Stand Up—Right Now!

Stand Up—Right Now!

I have a secret to reveal: I finally started losing weight, but it wasn’t until after I stopped going to the gym. After a decade of daily workouts (running on the treadmill and lifting weights) and never dropping a pound, I abandoned my gym routine and upped my daily activity (more standing, less sitting) and the weight gently melted away.
Sit less. My new regimen was inspired by James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. In breakthrough studies over the last decade, Levine confirmed that people who are less sedentary are less likely to gain weight—and not because they hit the gym. Subjects were overfed by 1,000 calories a day and wore sensors that monitored their movement. “In the people we studied, there was a tenfold variability in body fat gain,” says Levine. “We had one person store those excess calories as body fat, and another essentially burn off all the extra fuel.”
Do NEAT. So how do you burn fuel instead of storing fat? Through Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT as Levine dubs it, referring to the calories you burn living your life: doing the laundry, making your bed, mowing the lawn. The more active you are, the less likely you are to put on weight. “People who can switch on their NEAT are able to remain thin, despite periods of overfeeding,” says Levine.
Get active. Before I discovered NEAT, I was pretty sedentary other than my hour-long workout. When I decided to forego my gym workout for a day filled with routine activities, I started spending more time in the garden. I walked my dog more often, and danced around my kitchen while making dinner. At my desk, I worked while I stood or stretched, and took frequent breaks to pace, clean, and prepare food. Instead of using the car, I walked, jogged, and rode my bicycle around town. Suddenly, every task became an opportunity to be active.
NEAT works. Sure enough, after three months without a workout, I was leaner and fitter than ever before in my life. Seemingly by accident, I had the figure I’d spent years struggling to attain. For the first time, I felt beautiful and confident in my body. I was also more energized and focused, and my chronic insomnia disappeared.
Be creative. The beauty of NEAT is that you can start any time, anywhere. No need to wait for a gym membership to kick in or a new year to turn over; it’s easy to incorporate. Peruse the tips on these pages for ways to help you bump up your activity at home, at the office, and in your life—and get moving!



“Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT, is the calories you burn doing
everything that isn’t going to the gym, sleeping, or eating. Life impacts NEAT
and NEAT impacts life.” —James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine,
Mayo Clinic

NEAT at HOME
DO THIS: Wash dishes by hand. Calories burned: 50 in 30 minutes; more if you dry by hand.
NOT THAT: Use a dishwasher.

DO THIS: Use a push mower to cut your grass. Calories burned: 295 an hour.
NOT THAT: Drive a sit-down mower.

DO THIS: Rake the leaves from your lawn. Calories burned: 200 an hour.
NOT THAT: Use a leaf blower.

DO THIS: Shovel snow from your driveway and walkways. Calories burned: nearly 350 an hour.
NOT THAT: Plug in an electric beater.

DO THIS: Shovel snow from your driveway and walkways. Calories burned: nearly 350 an hour.
NOT THAT: Hire someone else or use a snowplow or snowblower.

DO THIS: Cook meals from scratch. Calories burned: 100 an hour.
NOT THAT: Microwave prepared food.



“My NEAT has skyrocketed since my husband and I bought our first house.
We spend weekends painting, gardening, and doing household projects. We
use a push mower and weed by hand. Since doing NEAT, we’ve lost nearly
ten pounds apiece and feel more fit.” —Kristen Schmich, doctoral candidate
in neuroscience, Pittsburgh, Pa.