What if Exercise Isn’t Enough?

In the words of Functional Movement Systems, we need to “Move well  move often.” 

With the world-wide growth booming about 10 years ago, we saw a resurgence back into fitness.  Once again, fitness was become mainstream, being shown on ESPN, put into little clips on social media, and people were starting to exercise (and move) more again.

But what if exercise isn’t enough?

That would be a damn shame, wouldn’t it?

Because as coaches, we’ll show you how exercise can be enough.  It can make every aspect of your life better from your flexibility, strength, performance, flexibility, to your happiness and well-being, mood, etc.  In turn, with your happier mood and newfound confidence, exercise could help make you a better person, or help boost your career, or tackle new tasks.  Exercise will also help you lose weight!

There isn’t much that exercise can’t do – so why are we continuing to lose the battle towards disease and weight gain?

Now, more than ever, our nation is reporting the highest weights of overweight and obesity (these are now stemming down into teens), heart disease, diabetes, and everything else under the sun.

To an extent, it may be safe to say we’re losing the battle.

I’m sure you can I could come up with a list of thousands of reasons why this his happening.  We’ll agree on most of them, and agree to disagree on some, but the point is we can find a lot of them.

As coaches, maybe we missed something here.  Every day we’re given an opportunity to better our knowledge through top-notch certifications regarding strength training, movement patterns, mobility, nutrition coaching, and several more. 

We’re smarter than we have ever been.  We have more access than ever before.  More options to choose from, with new ones coming at you every day.

Yet, we’re still not helping the majority of our population.

Maybe we missed a step…Maybe we forgot to be neat and talk about NEAT.

You know, the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis?!

Oh, you don’t know what NEAT is?  Well, let me explain…

If EAT (your Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is all the calories you burn from exercising, NEAT is all the calories you burn from moving around, but not through exercise.

So, walking the dog, taking the stairs, parking far away from the store entrance, taking the long way to the bathroom or water fountain, etc all add up to your NEAT.

NEAT is a sum of all the activity you are doing OUTSIDE of scheduled or purposely planned exercise.  Intentionally scheduled and completed exercise goes under your EAT category, and here’s the kicker: your EAT doesn’t add up to nearly the amount of daily energy expenditure (calories burned) as NEAT does (unless, of course, you’re spending +4 hours in the gym every day exercising…and if you’re not competing for something big like the Olympics, then we should talk, ‘cause that ain’t right).

Your BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is basically what your body burns at rest.  In other words, it’s what your body burns from just being you if you were to do absolutely nothing.  It’s your baseline.  In terms of your energy expenditure each day, this is also known as Resting Energy Expenditure (REE).

TEF is the Thermic Effect of Food, which is the calories you burn from eating food.  Yep!  Your body has to use energy aka burn calories to break food down into your digestive system, BUT this really only happens with whole foods, particularly protein.  If you’re eating highly processed, or fake foods, your body can whip through those no problem so you’re not really getting any major effect from TEF.

The combination of TEF, NEAT, and EAT make up your Non-Resting Energy Expenditure, or NREE.

REE + NREE = TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure aka the calories your burn each day).

Here’s a chart from thesportsedit.com that puts it all together:

As you can see from the chart above, EAT (your intentionally planned exercise) doesn’t add up for much of your overall energy expenditure.  NEAT is higher.

In other words, you’ll burn loads (maybe even boatloads!) of more calories every day by focusing on your NEAT!

Here’s a few other quick examples of NEAT:

  • Have a step goal (more than what you’re currently doing)
  • Park further away from the doors at stores, restaurants, and events
  • Walk during your lunch break, or take a walk every day (walk your dog(s))
  • Take the long way every time you go to the cafeteria, or bathroom, or to grab a coffee or water
  • Don’t use drive through ordering…ever
  • Get a standing desk
  • Take the stairs
  • Do more lawn work our work outside the house
  • Pick up a new hobby that involves some movement (lawn work, mowing, even dancing for some)

I promise, if you focus on your NEAT, you’ll see an enormous benefit not only in your weight loss efforts, but overall health.  We need to capture this moment because our lack of NEAT and priority of electronics and devices could be a major reason why we’re losing this battle.

That, and the simple fact that most of us are incredibly distractable from doing valued, meaningful work (you know, the stuff we shy away from by burying our heads in our phones or Netflix show that will later give us more anxiety).

By focusing some of your efforts towards NEAT, you’ll burn more calories each day and boost your health.  This usually shows a lot of promise for everyone, especially those stuck in a weight loss plateau.

However, that doesn’t mean that EAT isn’t effective.  In fact, EAT shows more long-term, sustainable results towards calorie burning and over health as well as provides us with our toned muscles, strong joints and bones, and longevity.

That means it would be wise of you to make sure your EAT is giving you the best bang for your buck.  It should have components of strength training, aerobic (cardio) work, flexibility, and more.  This is obviously something that’s right up our wheelhouse here at Unity Fitness, where we design customized programs for all our members – servicing you with the best bang for your buck in an effective and efficient program.

In conclusion, I feel like the fitness industry has jumped on the rocket ship of growth and it’ll keep on delivering.  As coaches, we’re undoubtedly extremely passionate about what we do.  Most of us LOVE strength training, but I think our love and eagerness to do the next best exercise has missing some of the “big rocks”, like NEAT.

That doesn’t mean all coaches are like that, but from my perspective, there’s more that are that aren’t.

Don’t forget about your NEAT.  It’s a game-changer in your program, regardless of the goal.  Furthermore, most, if not all, of your NEAT activities will result in fat-burning as well – another WIN!

As much as I love seeing our members every day and watching people better their lives and push their bodies, I also love to know you’re taking care of business OUTSIDE of the gym.

You and I both have the same 24 hours in a day.  We may have an EAT of 3-5 hours per week.  That leaves us with 163-165 hours outside of the gym that we need to create structure and systems and routines to help ourselves.  NEAT is built within that structure.

In a world where exercise is more popular than ever, we’re also showing that exercise may not be enough.

NEAT for the win! Move well, and move often!