We are always searching for ways to train more, burn more calories, and get results quicker. While there is rarely any shortage of hard work when most people are in the gym training, "secret" gains can be made outside of the gym.
Our bodies need time to rest, recover and adapt between training sessions, so more is not always best; upping your training volume in search of progress isn't a good solution. However, some life "hacks" will help you sustainably reach your goals. And they aren't as difficult to implement as you might think!
Firstly, what's your NEAT level? No, not how tidy you are. Here NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and refers to any activity you do throughout the day outside of formal exercise and sleeping. That includes carrying the groceries home, walking or taking the stairs, etc. The activities you can do here are endless (and effortless!).
It's one of the four components that make up our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). So that you understand how NEAT fits into all of this, here is a brief explanation of all four components
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) - is the minimum amount of energy our body requires at rest to maintain a good balance. This typically makes up 70% of our TDEE.
Thermic effect of food (TEF) - the amount of energy we expend when eating, digesting, and metabolizing foods. Research has shown this is up to 10% of our TDEE on average but will vary from individual to individual depending on their nutritional intake.
Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) - the calories we burn when exercising. This might surprise you, but this only makes up 10% of our TDEE and will differ significantly between individuals.
Non-exercise energy thermogenesis (NEAT) - depending on the lifestyle we lead, can range anywhere from 5-20% of our TDEE.
If you exercise hard, does adding these seemingly mundane activities to your daily routine make a difference to your fitness and health goals?
The answer is an unquestionable yes.
The info I mentioned above regarding your TDEE should clarify that an increase in your daily movement habits (aka not sitting on your ass when you're outside of the gym) equals a higher success rate with your goals and a lower chance of a myriad of health issues.
How to increase your NEAT levels?
1. Look at setting yourself a daily step target. You can easily do this with apps like MyFitnessPal to start upping your step count. Get bored? Call a friend during your walk, listen to a podcast or music, and the time will fly by. Too hot to walk in Dubai? Find a treadmill. Other minor changes include using the stairs and taking calls while standing up. Oh, also 5, minute solo dance party never fails. Becoming aware of your current movement levels and finding simple ways to up the ante is the key to making small and lasting changes.
2. Get out of the house and do a social activity at least once a week. I know this is super easy during the winter in Dubai, and we are spoiled for choice with things like paddleboarding, hiking, and mountain biking, to name a few. But there are still things that you can do during summer; indoor golf, paintball (this will get your heart rate up), laser tag, or simply walking on the treadmill. Don't just opt for a sit-down coffee for friends. Get creative when time allows!
3. Set up daily phone reminders to get up and move. A quick 10 minutes of moving six times each day already equals almost 60 minutes of "easy" movement.
It's straightforward. Try to move regularly throughout the day. You will be surprised by how much of a difference this will make to your daily energy expenditure, and I guarantee you'll reap some surprising benefits.