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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Turn Your NEAT On

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Turn Your NEAT On

What happens when we move our bodies a bit more throughout the day? Read what Dr. James Levine has found with his research and how it applies to your kids!

Remember the lemur in the animated film Madagascar singing, “I like to move it, move it…”? Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic has been saying the same thing for years. His research proves that small amounts of movement have big effects on metabolism.

How did Dr. Levine study this concept?

How is it that some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and not gain weight? To answer that question, Dr. Levine took lean and obese people who were self-proclaimed couch potatoes and overfed them for 8 weeks. The people were fitted with “magic” underwear that monitored their every movement, day and night. He found that people who were able to switch on their NEAT did not gain fat when they were overfed. People who didn’t turn on their NEAT gained 10 times more fat.

What is NEAT?

NEAT stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” and is the level of activity that is a bit above lying on that couch but below exercise. NEAT is:

  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Talking
  • Fidgeting
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Shopping
  • Laughing

Did you know that people who are obese move 2.5 hours less per day compared to lean individuals?  That means they burn 350 calories less per day. Moving more like a lean person without eating less could mean losing 36 pounds in a year!

Why should we care about obesity trends?

Obesity is an epidemic in America that affects both adults and children. Here are some alarming facts that might help get you and your family moving:

  • 1/3 of children and teens (age 2-19) are overweight or obese
  • An average of 2.5 hours a day is spent on passive forms of entertainment (computer games, TV)
  • The current generation of children may not live as long as their parents because of early childhood obesity

Turn your NEAT on!

NEAT might be the easiest way to stay lean or even lose weight – here are a few things you can try to turn your NEAT on:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator
  • Stand up whenever the phone rings and stay standing while you talk – pacing is even better!
  • Play with your kids -tag, hide and seek, kick ball. Play baseball with your family, but have everyone run the bases when the batter hits the ball
  • If you play computer/video games, use those that require movement
  • Have your kids move/dance/jump during commercial breaks
  • Walk around the mall

Check out more ideas in our Fitness and Wellness Section.

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About the Author

Picture of Rachelle Bross, PhD, RD

Rachelle Bross, PhD, RD

Rachelle Bross PhD, RD is a Registered Dietitian with dual Doctorate in Nutrition. She specializes in clinical nutrition and research. Currently, she is the Nutrition Research Manager at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.

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