NEATly Burn Calories without Exercising

By on January 1, 2013

By Alice Burron –

If the thought of jumping in the car and going to the gym makes you want to run and hide, or just the word “exercise” makes your heart race, never fear – let me introduce to you a concept which will then become your new friend that will allow you to burn some extra calories – even when you’re sitting.

NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is the addition of all of the calories you burn during smaller movements, but does not include calories burned during actual exercise. For example, it takes more calories to sit than lie down, and the NEAT calories are higher when sitting than lying down. It takes more calories to stand than sit, and the NEAT calories you burn are higher when standing. Moving in addition to standing will increase NEAT calories even more.

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The overall calories you burn every day depends on the way you chose to spend your time; lying, sitting, standing, and exercising. If you play your cards right (while standing!), you can burn from 200 to 400 calories more a day if you make an effort to exist throughout the day in the highest calorie-burning ways. And you won’t even know you did it because the effort is subtle, not like true exercise.

Here are ways to increase your NEAT calorie burn throughout the day:

Sit on a fitness ball as often as possible. According to a 2008 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, sitting on a fitness ball (also called an exercise ball) burns about 6 percent more calories than working on a normal office chair. That can add up to 200 calories a day, if you’re sitting on a fitness ball all day. Sitting on a ball is a great way to strengthen your spine and abdominal muscles because it does not allow you to slump and relax postural muscles. Start slowly – just a few minutes a day to begin with. Work your way up to sitting on the ball whenever you have the opportunity.

Sit actively. Sitting doesn’t mean you have to stay motionless. Next time you sit, try these activities: tap your foot up and down, raise your heels up and down, move your ankle in circles, and pull in your toes and stretch them out again. Straighten your leg and hold it for as long as you can, then, with leg still straight, add small pulses of up and down movements. If you add up to 20 minutes of this type of activity every day, you can burn 100 calories more than just sitting.

Consider standing. Standing is comparable in calorie burn to sitting on the fitness ball (up to 200 calories a day), so if you’re able to work or visit on the phone while standing and in place of sitting, it will burn additional calories and give your body some postural variety which may prevent soreness. If you are able to, do low-key movements such as pacing, high-stepping and performing small knee bends to burn even more calories.

Stretch often. If you’re sitting, stretch your arms overhead as often as possible. If you get caught up on the computer and have a tendency to forget, set a timer to stretch 3-5 minutes every hour. Most computers have this feature, but if not, there are free timers online ( Reach overhead, grab your hands together, and reach for the sky. Bend to the right and left and reach the straight arms behind you. Release and take arms, palms back, straight to the sides and gently pull arms back. Move your arms in little circles in both directions. With arms still straight out to sides, bend the torso slightly to the right and reach with the right-hand fingertips to the right as far as you can, then switch sides and do the same with the left. Invent your own stretches. Stretch 5 times a day for 3-5 minutes and burn 100 calories.

The advantages of active existence are great for everyone; even if you do workout every day, these NEAT tips can keep your body supple and loose. The Archives of Internal Medicine found that these movements, beyond the 30 minutes of traditional exercise recommended, might matter even more for your overall health than 30-minute workouts alone.


Full of enthusiasm for all things that create an environment for healthy living, Alice Burron has been a leading expert in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years. Alice is the author of several books, the latest of which is Stress as Trigger, Body as Target. Her latest healthy living resource endeavor,, is an online source of fitness gear for active women everywhere. Visit her on her blog at, where you’ll find her latest interviews with national magazines, fitness gear reviews, and exercise and wellness expertise.

About Alice Burron

Alice Burron, one of the co-authors of the “Stress As Trigger, Your Body As Target” book, is a life-long student of health and wellness. Her experience includes worksite wellness, wellness coaching, personal training, writing, speaking and community wellness initiatives. She can be contacted at [email protected] The book can be purchased at

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NEATly Burn Calories without Exercising