Sitting is the New Smoking: How to Burn 2,000 More Calories without Exercise

I’m sure it seems ironic that I’m writing an article titled “How to burn 2,000 calories without exercise” considering exercise is what we do at Thriveology. And, in a way, it certainly seems to give the opposite message of what we preach on a regular basis.

However, the point of this article is not to convince you that you don’t need exercise to burn calories. On the contrary, exercise is KING when it comes to burning calories. Sadly, though, you can’t exercise all day, every day. Your body just won’t let you.

So, what you’ll get out of this article is about more than exercise. Yes, choosing the right form of exercise is important for your long-term health & fitness. But there’s also another factor that you may be overlooking that can have a big impact on your well-being.

To start, let’s talk a little more about burning calories…

How Your Body Burns Calories

There are only 3 ways you can try to burn more calories. Yes, only 3. I know. It seems like there are THOUSANDS of messages that tell you that you can burn more calories with “this new pill” or “this fantastic fancy treadmill” or “eating this outrageously new diet”.

And those messages would be right. You can burn more calories doing those things. But, when it comes down to it, all calorie burning can be lumped into one of 3 categories:

#1) Your Metabolism

I’ve already talked in-depth about this in other articles, so I won’t dig too deep here. Your metabolism makes up approximately 60% of your daily energy expenditure (how many calories you burn in a day).

#2) Digesting Food

Yes, you burn calories as you digest food. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should start scarfing down calories to burn more calories. There is a point of diminishing returns for everything. Food digestion makes up about 10% of your daily energy expenditure.

#3) Activity

This is where most people focus most of their time when it comes to burning calories. Which isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s only wrong if you’re trying to get “quick and easy” results. The right activity builds a strong metabolism for long-term health and fitness improvement (seriously, if you haven’t read the Metabolism article, you need to. It’s a game changer). 

Obviously, activity makes up the final 30% of your daily energy expenditure.

The reason that I point these categories out is to make a fine distinction. When it comes to activity, what most people want to focus on is getting more exercise. Which, of course, is fantastic for your health and longevity.

Exercise, though, only makes up a small portion of your potential time to move. For instance, the average exerciser workouts 3 days a week. And when they workout, it’s generally for 60 minutes.

That’s 3 hours of purposeful movement a week. Given that there are 168 hours per week, that’s not a lot of time focusing on moving. Actually, that’s less than 2% of your weekly hours spent on movement.

The 2 Types of Activity You Should Be Focusing On

Like I mentioned before, sadly you can’t exercise all day, every day. Eventually your body will revolt against you. Once you get to about 10-12 hours a week of regular high-intensity exercise, your body goes into overtraining mode. Essentially it starts to shut down. 

For pro athletes, overtraining is essential to their increased performance. But only when it’s done with proper rest and recovery after bouts of intense work.

The sweet spot for every day exercisers, then, seems to be in the 4-6 to hour range. Sometimes more, sometimes less depending on other factors.

So how do you start to get more movement into your day without worrying about getting 20 workouts in a week?

The second form of activity you should be focusing on to boost your weekly movement is called NEAT movement.

NEAT is an acronym that stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Essentially it means how much energy you burn from non-exercise activity.

What’s the Difference Between Exercise and NEAT?!

To help you understand this idea further, it’s important to define some terms…

One of the statements I hear often from potential Members of Thriveology is “I already workout all day since I do landscaping” or “I’m in construction so I’m already exercising”. Basically, they’re trying to make a connection between the physical work that they do and exercise.

To be sure, manual labor is no joke. It requires lots of strength, plenty of determination and most certainly burns a lot of calories. But manual labor is not exercise. And it definitely does not make you fit.

Exercise, by definition, is activity for the PURPOSE of improving your health. Let me say that again…exercise is activity for the PURPOSE of improving your health.

I don’t think that most people do manual labor for the purpose of improving their health. On the contrary, most construction workers or landscapers would argue that their health is worse off because of their job.

Instead, manual labor would fit into the other activity category, NEAT. If an activity is not done for the PURPOSE of improving your health, it fits into NEAT movement.

For instance, when you go to the zoo and walk around, you are not trying to become more fit. However, you are burning calories and, to an extent, getting in better shape.

As a simpler example, when you get out of your chair to throw something away, you didn’t do it to build a robust cardiovascular system. But you did burn calories and, again to a small degree, become healthier.

Burning More Calories with More NEAT

You can see, then, how putting more NEAT into your life can start to make a dent on the rest of 165 hours of non-movement that you have in the week. Actually, research shows that, on average, people are missing about 2,000 calories that they could be burning through more NEAT movement.

In other words, simply focusing on putting more NEAT movement into your day can increase the amount of calories you burn by 2,000. That’s well worth it!

The moral of the story is, focus your attention on both your exercise AND your NEAT movement. If you’re getting sufficient exercise and are still having trouble building more energy or losing weight, try putting more NEAT into your day.

Set a timer for every 60 minutes and get up and move around for 10 minutes. Or park further away from the door at work. Or take the dog for a walk more often. If you don’t have a dog, get your neighbors and take it for a walk more often.

There are plenty of ways to build more movement into your day. Find them and do them. Your health and longevity depend on it!

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