Aaron Chy, BSc General, PharmD Candidate
A 30 Minute Run Equals One Slice of Pizza
Losing weight can feel like an uphill battle. The constant watching what you eat, avoiding your favourite foods, and bringing yourself to the gym every day can be discouraging when the reality is you can gain back the calories burnt from a 30-minute run with a single slice of pizza.1,2 Sometimes, it can feel like you’re giving it everything you’ve got, but it’s still not enough.
On the other hand, why does it seem like some people can eat all they want, never go to the gym, and somehow still stay slim? Is it genetics, or just dumb-luck?
Here’s Something You’ll Find NEAT
The concept of weight loss is simple; use up more calories (energy) than you take in on a daily basis, and you’ll lose weight. And yet so many individuals struggle with losing weight and often rebound within the first year of making a successful change. So where do people get it all wrong?
First, it’s important to understand how the body uses calories. Over half the calories we consume on a daily basis goes towards our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which includes all the basic processes of living: breathing, pumping blood, and fueling organs. A very small portion, about 10% of our energy, goes towards breaking down and digesting food.3
The remaining 10-30% of our calories are spent on Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – which means all the work and energy we spend on activities that aren’t exercise. This includes your daily walk to work, going up the stairs, and whatever physical activity your job might involve. But there’s more to it than just that. Have you ever noticed how some people just can’t seem to sit still? Maybe they constantly shift in their seat, bounce their leg up and down, and always seem to be moving. All of these activities fall under NEAT and contribute to calories burned. On the other hand, people who have to spend all day sitting around have a very low NEAT, meaning they have way more calories saved up by the end of the day. If you’ve ever known someone that goes nuts in the gym at the end of every night but can’t lose any weight, this is why. It’s because they haven’t burned any calories all day, and a single workout just barely makes a dent.3
NEAT Varies Among Individuals
Each and every-one of us lead a different lifestyle. Some individuals spend all day moving heavy equipment around, while others spend most of their time at the office. Some people walk to work, while others take the train. Many of us at the end of a long day like to lay on the couch and watch TV, while others spend the rest of their night cleaning the house. All of these differences account for variations in NEAT, and help explain why the amount you eat and work-out doesn’t always match up with how much you weigh.
Instead, it’s all the little things you do in your life that can make a difference of up to 1000 calories burned at the end of the day. For reference, the average person spends about 2500-3500 calories in a day depending on their size and gender.3 Let that sink in.
They might seem simple, but here are some easy ways to burn a few extra calories on the side, outside of hitting the gym.
- Take a walk, or ride your bike
The next time you need to go somewhere that isn’t that far away, whether that be work or the convenience store, ask yourself: is it really necessary to drive? Getting your steps in can easily burn some calories, and is a great way to enjoy some lovely weather.
- Take the stairs over the elevator
The last thing anyone wants to do in the morning is take the stairs to work. But the next time you’re in a cramped elevator that feels like it can’t go any slower, a few flights of stairs might not seem so bad.
- Clean up the house
Most of us can probably look around the room right now and see a few things that need tidying up. If you were waiting for the right reason to finally get up and start some spring-cleaning, this is it.
- Get up and move!
Not everyone has a physically active job – many of us spend all day in an office or a classroom. All the more reason to get up, stretch, and pace around every once in a while. Obesity is strongly related to long amounts of time spent sitting rather than standing and walking.3
The Bottom Line
The takeaway here is that people aren’t just “naturally skinny,” and you don’t always have to avoid your favourite foods to lose weight (but moderation is always key). At the end of the day, exercise isn’t necessarily everything. Focus on staying mobile – the little things do count. Think of every day as if you’re balancing a budget. Did you run out of time to hit the gym today, but spend all afternoon moving furniture? No worries. Did you lay on the couch all day and eat a whole tub of ice cream? Well, we all do that from time to time, but tomorrow’s a new day.
As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Vander Weg, M. (n.d). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis – The crouching tiger hidden dragon of societal weight gain. Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis And Vascular Biology, 26(4), 729-736.