Even if you’ve successfully stuck with your New Year’s resolution to exercise more or have stepped up your workouts in anticipation of summer, all of the barre classes, bike rides and crunches in the world won’t give you license to spend the rest of your time sitting. Studies suggest too much sitting can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Related: How to Know If You’re Healthy Enough
Fortunately, paying attention to non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)—the energy you expend beyond purposeful exercise and resistance training activities—can be a boon to your health. According to a review published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2015, engaging more often in continuous, vital movements with postural changes—even as simple as fidgeting, standing and laughing—can potentially counter the negative effects of excessive sitting. Doing more of these simple, sustainable activities can also increase your daily calorie burn and prevent unhealthy weight gain.
Here are four ways to promote NEAT this summer and beyond:
1. Assess and attack:
Using your smartphone, a fitness tracker app, or a pen and paper, assess your daily sitting time. After determining your baseline, set a realistic daily goal (e.g., to replace one hour of sitting with some simple activities). When sitting, set a timer each hour as a reminder to take a short break. To stay accountable and motivated, record your daily progress.
2. Rise up:
Instead of sitting, try standing while sorting mail, surfing the internet, making phone calls or reading a book. Set up your home and workspace to promote activity. Move the garbage can and other essential items farther than an arm’s reach away. When at meetings and conferences, stand instead of sit. Plan or ask for walk-and-talk rather than sit-down meetings. During breaks at conferences, pace the hallways and climb stairs.
Turn sedentary activities into something more. For example, Elana Natker, a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition communications consultant, has turned folding laundry into what she calls laundraerobics.
“I set the hamper of clean laundry in the kitchen, adjacent to the dining room,” she says. “Then I take one piece of laundry and fold it while circling the dining room table. I mix up the routine by changing directions or adding loops around my kitchen island.” You can add movement to other mundane tasks, too. For example, when grocery shopping, do toe raises while reaching for items or walk a few extra aisles.
4. Be creative:
Debra Indorato, a Florida-based registered and licensed dietitian, says she moves in the shower. “I do push-aways and march in place while letting the hair conditioner soak in,” she says. While watching TV, Indorato tightens and releases her thigh muscles and does foot curls, head rolls or gentle stretches.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Elisa Zied is an award-winning New York State certified dietitian nutritionist and the author of Younger Next Week (Harlequin Nonfiction) and three other consumer titles. A past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she received a bachelor's in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's in clinical nutrition from New York University. For more than two decades, she has garnered millions of media impressions through her TV appearances, articles and blogs. Having recently discovered her passion for reading and writing fiction, she is currently working on her first novel. She lives in New York City with her husband of 24 years and her two sons. When she’s not reading, she enjoys long walks and hikes, hula hooping, seeing Broadway shows and movies, attending book signings and festivals, and interviewing her favorite authors for her Food, Fitness & Fiction blog.