The NEAT Way to Get Fit (Without Working Out)

Think strapping on a pair of trainers to head off for a workout is the best way to get fit? Sure, going for a run or taking a gym class will benefit your health. But how you spend the rest of your waking hours matters even more. In other words, you don’t need to spend exorbitant time in the gym to shed excess weight or get in shape. All you need is some extra non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) as you go about your daily business. NEAT accounts for the calories you burn while you do day-to-day activities outside of planned exercise or essential functions like breathing.

Ready to fit a little more NEAT in your life? Read on to find out the benefits of NEAT, and how you can add more NEAT into your daily routine. 

Why It’s Important to Move Throughout the Day

You know physical activity is good for you and sitting for long periods is not so great. But a recent study in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that sitting for more than 13 hours a day may alter the metabolic benefits of exercise. Meaning, if you do exercise on occasion but sit for long periods, the exercise may not be as productive. 

Regular exercise reduces the risk of disease, improves metabolism, and helps burn fat more efficiently after meals while keeping blood sugar and insulin in check. Non-movement has the opposite effect. If you spend most of your day sitting, you have an increased risk of chronic disease and may experience metabolic issues, including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. 

We’re not saying you need to spend your entire workday on a treadmill desk, but you can find ways to increase your amount of movement throughout the day. Even if you’re stuck at your desk, NEAT comes to the rescue.

The NEAT Way to Get Fit (Without Working Out)

What Is NEAT and How to Do More of It 

NEAT is all the movement you do throughout the day that is not related to structured physical activity or daily functions (eating, sleeping, breathing, etc.) that helps improve your health and keep extra pounds at bay over the long run. 

Though you won’t see a significant drop on the scale right away, increasing daily NEAT can help you lose weight in a sustainable way over time — think 10 extra pounds in 10 years. Beyond the number on the scale, NEAT pays off in big ways by improving your health for years to come. 

So how do you increase daily NEAT? Here are some of the most effective ways. 

Walk More

The best and easiest way to increase NEAT is to walk more. Increase the number of steps you take each day to burn extra energy stored as fat while improving blood circulation, strengthening veins and arteries, and much more. 

Try to hit 10,000 steps each day. Once you hit that goal, add a little extra each week to challenge yourself. You can add more walking during your day by taking the stairs, parking in the back of a lot, walking instead of driving, and getting up to pace around your home or office every 20 minutes. 

Make Smart Choices Around the House

Cooking, cleaning, home projects, repairs, and laundry all increase your daily movement. You can increase it even more by doing little things like air squats while your coffee is brewing or standing while folding laundry. 

Move a Little During Downtime 

We all need a little downtime during the day. But don’t let that be your excuse to stop moving. Rather than lay on the sofa while binging your favorite show or scrolling social media, there are plenty of ways to build in a little activity. Stretch, practice a few yoga poses, or pace back and forth. Make an effort to move every 10 to 20 minutes as you unwind for the day. 

Don’t Feel Confined to Your Desk All Day

Choose a standing desk when possible or sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. Get up every 20 minutes to stretch, take a quick stroll, or do a few squats or calf raises. Also, don’t forget to fidget. Fidgeting is another great way to keep your body moving when you can’t get up and go somewhere. 

Ramp Up Your Commute

Whether you drive, take the train, or get to work via another mode of transportation, move as much as possible during your commute. Stretch, play drums on your steering wheel, or do a little warm-up before you go. 

Partner Up

When spending time with friends and loved ones, choose activities that build in movement. Walk to your favorite park, do partner activities at home, and challenge each other to a plank competition during commercial breaks while watching your favorite shows. 

Ready to be NEATer?

The best aspect of NEAT is that it doesn’t have to be structured. Think about times during your day when you are most sedentary and brainstorm ways to infuse more movement. Even standing rather than sitting can help burn an extra 0.15 calories per minute on average (depending on body composition). Though it seems small, more NEAT adds up to big changes over time. 

By Kellie Davis

Kellie Davis ran before she crawled and is constantly feeding her insatiable appetite for competition. In 2009, she competed in her first figure bodybuilding show and subsequently started a fitness blog titled to help other moms and career women make positive fitness and lifestyle habits. Her blog spring-boarded her fitness writing career, and shortly after she was in the gym coaching clients. Davis discovered the perfect marriage of fitness and writing, and has since co-authored the popular women's strength training book Strong Curves, launched a handful online fitness programs, and is also the co-founder of, a comprehensive intermediate resistance training system. As a fitness writer and personal trainer, she is known for helping hundreds of women achieve optimal health through her innovative fitness programs designed for those with a busy lifestyle. In her spare time, Davis dotes on her amazing husband and two children, attends The George Washington University as a graduate student, competes in powerlifting, takes the field in co-ed softball, and spends time with her two adoring dogs and brood of backyard hens.