High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is all the rage these days. Burning a ton of calories in a short period of time is appealing to almost everyone. Another benefit of HIIT is an increased level of EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption—the state in which your body’s metabolism is elevated after you work out. Sounds perfect, right? Who wouldn’t want to exercise for a shorter period of time and burn more calories afterward? Especially if you can burn as many or even more calories than when suffering through tedious and boring cardiovascular exercise sessions!
Unfortunately, this is too good to be true for many of us. To maximize your results with HIIT, you need to be somewhat conditioned. Obese and overweight individuals have difficulty with the intensity of HIIT. And while the EPOC is higher post-HIIT than after steady-state cardio, the extra calories burned usually will not make a dramatic impact on your overall weight-loss goals.
Now don’t get me wrong: I love HIIT. I often refer to myself as a HIIT junkie. But I’m also a conditioned athlete with several years of gym experience. And I know that no matter how hard I HIIT, I can’t work off a bad diet or inactivity throughout the rest of my day.
Fortunately, recent research has showed promising results supporting the phenomenon of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, which represents the calories burned by an individual through basic daily activities. This calorie burn could come from fidgeting, standing, washing dishes, doing laundry or running after your children. Researchers are now finding that NEAT is just as important as exercise when it comes to losing weight, reducing health risks and burning calories! Based on the results of these studies, most individuals expend an additional 150 calories during NEAT activities. This converts to 37 pounds of energy in a year!
Now this has to excite you! This means that there is hope for all of us, especially for those who just don’t feel quite ready to increase the intensity of their workouts. While exercise is extremely important, and every calorie needs to count during a weight-loss journey, we now can place importance on how we use the 22 to 23 hours in our day spent outside of a gym setting.
As a trainer, I try to come up with creative ways to improve my clients’ NEAT. Here are 10 ways you can increase your NEAT:
- Mow your lawn with a push mower.
- Take the wheels off of your luggage and carry it.
- Park farther away at work or the grocery store.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk your dog.
- Walk your children to school.
- Get your family up and go for a walk after dinner.
- Jog to your phone when it rings.
- Turn on some music and dance!
- Sit up straight at work.
Don’t fret if you can’t run sprints or participate at your local CrossFit gym or bootcamp. If you stay active throughout the day, even fidget more as your read this post, you’ll be burning a few extra calories. Extra credit to anyone standing while reading this!