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10 ways to get NEAT at work

One of the reasons I love working at PaperCut is their encouragement of active workstyles. They provide adjustable standing desks for all employees, promote walking meetings, contract a yoga instructor to lead a session each week, and support employees hitting the gym to take a brain break.

These workstyle choices align perfectly with my lifestyle choices.

Now I don’t at all claim to be a fitness junkie, by any stretch of the term. But I have been asked on occasion what I do to stay fit (likely because people see me eating like a stray dog yet my pants still button each morning).

My answer: I live a NEAT life.

What’s a NEAT life?

NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (thermo what?). Long name, simple concept. It just means to MOVE; even when you don’t need to move, move.

In contrast to intentional trips to the gym and lengthy jogging sessions (known as Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or EAT), NEAT is the spontaneous, fitness-conscious options you choose throughout the day.

You can easily expel more energy (burn more calories/demolish more fat/pump up your heart /tone yourself – whatever goal you’re aiming for) by making simple active choices throughout the day than you can in a solid, sweaty gym session.

Brenda astride her mighty exercise ball

Here’s a quick and very high-level breakdown of the average human’s energy expenditure per day*:

About 80% is entirely effortless – your body keeps you warm, it digests food, it keeps your heart beating and hair growing – it’s working without you working. Win!

That other 20% is completely up to you - most people exert about 15% of energy through NEAT and only 5% through EAT.

Let that sink in: all that exercise you put sweat, tears and blood (for us clumsy folk) into only accounts for about 5% of your energy expenditure each day!

Now, I’m not encouraging you to cancel your gym membership and sit on the couch binging Netflix every night. I just hope to challenge the way you think about every move you make throughout the day. What can you do to boost that NEAT percentage up so you can put less effort into the EAT category?10 NEAT ideas to try at the office

  1. As you walk upstairs to work, do some bicep curls with your lunch bag.
  2. While your breakfast toasts to a beautiful golden brown, do a little dance around the kitchen.
  3. Stuck in a long meeting? Fidget your feet (quietly) under the table.
  4. Every hour or so, take a lap around the office to smile at your esteemed colleagues.
  5. For your next 1:1 meeting, suggest a walk to the park rather than sitting in a stale conference room.
  6. Instead of sitting on a standard desk chair, [carefully] sit on a fitness ball – safety first, my friends!
  7. Or find a way to makeshift your sitting desk into a standing option.
  8. While the microwave heats up your delicious leftovers, drop and do push-ups.
  9. While refilling your water bottle, pump out a dozen calf raises.
  10. While washing your hands in the restroom, drop it like a squat.

Your colleagues will either be madly impressed by your commitment to fitness, or think you’re insane – could go either way, good luck out there!

Some NEAT options for outside office hours

  1. Whenever you’re walking around home (doing laundry, cooking dinner, watering the plants), put a resistance band around your thighs.
  2. Carry your groceries around the store rather than using a cart.
  3. While having a marathon of Big Bang Theory (who’s with me?), grab a dumbbell and do some chest presses.
  4. Live on the fourth floor? Don’t even consider that evil elevator as an option; opt for the stairwell.
  5. If your destination is within a 30 minute walk, then just walk it.
  6. And never, EVER use those ridiculous moving sidewalks and escalators!

It’s these simple choices to be more active throughout the day that add up to positive changes. They counterbalance that donut you can’t (and shouldn’t) resist and the extra glass of wine you thoroughly deserve after a successful week.

They don’t require big time commitments, or mental preparation, or even much physical effort. But they add up to make a healthier, happier, more productive you!

*  Again, I’m not an expert on this topic but I do tune in to many


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