Tiffiny Hall on how to burn extra calories, without even realising

We all know working out burns energy, but what about all the incidental movement you do without even realising? Tiffiny Hall is here to tell you it all adds up and what’s not to love about exercise you don’t know you’re doing?

When you hear the word “neat” do you conjure an episode of The Home Edit and rainbow alphabetising your bookshelves? This may be what “neat” means in the organisational world, but in the fitness world NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, and it’s a process that could fast-track your health and fitness.

NEAT is how well you burn calories when, well, you’re not thinking about burning calories. It’s when you’re incidentally or accidentally burning energy, say when you’re doing everyday things like chores around the house or walking to the car after being at the shops – when you’re doing anything but a workout.

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How impactful is this incidental exercise?

Can getting your vacuum on, learning the latest 10-second TikTok dance, or pacing up and down your hallway while taking a call actually make a big difference?

Incidental exercise isn’t going to increase your PB on a 5km run or help your strength gains when lifting heavy, but when it comes to losing weight, it does make a difference. According to studies, NEAT can burn over 1,500 extra calories per day depending on the type of body you have – neat huh!

Every day you have a TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). There are four elements contributing to this:

  • BMR (basal metabolic rate) – energy you burn just to live like blinking and breathing.
  • TEA (thermic effect of activity) – energy used for deliberate activities like playing sport or going for a run.
  • TEF (thermic effect of food) – energy used to turn food into fuel through digestion and metabolism; and finally (drumroll please)…
  • NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) – energy used for everyday movement and tasks like bending over to put on your shoes or walking to the letterbox.

Basically, NEAT is anything outside of your workouts.

So why is NEAT so neat?

You can’t really control TDEE, TEA and TEF, but NEAT you can drive to get you more results.

Think about it: To lose weight you need to use more energy than you take in; you need to create a deficit so your body can burn fat as fuel. So the more you move, the more stored fat you will burn. When you’re running to catch a train, chasing a toddler around at bathtime, brushing your teeth, or even fidgeting, you’re burning those extra calories without even knowing, or trying.

How to increase your NEAT

My favourite way is step counting. Use an app or pedometer as a tracker, and then give those house chores a bit of oomph!

Scrub the pots passionately, wash the windows in style, mop the floors a little faster – these are great NEAT scorchers.

What else? Walk to get your morning coffee, walk to tell a colleague something instead of emailing, park your car in the farthest car spot and walk the extra distance to the shops, play with the kids or your pets, and as the incidental exercise catchphrase goes, “take the stairs!”

Be mindful of your NEAT and you will gradually increase your daily movement to burn more fat throughout the day to kick your goals faster!

Tiffiny Hall is the founder of the online health and fitness program, TIFFXO.