The worst is behind us, crew; and lockdown’s end seems to be drawing ever nearer. If things keep going in the right direction, it shan’t be too long ’till we’ll be back in our rightful place: grinding out under some iron or busting some miles on our beloved spin bikes.
In the meanwhile, as things begin to re-open and the growing hopes of a summer holiday dawn on the horizon, now might be the perfect time to take stock of where you’re at with your health and fitness.
And, given the fact most of us have been largely housebound, there may be a wee bit of post-Corona squish to shift…
The Quarantine Effect
Most of us have seen a complete overhaul to our normal routines thanks to the physical restrictions imposed to quell the threat of infection. Consequently, the fact that we aren’t moving throughout the day as we normally would has caused a nationwide drop in total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
This is something I like to call The Quarantine Effect : the widespread rise of overwhelmingly sedentary daily routines stimulated by the nationwide lockdown. Unfortunately, this may have put a wee bit of a dent in progressing towards your goals due to the plummet in activity on a day-to-day basis.
When we factor this in to the fundamental formula of fat loss, it is understandable why you may have seen the scales ticking up since April; the sudden drop on the ‘Energy Out’ side of the equation could very well have tipped you into a calorie surplus.
Fortunately, The Quarantine Effect is very definitely reversible, and all it takes is a bit more movement over the course of your day…
NEAT : The Secret Of Fat Loss
The activities you usually do on the daily (walking to work, fidgeting at your desk, dancing in the shower etc.) all contribute to the amount of energy your body burns. However small a given movement is, it still requires energy to make it happen and hence contributes to the total number of calories your body burns in a day.
These activities are referred to as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis (NEAT), and may have a much more significant impact on your diet and fitness than you think..
According to a 2002 study by Levine et al., NEAT accounts for between 15-50% of calories burnt per day depending on your activity levels. It is the most variable component of TDEE, which we can therefore use to our advantage when looking to shift the squish.
What’s even more interesting is when you compare that to the proportion of TDEE occupied by EAT (workouts/runs/sports games etc.), which is usually ~ 5%.
One particular study with a pair of identical twins proved the importance of NEAT when it comes to maximising fat loss. Both twins were put onto the same 90 day exercise and nutrition programme, but one of the twins remained sedentary throughout the rest of the day where the other was instructed to hit a higher daily step count and make tweaks to his daily routine that allowed for elevated levels or NEAT.
The results were pretty astonishing; they both lost a lot of fat, but the twin who upped his levels of NEAT lost an additional 86lbs over the same time period.
If you feeling like you have tried every trick in the book, or hit wee bit of a plateau, then this might be the major piece of the puzzle you are looking for…
Boosting The Burn : Maximising NEAT
The aforementioned study has big implications for quelling the impacts of The Quarantine Effect on your health and fitness.
The surprising fact that your daily workout accounts for such a small proportion of caloric expenditure means that, however hard you have been caning it on the home workouts, an altogether sedentary lifestyle will ultimately reduce the chances of creating and maintaining a calorie deficit.
In order to get the best results from the big shifts on the workout and nutrition side of things, it is important to keep moving and active across your entire day. Here are some ideas to get you started!
But What If I Live In Constant Chaos?!
Some of you will probably be thinking “how the f**k am I meant to find the time to when I’ve got laundry to wash, mouths to feed, kids to taxi, and work to do?”
A valid question, but with a simple answer courtesy of Mr Bear Grylls: “improvise. Adapt. Overcome”
For those of you who have an ever-increasing list of responsibilities, probably deriving from the closure of schools, life is probably going to be a bit nuts at the mo’. In this case, the key is to work with what you’ve got, and integrate regular movement into the various tasks that need doing throughout the day.
For example, if you are banging out another top quality home schooling session, try doing it standing up, or take a leaf out of my mum’s book and go OTT expressive with the arm gestures!
If you are more bound by the whole work-from-home business, then make an effort to go for a 10 minute wander for every hour or so of sitting at a desk to help keep the step counter ticking over. The additional benefit of this habit is a marked increase in productivity; if you find yourself mindlessly gawping at a motionless spreadsheet on your laptop, going for a walk as short as 5 minutes has been proven to significantly improve concentration and alertness.
And if you have just been prone to a 5-hour binge of Tiger King on the sofa, then get your sh*t together and go for a walk!
Slow, Steady & SMART : The Holy Trinity of Long-Lasting Change
I’m not expecting you to finish reading this article and immediately start banging out 20,000 steps a day. As with most things ‘Health-and-Fitness’, the key to long term success is making small, achievable changes over time, which accumulate to create the ultimate, sustainable healthy lifestyle.
The Key to Long Term Success is making small, achievable changes over time…
It may be useful to apply the SMART Goal Setting principle to upping your TDEE. Too much change over a short period of time will almost always result in relapse to old habits.
Try shooting for 2-4 subtle tweaks to your daily routine every week, and aim to implement on 5-7 days of that week. The easiest and most common metric people use to objectively measure their progress regarding NEAT is step count. At first, it might be best to look at your current average step count and crank it up by 10-20% every week.
Furthermore, use trial and error to see what works for you and your lifestyle (after all, dancing in the shower isn’t for everyone); through this method, you will come out the other side of the process with an entirely individualised strategy to increase your TDEE as opposed to a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution commonly perpetuated by the media.
The Final Word
Hopefully, you are now highly aware of the significance of NEAT with regards to fat loss, body recomposition, and general physical health.
With lots of ideas to get you going, now is the perfect time to spring clean the Lockdown routine and start implementing an array of strategies to optimise your health and fitness.
As ever, if you have any questions or queries about how you can start boosting your levels of NEAT, or any other topic, then go ahead and drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Never underestimate the power of NEAT; it may be the missing ticket to stick you on a one-way track to be the body of your dreams…
Levine, J. A. (2002). Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Practice & Research. Clinical Endrocrinology & Metabolism. December. Vol. 16, No. 4, 679-702
Bouchard C , et al (1994). The response to exercise with constant energy intake in identical twins. Obes Res. 1994;2(5):400‐410.