Non-Exercise Exercise? NEAT-0!


(Photo: AndWat)

Attention Cranky Fitness slackers! There is such a thing as non-exercise exercise! So c'mon and join the new non-exercise movement...or maybe I should say "non-movement". You've got to admit, with a headline like "Exercise Without Really Exercising", there's going to be an avalanche of interested readers - myself included. I am all over this notion of non-exercise like a cheap suit. If there's one thing I like, it's work dressed up in leisure clothes.

NEAT, or nonexercise activity thermogenesis, is the energy you expend from doing everything outside of intentional exercise - in other words, just plain slacking off. This article claims that "researchers" say this kind of activity "is just as important to maintaining a healthy weight as official sweat sessions" (the non-Tiger Woods between-the-sheets variety, that is). It makes suggestions of how doing life's little chores with just a bit more thought and movement behind them can add up to increased NEAT and therefore, enhanced physical fitness. Hmmmm, sounds fishy to me but let's check out some of what they have to say.

Okay, so there are a couple of suggestions that make sense. Standing up and moving around more - walking over to a colleague's desk instead of emailing him (same office version only) or standing/pacing while talking on the phone. Doing a more athletic version of standard chores like dancing while dusting (What? You're supposed to dust?)or alternating up- and downstairs chores so that you're climbing the stairs more often.

Now here's where the fun starts. Another idea was to "get fidgety" like tapping your toes, wiggling your fingers - a general "twitch and shout" approach. Okay, if it means getting out of doing a formal workout, I could get so fidgety that you could throw in the laundry while I was taking a bath and it would come out clean. How's that for dedication to the cause?

Also, under the "Sounds a little too good to be true" category was the suggestion to chew gum. Oh man, this is SO right up my alley. Okay, but challenge me a little - how about walking and chewing gum at the same time? No mention of such multi-tasking here. It appears that said gum chewing or even chewing your food more thoroughly was considered a teensy part of the overall larger goal of increasing movement - however, small. If this is true, I could give cud-chewing lessons to a dairy farm if it got me out of hoofing it on the treadmill every day.

A notch above this article was a more intermediate and innovative approach to increasing movement. In it are suggestions for things a tad more taxing than chewing gum and ants in your pants: doing bicep curls with the laundry basket, lunging while vacuuming or sweeping and squatting to pick up clothes off the floor versus bending at the waist. Doing a little kung fu fighting kick action while walking from room to room in you house was another idea. Just make sure no one comes home unexpectedly, Grasshopper.

And as far as real research goes, I found this study which, if my Catechism Latin is still intact, does in fact point to the benefits of increased NEAT. To boil it down to its simplest form, this study states that "Urbanization and mechanization are likely to have dramatically impacted NEAT" as we've moved from an agricultural society to one designed for comfort and convenience. As a Cranky Fitness-certified Slacker, however, I must warn you of some of the alarming recommendations contained herein to increase NEAT. For children, some of the strategies included parking school buses a mile away from your usual bus stop, outfitting the schools with treadmill desks (yes, you read that correctly), shooting hoops as a teacher reads aloud and using the PA system for lessons as the children walk through the hallways. Lockers, apparently, will be located in a neighboring county. Pardon me, researchers, but are you crazy? Do you know how much parental NEAT it takes just to get a teen in the shower every third day? Just what color is the sky in your world?

As for the adults, the strategies are no less preposterous (from a slacker perspective, that is): rigging the alarm clock to turn on the treadmill when it goes off, a "walking and watching" section of the movie theater, and a Breatholizer-type concept that signals your TV to turn on only when a treadmill is activated first. Oh dear, what's next? Grinding our morning coffee beans with our new and improved chewing techniques? The sky's the limit - and yes, reaching for that sky matters too. Every little bit of NEAT helps.

So there you have it - the three stages of NEAT. I kid, but it's true that the more we move, the better off we are. Surely, our clever and inventive Cranky Fitness readers must have some ideas of their own that they'd like to share. How about it? Are there any extra moves you incorporate into your day that you think is boosting your NEAT?

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