fidgeting for weight loss

Today’s blog is going to discuss something that I am guessing many of you have not heard about (I have only discovered it in the past year or so), but the research is showing when it comes to fat loss and more importantly maintenance of fat loss this may be something worth sitting up and taking notice of.

I am talking about something called Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT is the energy expended for everything we do out with exercise, sport, sleeping or eating. NEAT would therefor include all other daily activities like walking, typing, climbing stairs, fidgeting, house work, standing, maintaining posture, talking (as I say literally everything out with the four mentioned above). Believe it or not the research is showing NEAT is a big player in the fat loss game.

Humans Are Hopeless At Keeping Weight Off!

Anecdotally you will have seen it plenty of times (and might even have experienced it yourself) someone loses weight and then within a matter of months the weight is creeping back on. Before you know it they are back to the weight they started at (or sometimes even more). People who lose weight very rarely keep it off! In one study, it was found that only 17% of people could sustain a 10% weight loss after 1 year! In another study they tracked people who had a relatively small weight loss of 5% weight and it wasn’t much better. After 1 year 46% had maintained their 5 % weight loss. Then from 1-3 years 25% maintained, then remarkably 3 years later and only 5% maintained!

So why are we so bad a keeping weight off? It might be down to the fact our body is fighting against losing weight. When you weigh less you burn less energy, as you are carrying a lighter weight around (but this only accounts for a small amount). The biggest factor is that when you lose weight you move about less overall, so your NEAT drops. Take someone who has always been 12 stone and someone who has dropped down to twelve stone from 18 stone. The person who has lost weight to get to 12 stones energy requirements to maintain their weight is lower (they require less calories each day) than would be anticipated for someone of their height and weight. The person who has always been 12 stone may need 500 calories a day more than the person who has dropped down in weight. Much of this has been attributed to a reduction in NEAT after weight loss.

How Important Is Metabolism?

Do people who don’t put on weight have a faster metabolism? Is your friend who can eat pretty much whatever they like without putting on weight been gifted with a fast metabolism?

Well it seems metabolism plays a much smaller part in weight loss or weight gain than was first thought. Research is now showing that NEAT, not resting metabolism is the primary factor that influences people tendencies to gain and lose weight. NEAT has been shown to vary greatly from person to person. In a controlled environment, some burned as little as 136 calories per hour compared to others who burned as much as 419 per hour. You can bet therefor that NEAT will have a massive impact on your weight.

Weight Loss In The Over 50’s

For many people, they find that when they reach their 50’’s and 60’s they start to experience the dreaded middle aged spread, and often put it down to just an age thing or the fact their metabolism is slowing down. You can probably guess what I am going to say about that: It is now believed that lowered NEAT levels are the biggest contributor to weight loss in over 50’s. As a group over 50’s has been shown to have much lower NEAT levels when compared to their younger counterparts,

Exercise & NEAT

This is something I really want you to be aware of: Structured exercise can reduce NEAT in some people! Research has found daily physical activity expenditure went down on structured exercise days. Basically, people were going home and flopping onto the couch on days when they had worked out. It could be that they thought they deserved it because they worked hard, or they might just have been tired after their workout. But what this was causing was that the calorie burn on days of structured exercise was not higher (in some cases less), because people were moving less after a workout. So, make sure that you keep moving after your gym workout.

In a resistance training versus aerobic program study. Resistance training improved NEAT By 216 kcal per day on non exercise days, versus 148 kcal decrease with aerobic exercise. Put in layman terms the days in between workouts the people who lifted weights moved more than those who did aerobic exercise.

Resistance training has also be found to enhance NEAT in the elderly by 120 kcal per day. It was suggested that this might be because they felt stronger and more confident to move around more.

Fitness Guidance For NEAT

  1. Lift weights
  2. You don’t want to wipe yourself out in every workout as it will reduce NEAT for the rest of the day
  3. Try to keep moving out with your structured workout


General Guidance On How To Increase Your NEAT

  1. Track your activity levels using a device or pedometer
  2. Do housework manually were possible
  3. Work in the garden
  4. Wash the car by hand
  5. Ride a bike for shorter journeys instead of taking the car
  6. Reduce time in front of TV’s and computers
  7. Walk to work
  8. Walk during your lunch break
  9. Take family walks after dinner (get a dog!)
  10. Set up a treadmill in front of TV
  11. Take the stairs
  12. Park further away from destination (even just further away in a car park)
  13. Find excuses to move more often wherever possible
  14. Walk to co-worker’s desk and speak rather than email
  15. Pace at side-lines watching kids playing sport
  16. Set reminders to move


NEAT Calorie Expenditure Per Hour

  • Resting 77
  • Sitting Motionless 80
  • Sitting while fidgeting 118
  • Standing motionless 88
  • Standing while fidgeting 148
  • Walking at 1mph 197
  • Walking at 2mph 235
  • Walking at 3mph 304


38 cal difference between sitting still and fidgeting per hour. Spread that out over 6-8 hours = 330 calories!
60 cal/hr difference standing up compared to sitting.


So, there you have it, NEAT might just be the missing link that is making it so hard for you to lose weight and more importantly keep weight off. Look around you and notice how much more leaner people move (touching their face, fidgeting, getting up and moving, finding excuses to get up and do something).


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