Neat Neat Neat

*The title of this post was taken from the Damned song of the same name*

I fidget. A LOT.

If you were to watch me at a restaurant, I could be doing several things simultaneously while waiting for food:

-Playing with the adhesive wrap that holds silverware together inside the napkin

-Tapping my feet (quietly)

-Playing with the paper that comes around the straw and twisting it into a thousand combinations until it’s shredded up

-Tapping the table with my fingers (quietly)

Does it burn a lot of calories? I have no idea.

But it does burn calories.

And they add up.

In comparison, I watch others who…just…sit…

They may be in conversation, but they don’t have their appendages doing all the things mine seem to do.

And there’s a convenient name for my fidgeting if you’d like to hear it:

Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

The great thing about it is that increasing your NEAT doesn’t require things like running, hopping on the elliptical, cycling or high intensity interval training.

But it does require you doing more than what you are currently.

So, you could simply:

-Stand more than you sit.

-Fidget more when you stand.

-Walk your dog more briskly (or for a greater distance.)

-Dance to your favorite song.

-Take the steps instead of the elevator/escalator.

-Park further away from your place of employment (or where you shop) so you’re forced to walk a greater distance.

And over time, these things will help with caloric expenditure.

Is it flashy? God no.

Is it the headline that will sell magazines off the stands? Not likely.

But it works.

Not only that, but it requires little to no recovery because it isn’t physically taxing.

My buddy, James Krieger, over at has done extensive research on NEAT and this is a pretty eye-opening comparison of different things that can cause calorie expenditure. (Special thanks to James for giving the thumbs up on this post before I published it.)


Which leads to one of the conundrums in the fitness industry:

You hear that cardio and high intensity interval training can do wonders for calorie burning. That’s true.

But what you don’t typically hear is that those training methods can be difficult to recover from (especially if you are starting from square one with your exercise regimen.)

Which is another reason why so many people hear a goal of 10,000 steps a day. It’s realistic, attainable and has little risk of injury. However, it would be good to know approximately how many steps you’re currently getting.

So, if your fitness tracker or pedometer says you’re averaging 2,000 steps a day, try adding another 1,000 tomorrow. Then build from there.

But if your current workouts are leaving you so exhausted that all you want to do is lounge around afterwards, you may not be burning quite as many calories as you’d like.

It stands to reason that a more sane approach would be to find ways to increase your NEAT, eat food in line with your goal, get stronger by lifting weights and, if you can tolerate it, find ways to sprinkle in some high intensity work so you can work on improving your conditioning.

But if you think the only way you can lose weight is to punish yourself mercilessly through chronic bouts of cardio, NEAT may be the missing piece in your weight loss puzzle.