There's no question about it - losing weight is a difficult task. Whether you're looking to slim down slightly for swimsuit season or drop a significant amount of weight to reduce your risk of heart disease or address an issue such as sleep apnea, making the lifestyle changes necessary for weight loss success is a challenge.
But that doesn't mean that losing weight is impossible; it simply takes effort, commitment and a plan of action.
Keeping your end goal - successful weight loss - in mind as you pursue your efforts can help give you the motivation to stick with your plan for the long run.
The difficulty in achieving weight loss success is not a result of a lack of weight loss strategies and techniques, however. In fact, there are many actions and behaviors you can adopt or avoid to assist your weight loss efforts.
Among the most common step you can take to help control your weight include:
- Monitoring your calorie intake
- Getting enough sleep
- Reducing your stress levels
And while those strategies can help you overcome your weight loss challenges in combination, there is one other tip that stands out as the most significant.
The secret? Increasing your activity level every day, not just those days in which you hit the gym for workouts.
The NEAT Weight Loss Strategy
Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and obesity expert, Dr. James Levine believes that engaging in more frequent exercise is not the answer to the problem of excess body fat.
Instead, nonexercise activity is the key variable.
Levine coined the term, NEAT (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) to refer to energy used during activities that wouldn’t normally be considered exercise. Examples include gardening, shopping, walking around the house, or even fidgeting.
- to maintain essential functions of the body,
- for digestion, and
- to support activity. Activity is the domain in which we see the greatest individual differences. Some people are highly active; others not so much.
Exercising more is one way to deal with excess stored energy (body fat), but this is not practical or desirable for most people. Increasing nonexercise activity is much more realistic.
Levine estimates that NEAT can account for anywhere from 15% to 50% of energy expenditure, which is fascinating when you consider the potential for fat loss or weight management associated with merely increasing low-intensity activities each day.
Levine and his colleagues conducted three studies on NEAT. Collectively, these studies reveal:
- the most important reason not everyone gets fat from overeating
- the behavioral differences between lean and obese nonexercisers
- how increasing NEAT can treat obesity
While weight loss is a process, achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it for life isn't just a one-time goal, it's a lifestyle change. And to make sure that you are successful, you have to get into the mindset of making activity a priority on a consistent basis.
Obviously, workouts are where you will burn the majority of your calorie to drive weight loss. For example, the Mayo Clinic explains that you can burn more than 1,000 calories per hour while running and about 450 calories per hour of weight training if you have a body weight of 200 pounds.
But even small amounts of activity that you might not necessarily expect to contribute to weight loss can make a big difference.
The New York Times reports that the effect of nonexercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, can be significant despite the fact that the source of this calorie burning is minor activities such as fidgeting, standing, and pacing in place.
The daily increase in calorie burn from NEAT can be 350 calories, which is "enough for the heavy people to take off 30 to 40 pounds a year," according to the New York Times.
All kinds of activity have benefits for your weight loss quest. While many cardiovascular activities may have a potential to burn calories more quickly than weight training, building muscle helps boost your metabolism, so you shouldn't ignore that type of workout.
If nothing else, switching between weight training and cardio workouts can help you get some variety into your routine to battle boredom.
There are many ways you can get more activity into your routine and help get yourself into the right mindset for making lifestyle changes, such as:
- Parking farther away from stores
- Biking or walking instead of driving
- Carrying groceries instead of using a cart
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator
- Spend quality time with loved ones hiking or walking rather than watching TV
There are many ways to increase your daily activity level; if you look, you may be surprised how many strategies you can find. After a while, you'll likely find you don't even have to try anymore - you'll be adopting healthy behaviors on your own.