Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – How Some People Never Exercise and Still Lose Weight

You don’t need exercise to lose weight if you know about non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Here’s how you can use NEAT to turn your simple daily activities into rapid weight loss machines.

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A Surprising Fact about NEAT

We get energy from the food we eat and we use energy in all the activities we do throughout a day. To lose weight, we must use more energy than we consume.

This is considered the most acceptable theory of weight loss, and it is fairly straight forward. However, when we break down how much energy we use, there is one very surprising fact. That is, exercise contributes the least to the total amount of daily energy that we use.

The largest amount of energy is used to fuel all the processes that our body must perform to keep us alive.

This includes all the tiny reactions in each cell, the functioning of organs, breathing and the pumping of blood just to name a few of the millions of processes that must be kept running to keep us alive. We use about 60-75% of our total energy on all these processes everyday.

The second largest amount of energy that we use in a day, goes towards us digesting and processing a meal and this makes up about 10-20% of our total daily energy usage.

In last place comes, physical activity. Walking, talking, exercise and any other physical movement only makes up about 10-15% of our total daily energy usage.

This can be further broken down into intentional exercise which makes up only about 5% and NEAT which contributes about 10%.

What is NEAT?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) compromises all the activities that we do in a day other than exercise. It can be anything from fidgeting to taking a bath.

If it includes any movement, it can be included as part of your daily NEAT. All these little movements add up to burn a significant amount of energy over an entire day. In total, it burns a lot more energy than any workout.

This is the most under used and under rated part of weight loss. It is also one of the easiest ways to lose weight. 

Those People Who Never put on Weight

All of us know those people who eat whatever they want, never exercise, and never put on any weight. The reason for this is their level of NEAT. If you take note of their activities, you will notice that they are never still or sitting.

They are always moving around and make many more small movements over an entire day than the average person.

Carry out a little social experiment at work or among your friends by calculating the time those people who never put on weight sit compared to the time overweight people sit. You will immediately see the difference in levels of NEAT.

These small movements and constant activity add up over an entire day to use a lot more energy than most workouts and you won’t even break a sweat.

The good news is that all of us can easily increase our levels of NEAT and gain the same weight loss benefits.

How to Increase your Neat

1. Standing More

Stand more to increase NEAT

Increasing NEAT requires that you start taking note of your daily patterns and how you spend your time. Try to record your activities over a day and look for areas in which you are sitting the most.

Identify your longest periods of sitting and find solutions or schedule activities to break up those long periods. You can also try converting all your sitting activities into standing activities for better results.

Here are some examples:

  • Place your phone or cell phone away from your desk or at an elevated unreachable spot. This will force you to stand up every time the phone rings.
  • Deliver messages in person rather than using email or calls.
  • Park your car as far away from the entrance as possible. You will be forced to walk a further distance. Jump off one station before your destination and walk the rest if using public transport.
  • Longer showers over baths, requires a lot more standing.
  • Most modern pedometers, fitbits and smartphone apps will let you know when you have been sitting for too long. 

2. Sitting Better

Sitting better to increase Neat

Unfortunately, most of us have to work, we have results to deliver and bosses to impress so getting away from our desks could have negative effects. Increasing your standing time may be difficult to implement, so we must make sitting more productive to increase our levels of NEAT.

Use a stability exercise ball as a chair. This is by far the most effective way to convert sitting into a fat burning machine. It will work all your core muscles, your back and legs. Be the first to do it at your office and watch everyone else follow suit.

The half stability ball maybe be easier to use. This fits onto most chairs and is a little easier than a full stability ball. You can even use one in your car.

You can also swap out your chair for a bar stool. Using a bar stool instead of a normal chair is a slight improvement as you are more likely to stand up and move around.

Lastly, try sitting on the floor for a change. It takes a lot of energy to get up of the floor when you have to stand up.

3. Stairs

Take the Stairs to increase NEAT

This is old but great advice to increase your NEAT levels. Always choose the stairs over an escalator or elevator. Make the most out of your stair climbs by taking the stairs really slowly.

Walking at a slower pace up the stairs makes the activity a resistance exercise and not an aerobic exercise. By removing momentum from stair climbing we can increase the amount of energy we burn and build muscle at the same time.

4. Fidgeting

Fidgeting to Increase NEAT

Fidgeting may seem insignificant, but when you add up the thousands of little movements in a day they can use up quite a lot of energy.

Get yourself a stress ball, or even just place a tennis ball under your desk. Roll it around, use it for a foot message, any movement is better than staying still.

5. Wearable Weights

Wearable weights to increase NEAT

If you want to maximise your NEAT to burn the most energy possible, you have to get yourself some wearable weights. There are weighted wrist bands, ankle bands and even weighted vests that all conceal well underneath your clothes.

Wearing these weights throughout the day will turn every single activity into an energy burning machine and you wouldn’t even notice it until you take them off. An entire day of wearing these weights will burn more energy than any workout and you won’t even break a sweat.

You could also add some weights into your handbag, backpack, or briefcase to get a similar effect.

6. Go Offline

Manual Actions to increase NEAT

Switch out all your electronic equipment for manual options. Use a manual toothbrush, read traditional media that requires page turning, open your garage door manually, opt for a stick shift over an automatic car or even water the garden with a watering can.

There are so many technological advances that have made us practically immobile, try doing stuff the old way to increase your NEAT levels and shred off those extra pounds.  


It’s possible to lose weight without exercise if your integrate small amounts of activity into your daily routine. Let the others do the sweat drenched workouts with minimal results and leave them guessing as to how you manage to keep off the weight without any exercise.

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