Use NEAT to Stay Active Through the Busy Holidays

by Shana Verstegen

The holidays can be a busy time, especially as the world is reopening and the calendar becomes packed once again. It’s also a great time to give yourself a little bit of grace. If your schedule doesn’t allow for a full workout, take advantage of “NEAT” moments throughout your day for some unscheduled calorie burn.


Use NEAT to Stay Active Through the Busy Holidays
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) are the calories we burn from physical movements outside of planned exercise, sleeping and digesting food. Your overall calories burned throughout the day is known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which is a total of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and Thermic Effect of Physical Activity (TEPA).
TEPA — which includes your planned workouts and NEAT — is what we have the most control over to contribute to daily caloric burn. NEAT can add up to an additional 2,000 calories per day for people in active professions, but most of us can more realistically snag an extra 100–300 bonus calories through extra movement. This may not seem like a lot, but even an additional 100 calories burned daily can lead to 10 pounds of fat loss in one year! Let’s examine some easy and fun ways to move your body, even if you don’t have time to hit the treadmill.


With a growing number of people working from home and moving into more sedentary jobs, not as much energy is being expended at work as in years past. Below are some ways to change this trend and increase your activity levels throughout the day.

  • If you do work in an office outside your home, consider riding your bike or walking to work. Not only does it feel great, but you could also save money on gas.
  • Stand more. Simply switching to a standing desk versus sitting all day can burn an additional 400 calories per day.
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs, if possible.
  • Stand and pace while talking on the phone.
  • Walk to a co-worker’s desk to chat rather than texting or e-mailing.
  • Make it a point to get up and move or stretch for at least 5 minutes of every hour.
  • Fidget as much as possible. Research done by “the king of NEAT,” Dr. James Levine, shows moves like twirling your hair, tapping your toe or simply changing your posture can be a significant contribution to your caloric expenditure.


Hanging out at home doesn’t have to equal lounging around on the couch. There are many opportunities for activities right in your own space

  • While watching TV, do double duty and tackle that laundry pile, get in some sweeping and dusting, or wrap some gifts.
  • If you live in the right climate, save money and wash your car by hand.
  • Get outside and do your own shoveling, raking and gardening.


Kids are a great reason to add movement into your life. Rather than spending your free time watching cartoons, teach them early about the importance of moving throughout the day.

  • Walk with them to school or the bus stop. If you need to drive, park far from the school and walk with them to the building.
  • Have an impromptu dance party in the living room.
  • Rather than sitting in the stands during their athletic games, pace the sidelines and cheer them on!
  • Don’t scold them for fidgeting. As mentioned above, research points to the benefits of regular wiggles.


If you don’t already own one, add a step tracker to your holiday wish list. They are a great way to measure the amount of NEAT in your day through walking. Begin with an easy goal and continue to challenge yourself to a greater number of daily steps. Activities like walking to work, taking the stairs, moving around your house and playing with the kids will be much more tempting with a step goal attached to it.

CLICK TO TWEET THIS ARTICLE > The holidays are busy. Stick to your activity goals with NEAT. @myfitnesspal #fitness


Workouts at the gym aren’t the only way to expend calories. When crunched for time this holiday season, don’t let a missed workout add to your stress. There are hundreds of ways to incorporate more movement into your daily schedule to help keep you on track.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated. 


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