World Heart Day, which encourages us all to take a step back and assess our cardiovascular health, falls on September 29th this year.
In terms of how we can improve our heart health – and wellbeing more generally – becoming more active is one of the most important lifestyle changes we should be looking to adopt, with studies suggesting a direct link between sitting time, obesity and impaired cardiovascular (heart) health. However, many employees frequently flag that they struggle to find time to schedule exercise around their hectic work, home and life schedules – particularly since having made the return to office-based working.
When we think of exercising, the mind tends to immediately spring to the gym or going for a run. However, arguably the most important determinant of caloric expenditure, and subsequently fat loss and cardiovascular health, is not how many times a week you work out, but rather how much you move throughout the day – known as your NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), rather than your EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis).
Simply enough, NEAT refers to all of the activity we do outside of our “planned” exercise, such as gym sessions or cardio. NEAT can be any form of movement outside of formal exercise – whether gym-based or otherwise – such as the amount of steps you cover in a day such as on a lunchtime walk, fidgeting, and even actions such as typing.
What are the benefits of NEAT exercise?
Because NEAT is such a critical deciding factor behind our calories burned, those with higher NEAT levels will naturally be able to consume more calories while trying to lose fat, making NEAT a crucial tool for weight loss, dietary adherence and heart health.
Furthermore, NEAT is free, doesn’t require any special exercise kit or a monthly gym membership, and is also far more manageable than scheduled exercise due to being lower-intensity. Indeed, increasing your NEAT can be as simple as going out for a stroll during lunch, opting for the stairs rather than the lift, or even getting up from the desk to make a cup of tea.
How much NEAT exercise should employees be aiming to do?
There is no hard and fast rule around how high our NEAT should be in a given day, as it will vary greatly dependent on career and lifestyle choices. For example, employees in highly active jobs such as construction or nursing are likely to already have high NEAT levels whereas those who work in a more sedentary office job may well be lower – particularly those working from home.
It’s not unheard of for those in more active jobs to burn hundreds, or even thousands, more calories a day than their desk-bound counterparts. Therefore, employers looking to support the health of their workforce could encourage team members to always try to get out for a walk during lunch or after work. For shorter commutes, staff could consider walking if possible, or parking the car and walking part of the way.
How staff can increase their NEAT
Employers should note that employees increasing their NEAT will often require a continued conscious effort – particularly if they are time-poor, or on a low-calorie diet which has regularly been linked with a decrease in activity levels. This unconscious reduction, combined with the fact that many may be breaking inactivity habits formed over a lifetime of desk-based work, means that employees must make a deliberate effort to incorporate activity into their daily routine wherever possible.
For example, if there is a choice between taking the lift and the stairs, staff could be encouraged to take the stairs by specially-placed custom signage. While actions such as this may seem small, they will have a substantial cumulative impact over time if done consistently. Employers have a critical role to play in encouraging this consistency, and to this end could consider setting company-wide initiatives, such as a timed step challenge, to inject some friendly competition while facilitating team bonding.
Overall, just as NEAT has a critical role to play in improving heart health, so too do employers have a role in increasing NEAT amongst their workforce. For those who would like to move more, or empower others in doing so, WRKIT’s Move module on the POWR platform has over 80 hours of workouts that can be performed anytime, anywhere, as well as dozens of educational articles on the topic designed to improve staff’s knowledge, and health, significantly. To find our more about WRKIT and POWR, please visit: https://wrkit.com/products/