Research Topic: NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)


There is no arguing that we, as dietitians, value the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. By doing so, we can minimise our clients’ risk of chronic health disease onset. Stemming from this, however, is the question of whether we place as much value on Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT as an approach to reach these goals for our clients?  

What is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis?

NEAT describes any form of spontaneous, non-exercise related activity which plays a role in increasing our total energy expenditure (TEE). It is highly variable within and between individuals compared to other more fixed energy expenditure contributors such as Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). By comparison, NEAT is reported to range from contributing an additional 6-10% to TEE within people living sedentary lifestyles to around 50% in those who are very active. This highlights its potential value in assisting our clients when managing their weight.

Examples of NEAT Activities

NEAT describes various activities which can be readily adopted into life events for a greater likelihood of long-term compliance in comparison to voluntary physical activity (i.e. sport, runs, gym sessions). Such examples of NEAT activities include:

  • Fidgeting
  • Standing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Chewing gum
  • Toe-tapping
  • Home chores (i.e. cleaning, washing, hanging out laundry on the line, gardening)

Compare the Pair

Adults matched for body size, lean muscle mass and age.

  Subject A Subject B
OccupationSedentary desk job Similar occupation, with more standing time and is a chronic fidgeter
Estimated energy costUp to 2930 kJ/day Up to 5852 kJ/day

This above example illustrates the potential benefits for our clients if we encourage them to replace long periods of regular sitting for standing where possible. This would lead to them expending approximately double the amount of energy whilst performing the same task.

Implementing NEAT Changes For Our Clients

A simplified approach using the acronym STRIPE to help practitioners guide their clients to incorporate NEAT activities into their lives was outlined in an article by Dr J.A Levine.

The approach considers the following components:

  • S = Select an enjoyed activity to engage in and ensure the client is choosing this task for better ongoing success.
  • T = Targeted to the individual and their specific health goals.
  • R = Rewards (non-food related) should be paired with the accomplishment of the overarching goals.   
  • I = Identify any foreseeable barriers such as more valued or enjoyed alternative activities which are more sedentary. Try to uncover the perceived importance that the client associates with various activities (active and inactive) as a means of promoting positive changes.  
  • P = Plan how this activity will fit into their daily routine.
  • E = Evaluation of NEAT activity uptake and the associated effectiveness.

This blog provides a snapshot of an insightful article released in 2018 by von Loeffelholz & Birkenfeld, for more information, access the full text here

Want to learn more? Check out our blog page and stay tuned for the next research spotlight!