5 min read

How to increase NEAT and burn more calories every day

Three young friends pose for a picture - showing how to increase NEAT can be fun and exciting.
Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

NEAT is your key to burning more calories without even thinking about them. Bonus: you’ll start leading a healthier and more active life as well. We’ll show you how to increase NEAT with our tips for shifts in your daily routine. 

What Does NEAT Actually Mean?

When we’re talking about your metabolism, NEAT stands for “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.” It’s a quick way of labeling the calories you burn by moving throughout the day, when you’re not at the gym or otherwise exercising.

A white man in a suit with short brown hair smirks as he carries his orange-framed bike on his shoulder.
©PeopleImages

Things that contribute to your total NEAT non exercise activity include going to the office, cooking, shopping, walking the dog, housework, and basically any other casual movements you do without the explicit goal of training.

Calculate NEAT – How Many Calories Can You Burn

How many calories NEAT burns isn’t easy to calculate with a formula. After all, your NEAT depends on how much you move throughout the day. Age, gender, and your overall fitness and health will also contribute to your total energy expenditure.

To get an idea of the NEAT part of your daily calories burned, take a look at your daily physical activity. How many steps do you walk per day? How much do you ride your bike? Do you stand a lot? How many ways do you move that have nothing to do with the gym?

The percentage of total calories burned through NEAT varies between about 15% and 30% depending on your lifestyle.

A pie chart displays the percentage of total calorie consumption used by basal metabolism (60%), exercise (12%), diet-induced thermogenesis (6%), and NEAT (22%).
©foodspring

NEAT isn’t everything – Understanding calorie needs

Calculating calorie totals can be confusing, so let’s clarify a couple of things right away. NEAT is not to be confused with your metabolism or the afterburn effect. Your daily energy expenditure is made up of several different metabolic processes.

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your basal metabolic rate refers to the calories the human body needs to maintain all its essential functions – without moving. This includes, for example, breathing, maintaining your organs, and supplying your muscles with nutrients. That’s why your BMR usually goes up as your fitness improves.

  1. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

This kind of thermogenesis includes all the calorie expenditure that comes from eating something. Sounds contradictory at first, but you have to process that food somehow, and that also requires some energy in itself.

A woman of color with short-shaved gray hair smiles as she reaches out towards a purple-gloved, long-sleeved hand. She is standing in front of a fruit and vegetable display in a supermarket.
©Westend61

Food needs to be broken down into its individual components, nutrients must be transported to their destinations, and anything superfluous has to be eliminated. This process requires energy and therefore you burn calories alongside your energy intake.

Our tip: Protein has a higher thermic effect than other macros. So if one of your goals is weight loss or fat loss, pay attention to your protein needs. Getting enough protein despite a calorie deficit also helps prevent muscle loss.

Check out our convenient high-protein products
  1. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

The calories you burn through NEAT are those your body needs for everyday activities like climbing stairs, walking from your desk to the kitchen, doing household chores, fixing your bike, and similar actions.

  1. Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA)

Deliberate exercise has an obvious effect on your energy balance, so you burn more calories on workout days than on rest days. Intensive H.I.I.T units, in particular, also keep your metabolism boosted with the afterburn effect.

Tip: Our workout database has tons of free workouts for a variety of goals in the gym or at home!

If you want to figure out your calorie totals for a specific fitness goal, like fat loss or muscle building, why not go for our free Body Check?

Get started here

Increase Your NEAT – 8 Tips for Burning Calories in Your Daily Routine

Every movement counts with NEAT. No matter how small! Fidgeting in your desk chair, getting off the train one stop earlier, or those 10 minutes of standing in place instead of sitting.

Taken by themselves, they don’t seem like much. But these ways to increase your NEAT add up throughout the day to a significant total.

  1.   Add exercise to your breaks

How often do you catch yourself a) checking your feeds or b) getting up to grab a snack while working at your desk? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably “too often.”

And that’s good! Because it’s also your chance to establish a new movement routine.

A group of friends, white and nonwhite, sit at a table enjoying takeout food with chopsticks.
©Westend61

Always wanted to learn handstands, do more ab workouts, or just stretch more often? Every time you think about whipping out your smartphone or grabbing a snack, do a handstand, 5 crunches, or a little stretch instead.

You can even do your stretches while sitting on your office chair. But you’ll boost your NEAT levels more by standing up (or switching to a standing desk!)

  1. Go by bike or foot

The classic solution for anyone who wants to move more: Take your bike instead of public transport or driving a car.

Of course more movement is better, but baby steps add up too: Get off the bus one stop earlier, or walk up and down the street after parking. Whatever works for you! And that way you get to decide what physical activity levels are right for you every day.

Tip: Form healthy habits that last with our 7 days to new routines guide!

  1. Stand when you can

Two white men with blocky black glasses stand at a post-industrial standing desk which appears to be partly made from shipping pallets.
©Hinterhaus Productions

Whether you’re on the train, on the phone, in a meeting, or in the office, just stand up instead of sitting whenever possible. Standing burns more calories than sitting, increasing your NEAT. Plus, your cardiovascular health and your muscles will thank you for the change of pace.

  1.   Take the stairs

Climbing stairs for 15 minutes burns an average of 120 calories. Think about how many show up in your daily routine. If you take every chance to take the stairs, you’re sure to get to at least 15 minutes.

A nice side effect: taking the stairs is a great lower-body workout. If you mostly use the ball of your foot, your calf muscles have to work.

If you concentrate on evenly distributing your weight over the whole foot instead, you also train all your thigh and gluteal muscles. Win-win!

How to increase NEAT: try taking the stairs, as this woman of color is doing. She is climbing from an underground station to street level outdoors.
©Westend61
  1. Carry your groceries by hand

Carrying shopping bags is Functional Training par excellence, it’s completely free and doesn’t take up any extra time.

Pack your bags so that they’re about the same weight and carry them home from the grocery store instead of loading them into your bike basket or car. A fully loaded backpack also counts.

By the way, a bit of weight in your backpack (a liter of water for example) is also a great way to add an extra challenge to climbing a stair or two.

  1. Clean up a bit more

Imagine your parents are coming to visit. You’d probably have to do at least a little more cleaning than usual. And household chores, especially vacuuming, mopping, and ironing, increase your NEAT significantly.

A white man with dark brown hair rests on the extended arm of a vacuum cleaner, smiling at his freshly cleaned living room.
©Maskot
  1. While you’re waiting… walk!

Whether it’s passing time at the bus stop when your date is running late, or if you’ve just arrived somewhere too early, talk another walk around the block instead of sitting down right away.

In addition to the effect on your NEAT level, your spine will thank you if you walk a bit between longer periods of sitting.

  1. While you’re doing everything else… walk!

Phone calls, podcasts, chats over coffee. Almost everything can be enjoyed on a walk instead of sitting.

Exercise in the fresh air also strengthens your immune system and gives your eyes and mind a welcome break from screens.

Need more inspiration? Then scroll through our 10 tips for losing weight without working out.

Conclusion

  • NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
  • Moving more throughout your daily routine increases your NEAT.
  • Many small movements make a big difference in total.
  • The percentage of calories per day burned through NEAT is different for everyone, but on average it’s between 15% and 30%.
  • The higher your NEAT, the higher your total calorie needs.
Article sources
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