Did you know that your metabolism is always working to burn energy? Meaning, that your body is always burning calories, even when you aren’t exercising! Obviously, a planned physical activity will more than likely burn more calories than a passive activity, however, this non-exercise activity can wield huge returns when it comes to losing weight.

The energy burned while not doing planned physical activity is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT for short. To summarize, NEAT is the energy expended for everything a person does that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. This can range from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work and even fidgeting.

Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT. It is, therefore, not surprising that NEAT explains a vast majority of an individual’s non-resting energy needs.

Many studies highlight the importance of culture in promoting or suppressing NEAT. Manual workers have high NEAT, whereas people with “desk jobs” appear to decrease NEAT. Other studies indicate that NEAT is influenced by changes in energy balance. For example, NEAT increases with over eating and decreases with under eating. That’s why NEAT is a critical component in how we maintain our body weight, develop obesity or lose weight. By understanding how NEAT is regulated we may come to appreciate that spontaneous physical activity is not spontaneous at all but carefully programmed.