity?

There are so many ways to do this!

In fact, let this be the motivation you need to get those chores checked off your to-do list (since they count as NEAT movements!). Here is a basic list of NEAT movements (however, there are many more than what is listed below):

  • Walking
  • Typing
  • Washing dishes
  • Gardening
  • Yard work
  • Cleaning
  • Fidgeting
  • Carrying your grocery bags
  • Playing with pets or children
  • Using a standing desk
  • Getting dressed
  • Brushing your teeth

Basically, NEAT movements are free, easy for anyone to do, and they require zero equipment. NEAT is actually what is behind the magic of the “10,000 steps a day” phenomenon. In fact, getting a step counter can ensure you are getting enough of that daily NEAT movement.

You can get more NEAT movements in your day by:

  • Planning a daily walk
  • Moving or doing chores during your “no-fill” time
  • Habit stacking (such as walking around when on a conference call)
  • “Playing” more instead of watching T.V.
  • Taking the stairs over the elevator
  • Parking farther away from the entrance
  • Tapping your feet
  • Chewing gum
  • Fidgeting while you think
  • Standing more than you sit

Related Article: What is Biohacking? (And 5 Innovative Biohacks You Should Try Right Now!)



Get Those Bits of Movements In!

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

Next time you think about putting off doing that household task, just think: You’ll be getting more NEAT movements in, so why not? 

Use the power of NEAT to improve your physical and mental health. Little movements matter, much more than we think!

Read Next: 10 Positive Reasons You Should Move Your Body More

Photo by Lisa Fotios


4 comments on “How NEAT Movements Add Up to Better Overall Health”

  1. I enjoyed this. Thank you

    So many articles that I read say "easy for anyone to do". This makes me think of my brother. He has had MS for twenty years. He cannot walk. There are many people who cannot do things that a lot of us take for granted

    1. Thank you Susan, you're right, we shouldn't take for granted that things are 'easy' for everyone. You never know what someone is dealing with.

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