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A Neat Way to Lose Weight

8/17 10:31:10
Small changes in the amount of movement you make every day can lead to big rewards when it comes to weight loss. That's the idea behind non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), a fancy term for the energy used for everything you do that does not involve sleeping, eating, or exercising. What might seem like small movements can burn up to 350 calories a day, enough for overweight people to lose 30 to 40 pounds a year.

In a study done by Mayo Clinic - the first of its kind - on NEAT, researchers studied the links between inactivity and obesity in 10 obese and 10 thin people. After monitoring each individual's movements for 10 days, researchers then overfed the lean and underfed the obese participants by 1,000 calories a day while continuing to monitor their movements. The lean people who gained weight during the study still tended to stand, walk, and fidget more than their heavier counterparts (Science, January 27, 2005). These results suggest that the tendency for overweight people to move less could be genetic, predisposing them toward sedentary behavior.

Anyone can reap the benefits of NEAT if they simply move more, and sit less, during the day. Examples of NEAT include tapping your toes, fidgeting, standing, or other ways of using up energy. This is especially important for people who want to shed some pounds and those with sedentary jobs or lives. (This should be done in addition to a regular exercise program and a healthy diet.)

The Mayo Clinic researcher who led the study says his findings have caused him to transform his own workspace to allow him to do more NEAT: His computer now sits in front of a treadmill so he can walk while working, and he conducts meetings while taking a walk instead of sitting down. Your changes don't have to be this extreme.

You can burn extra calories by consciously making more small movements throughout the day. Pace around while on the phone, stand instead of sit, tap your toes, and get up from your desk frequently. At home, wash the car by hand, chop vegetables instead of using the food processor, and do yard work and home repair yourself.
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