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5 Ways to Burn More Calories Without Exercise

Increase your NEAT to make weight loss easier

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Updated August 13, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

slim waist with tape measure

Get slim faster with NEAT

Michael Poehlman/Digital Vision/Getty Images

How many more calories can you every day burn with simple changes to your lifestyle? The answer might surprise you. It turns out that the little things you do during the day make a big difference in the number of calories you burn.

Use NEAT to Burn More Calories

If you want to burn calories without exercise, experts will tell you to increase your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is a fancy term for all of the movement you do that is not vigorous enough to be called a workout. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, NEAT could play a major role in whether or not you lose or gain weight.  And it may affect your risk for obesity.

So, how many calories can your NEAT burn? It varies, but the number could be significant. According to one study, because everyone's activity level is so different, calories burned from NEAT can vary from person to person by up to 2000 calories per day.

So how do you take advantage of this calorie-burning benefit?  Start with some of the small changes listed below. You can also use an activity monitor to get an idea of how much you move each day.  Then make changes to boost your numbers. The monitors are also helpful for providing a general estimate of your daily calories burned.

5 Ways to Burn Calories without Exercise

  1. Burn more calories at the office.
    Having a sedentary job isn't a direct cause of obesity, but sitting for extended periods could become a cause of weight gain in some people. The American Heart Association reported that "obese individuals appear to exhibit an innate tendency to be seated for 2.5 hours per day more than sedentary lean counterparts." Researchers estimated that if obese individuals could adopt the NEAT habits of their lean counterparts, they could burn an additional 350 calories per day.


    If you have a desk job, create a habit to get up for at least 15 minutes every hour. Take a walk to the farthest restroom or water cooler, run an errand, take the stairs instead of the elevator or do your filing from a standing rather than seated position. Grab a few co-workers and make increasing your NEAT part of a healthy-office routine.

  2. Burn more calories while you relax.
    How many hours will you spend in front of the television tonight? You can burn extra calories by simply adding some light activity to your TV viewing and relaxation time.  Fold laundry, dust furniture or sweep the floor while you watch television. Not only will the activity boost your caloric expendiutre, but you will eat less in front of the television if your hands are busy. 
    You can even burn calories during other leisure activities.  If you like to talk on the phone, walk around during your chat instead of sitting down. And try to limit entertainment-related computer time to 15-minute intervals.
     
  3. Burn more calories with the kids.
    Teaching your children to increase their daily activity may save them from weight gain in the future. And it will help you, too! If you want to slim down without exercise, find ways to increase your walking time during the day. Walk the kids to school or to the bus stop. If you drive them, choose a parking spot at the back of the lot and use those extra steps to chat with them about their day.  And parents, if you are tempted to scold your kids for fidgeting, you might want to think twice. According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, fidgeting is a common form of NEAT and can contribute to a healthy metabolism.

     

  4. Burn more calories with daily chores.
    According to the activity tracker at CalorieCount.com, household chores can burn a few hundred calories per hour. The actual number depends on your size and gender. For example, a petite woman burns about 160 calories per hour doing moderate chores while a larger man would burn substantially more. But who would have thought that sweeping your floor could cause weight loss? Grab a mop and do a complete housecleaning workout to burn calories and tidy up at the same time.  Once the cleaning is done, there are always organizational tasks that can help you improve your energy balance. Organize your closet, unpack boxes or clean the garage to increase your NEAT.
     
  5. Burn more calories at social events.
    How many times have you entered a party in a friend's home and scanned the room for a comfy place to sit? The next time you go to a party, burn extra calories by becoming more social. Choose to stand or circle the room and talk to as many party goers as possible. Offer to help in the kitchen, take a tour of the garden or greet guests at the door to stay active. You'll be the life of the party and increase your NEAT at the same time.

Remember, losing weight is about learning to maintain the right energy balance. Burning calories and building muscle through exercise is key, but the calories you burn during your "off hours" can play a significant role in how much weight you lose and how fast the pounds come off.

Sources:

Frey, M. (2011) Interview with Hanna Curlee, runner up, The Biggest Loser, season 11.

Levine JA. " Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)." Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Dec;16(4):679-702.

James A Levine, Sara J Schleusner and Michael D Jensen. " Energy expenditure of nonexercise activity." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 72, No. 6, 1451-1454, December 2000.

James A. Levine, Mark W. Vander Weg, James O. Hill, Robert C. Klesges. " Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis." Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology January 18, 2006.

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