Contrary to popular belief you don’t always have to go to a gym to burn excess calories, get your heart rate up and improve your overall health. Let me introduce you to a N.E.A.T way to get in better shape and improve your health.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or N.E.A.T. is a measure of all the calories you expend outside of exercise, eating and sleeping. There are many N.E.A.T. activities that we already do, but may not realize its caloric output effect. Simple tasks such as raking leaves, physical labor, climbing stairs and even fidgeting help us expend additional calories. In essence, N.E.A.T. increases metabolic rate and results in a substantial energy cost overtime.

Most people spend the majority of their day at work. One way to increase caloric burn is to implement non-exercise movement throughout the workday. Agriculture, construction and housekeeping trades are good examples of high N.E.A.T. jobs because they require a high demand for movement. On the other hand, desk jobs are primarily sedentary and do not expend much energy cost. So how can you increase your N.E.A.T. during the workday? Here are some creative ideas to integrate movement:

Change your mode of transportation.

Walk, bike or bus to work instead of driving. This starts and ends the day on a good note, along with a breath of fresh air.

Implement walking meetings.

Head outdoors and boost your team’s creativity with a walking meeting. Walking is an effective way to burn calories, stimulate the brain and bond the team.

Throw out your garbage can.

Give your eyes and body a break from the computer screen by removing your garbage can from under your desk. This gives you a reason to get up and walk to the workroom or break room to throw out your trash or recycling materials.

Stand instead of sit.

Adjustable and treadmill desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. However, if these desks are not available, raise your work to a podium or counter so you can stand throughout the day. This is advantageous for those who need to read or work from a laptop or mobile device. Resting heart rate is higher while standing than sitting, thus increasing caloric output.

Make Appointments To Move

If you have a desk job or collapse on the couch as soon as you get home, train yourself to just get up more. Getting up hourly and walking to the restroom, getting a refill of water or standing up to stretch can decrease stiffness, boost energy and burn calories. Also, when watching TV, during every commercial break get up and move. Do a few stretches, walk around the house or bust out a few bicep curls.

Walk your dog or play with your kids

Not only will this significantly increase your caloric expenditure over being sedentary it will give you a great opportunity to bond with your kids (furry or otherwise) and improve their health as well. There is also mounting research that shows when you exercise for fun rather than necessity the positive physiologic effects are much more pronounced.

Get A Wearable Device Such As FitBit, Apple Watch or Garmin.

In addition to tracking your total daily steps many of the newer devices can also send you gentle reminders to get up and move when you have been sitting for to long. A great way to utilize these devices is create “challenges” with family and friends to see who can take the most steps in any given day, week or weekend. This taps into peoples competitive side and can really increase their daily caloric expenditure.

Pace And Fidget

You probably try to avoid both of these moves to keep from looking irritable or nervous, but they’re easy exercises for weight loss. Pacing rather than standing still and fidgeting rather than sitting still will burn more calories and are prime examples of NEAT in action. “Pace when talking on the phone,” de Mille says. “Use talking on the phone as a cue to stand up and start pacing or just shifting your weight from one foot to the other. Stand up and stretch every time you hit ‘send’ on an e-mail.”

Take The Stairs

If you want easy exercises for weight loss that really pays dividends, take the stairs whenever possible. If climbing stairs seems too daunting, take the elevator up and walk down on your way out. Or, if you’re going to the fifth floor, walk up to two or three and take the elevator the rest of the way.

Dance While You Clean

Cleaning is one at-home exercise that we all have to do — you might hate it, but it’s NEAT at its finest. Hannah-Marie Williams, a certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist in New York, suggests amping up the calorie burn and turning on the music. “A good inspirational tune can add some extra pep to your step as you vacuum, iron, and tidy up around the apartment or house,” she says. “The music, along with the joy dancing freely generally brings, can cause the brain to signal the release of serotonin, creating emotional benefits while you torch calories.”

Carry Your Groceries

Combine strength training and errands on your next trip to the store: If you live within walking distance of your market, see whether you can carry groceries in your arms rather than a cart. If you have to drive, turn unloading the car into an at-home exercise, and add a few bicep curls every time you lift a bag out of the trunk.

Turn Waiting In Line Into Exercise

Whether at the grocery store, the post office or the movies, waiting in line can turn from an unfortunate reality of life into a NEAT opportunity to get in some easy exercises for weight loss. Stand on one leg or step side to side when waiting for an elevator, a bus or a train. If you’re taking a subway or a bus, stand. There are plenty of people who will be grateful for your seat.

Have A Ball

Try sitting on a stability ball instead of your desk chair as often as possible for a great NEAT at-work and at-home exercise that’s sure to help you build strength. Sitting on the ball forces you to balance yourself so you are constantly using your core muscles. Along with strengthening the core, the ball gives an opportunity to gently bounce and move during the day so you can burn more calories just sitting at your desk. If you can’t sit on a ball at work, try it at home while watching television, eating dinner, playing video games, doing laundry or reading. Any time you can be sitting, you can be sitting on the ball!

There you go. Even if you only incorporate a couple of these a day it will make a big difference over time!

Dr Dyer, Integrative DO
Premier Integrative Health