Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

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Published on 21 May 2021

Weight loss is the result of a negative daily energy balance. Losing weight requires eating fewer calories, improving the quality of food consumed and increasing energy expenditure. Let’s look at the three components of daily energy expenditure: 

  • Basic metabolism accounts for 60% to 75% of daily energy expenditure. The total number of calories a person “burns” in a day varies and depends primarily on their weight.
  • Dietary thermogenesis is proportional to the calories burned through digestion, which accounts for about 10% of daily energy expenditure.
  • Exercise-related thermogenesis is divided into two categories: planned physical activities such as hockey, gym training or aerobics, and non-exercise activities (NEAT). The combination of the two accounts for 15% to 30% of total energy expenditure.

So, what is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)? It is the number of calories burned through any activity other than sleeping, eating and playing sports, such as gardening, walking to work, taking the stairs or simple fidgeting.

Example of NEAT at work (kilocalories per day)*:

  • Working while seated (unable to move) = 300 kcal/day
  • Seated office work = 700 kcal/day
  • Standing work (cashier) = 1,400 kcal/day
  • Physical work (farmer) = 2,400 kcal/day

Eating well every day and training 3 to 4 times a week to improve your fitness is a great way to control your weight. However, if you want to see clear benefits, take advantage of “NEAT” whenever possible. Talk on the phone standing instead of sitting, park your car at the end of the parking lot instead of wasting time finding a parking space near the entrance, take the stairs instead of the elevator—moving at every opportunity will help to control your weight.  



* Based on a basic metabolism of 1,600 calories a day. Adapted from A.E. Black, W.A. Coward, T.J. Cole, A. M. Prentice, “Human energy expenditure in affluent societies: an analysis of 574 doubly-labelled water measurements,” Eur J Clin Nutr., vol. 50, no. 2 (1996), pp. 272–292.


Reference: ENDOCRINOLOGY NEWS OF MAYO CLINIC: James A. Levine, MD, PhD, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Nutrition, Mayo Clinic Rochester