News & Insights 30 November 2020

The neat way to keep active

A recent article published in the midst of the ongoing pandemic has highlighted the importance of minimising your sedentary time, even during these unprecedented periods. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT as it is more commonly referred to, is the energy you expend during everything you do day-to-day that falls outside of sleeping, eating and formal, structured exercise. These incidental movements can range from brushing your hair or tidying the kitchen, to gardening or walking to work, and even includes fidgeting. It is the cumulative impact of these various movements throughout the day that generate your individual daily NEAT.

Whilst more traditional exercise does have its place in reducing health risks, Professor Mike Loosemere, a consultant sports physician at the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health in London, highlighted the importance of not neglecting your NEAT activity. He advised that increasing your daily NEAT elicits a variety of health benefits that cannot be obtained through sporadic bursts of formal exercise, emphasising ‘If you sit down all day and run 5km, excellent. But you haven’t got rid of the risk factor of sitting down.’

An abundance of scientific research demonstrates that prolonged periods of sitting are associated with a higher mortality risk, with a positive correlation also existing between age and sedentary time. Research by Patel and colleagues compared the effect of sitting for more than 6 hours a day to sitting for less than 3 hours a day, across a large cohort of participants who were initially free of any chronic diseases. They discovered a clear relationship between sedentary time, all-cause mortality and a vast number of health conditions, with risk estimates ranging from 18 to 54% across the experimental cohort.

Alongside the well-established relationship with cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the researchers also determined a significant effect of sedentary time on the prevalence of kidney disease, digestive diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, nervous disorders and musculoskeletal disorders. Consequently, we should not only be encouraging people to undertake the 30 minutes of daily exercise as recommended by the current government physical activity guidelines, but it is just as crucial to focus on minimising the amount of time individuals spend being sedentary throughout each day too!

Particularly as winter approaches, being aware of our sedentary time is advantageous. Incidental activity peaks throughout the summer months, with better weather encouraging people to spend more time outdoors undertaking activities such as gardening or choosing to walk rather than drive. Whilst the current weather may be less than desirable and we lack the additional benefit of lengthy daylight hours, there are still plenty of ways to maintain your NEAT activity throughout the winter period. Carrying out everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning or even decorating the Christmas tree inadvertently accumulates activity throughout the day and limits the time you spend sat down. Significantly, recent research even suggests that fidgeting whilst at your desk or watching the TV can sufficiently increase your calorie burn to benefit your daily NEAT too, providing an accessible option to fit into even the busiest of days!

We, at KiActiv®, know that when it comes to improving your health and wellbeing, every movement and every minute matters. Becoming more aware of the time you spend sitting down is the first step to increasing your activity levels. We all know how quickly time can fly by when sat at your computer or watching the TV, so making a conscious effort to take regular breaks and incorporate some additional movement into your day will quickly add up across the week and, over time, become part of your daily routine! Keep in mind that this activity doesn’t have to be intense or structured to be valuable to your health. There are 1440 minutes in the day and, whilst some of these are great for relaxation and recovery, making the most out of this time time really can do wonders for your health!

The KiActiv® Team