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A NEAT Way to Boost Your Mood

April 10, 2023  |  Posted in

The positive impacts of staying active are long-established for things like heart, bone, and brain health—and of course, weight loss. While most people associate these benefits with intense cardio exercise or weightlifting regimens, your everyday movements can be maximized for positive health effects, too.

It all boils down to adjusting your daily routine in ways that improve your overall NEAT score.

What is a NEAT score?

NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, is one of the four components that make up our daily total energy expenditure (TEE). NEAT includes all our movements throughout the day, except for intentional exercise, eating, and the energy used to carry out bodily functions. As it turns out, this is a larger contributor to our daily TEE than most of us realize.

To avoid turning this blog into a biology lesson, let’s cut to the chase: the more sedentary your lifestyle is, the worse your health becomes, both physically and mentally.

Improving Your Score

While you can estimate your NEAT score, it’s not important to know a specific number. By being more intentional in your non-exercise movement, you will automatically increase your score, which is a simple yet effective way to combat the sedentary elements of modern life—while also improving brain health.

Because it’s not about intentional workouts or exercise, you don’t need expensive gym memberships, equipment, or a ton of time to improve your NEAT score. You just need to do all the things you’d normally do: go to work, cook dinner, get the kids ready, walk the dog, and so on. The key is to take those activities and be more intentional about adding and expanding your movements.

Lifestyle Factors

Our lifestyle will impact our NEAT score, and our lifestyle is greatly dictated by our careers, location of residence, family obligations, and more.

While careers in the healthcare industry tend to require more day-to-day movement than other jobs, it does fluctuate. For example, a nurse in a management position might be less active than a floor nurse because they will have more desk work to get done.

Regardless, there are always ways to increase your score based on your schedule and day-to-day life. For example:

Your commute. If you drive to work, consider parking in the back of the lot and walking further to and from your car. If you rely on public transportation, consider standing instead of sitting during the commute. If reasonable, consider walking or biking to work and ditching a ride altogether.

Your workplace. If you spend a good deal of your time at a desk or workstation, consider challenging yourself to spend more time standing than sitting. You can also increase movements by requesting walking meetings, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and standing while you eat lunch.

Your home. You’ve likely established an efficient schedule for tackling your household needs that is realistic and works for you. Well, challenge yourself to become a little less efficient. Bounce between floors. Take one grocery bag inside at a time. It might go against your natural urge to streamline these things, but you’ll get more movement in, and it might even provide you with some amusement as you challenge your body to go against muscle memory and habits.

Social activities. After a long day of work, thinking about movement can be exhausting. However, you’re still likely to make time for friends and family, so consider finding things to do that require movement. If you are talking on the phone or doing a video call, pace around the house or stand while you chat. You can also invite people out shopping, hiking, going for a walk, or even playing table or yard games.

If you do find yourself sitting, you can fidget with your hands under the table, tap your leg, or sway with your upper body. It might seem silly, but even the small movements add up and make a difference. Another good rule of thumb is to aim for 10,000 or more steps each day.

There you have it, improving your NEAT score and increasing your movements is an efficient and effective way to improve your overall health and boost your mood—all while doing the things you’d be doing anyways!