Movement and activity are keys to optimal health and weight management. However, when I encourage increased activity and movement I’m not talking about exercise.
Are you sitting more than you’re standing? Are you on the move more than you’re on the couch? How much are you gardening, doing laundry, taking the stairs, or going for a walk?
But what about exercise? This is where most people get things wrong. They will thrash themselves at the gym or go for a run which isn’t necessarily bad (although exercise can be a be stressor upon the body for some people). However this type of exercise only makes up a fairly small difference to your metabolism and weight, especially if you are otherwise fairly sedentary or sitting down most of the day.
However, NEAT activity (Non-Exercise Associated Thermogenesis) is responsible for three times that.
What is NEAT?
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. (1)
I encourage my clients to walk. Every day. Not a power walk but a gentle, long walk. Even better if you can walk outside in the fresh air and sunlight! This type of walking has been shown to reduce the stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol gets released with the body perceives stress (physical or mental). This response allows us in times of stress to “fight or flight”. After the threat (perceived or factual) has subsided our cortisol levels returns to normal. However, in today’s modern world our cortisol levels are often elevated for too long which can cause the body to store fat and lose muscle, which is what we don’t want.
Long, leisurely walks help to bring those stress hormones back to normal. But even better, being outside in nature has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels and blood pressure! Double win!
Make the time to improve your health by going for a walk. Today. And tomorrow. And the next day. Park the car further away so you have to walk that little bit further. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Do some gardening, hang the clothes on the line rather than throw them in the dryer. Do a little more today than you did yesterday.