5 Non-Exercise Activities for Sustainable Weight Loss

Our bodies are always working to expend energy (burn calories). Naturally, many of us assume this only happens when we engage in intentional exercise, but the truth is other factors have a larger impact on our total daily energy expenditure—like general activities that encourage you to move.

If you’re looking to make healthy lifestyle changes, it won’t be that difficult for you to get started.

Let’s discuss some easy strategies for you to increase your non-exercise activity.

Where the Energy Goes

Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) can be categorized into the following three groups:

1. Basal metabolic rate (BMR)—Your BMR is the number of calories your require at rest based on factors such as lean body mass, age and height. This is what you need to live without considering the demands of moving about, exercising and so on. Your BMR accounts for 60-70 percent of your daily energy expenditure. Individuals who carry more fat free mass will have a higher BMR. This is a great reason to focus on weightlifting in your training.

2. Thermic effect of feeding—The process of digesting your food requires energy—about 10 percent of your energy expenditure, to be exact. Protein has the highest thermic effect of all three macronutrients. That means it takes more effort to break down protein, so you’ll likely feel more satisfied and less hungry throughout the day if you eat enough protein. This is why we encourage clients to make protein about 30 percent of their total daily caloric intake.

3. Non-exercise activity thermogenisis (NEAT) and physical activity—This includes both intentional exercise like weightlifting, running and cycling as well as non-exercise activity like doing house work, walking, playing with your kids, etc. The thermic effect of physical activity accounts for 15-30 percent of your daily energy expenditure. An active person with a physical job, a commute and a child or dog to play with can burn 150-500 more calories a day than a person who sits behind a desk. Over the course of a week, that can translate to upward of 3,500 calories more per week. Consider that playing volleyball for one hour will burn roughly 292 calories and you’ll start to understand the impact of daily steps and general movement.

An athletic woman in a bikini demonstrates non-exercise activities by diving backward off a dock into a lake.

Do something physical today!

Top Non-Exercise Activities

Here are 5 non-exercise activities you can do to increase your daily energy expenditure:

1. Choose to stand instead of sit. The smallest movements contribute toward your NEAT. Fidgeting and being restless actually count, and of course standing up and moving around are even better. If you work at a desk, opt for a stand-up station.

2. Skip the drive-thru. Walk inside to get your food or beverage. Seriously! The interesting thing about individuals who restrict their calories is that they tend to find ways to move less because they have less energy to use. It’s your body’s way of maintaining homeostasis. You can make an even bigger impact here by choosing to park as far away as possible and enjoy the fresh air while you walk. And it’s even better if you’re walking to the grocery store for fresh, healthy food.

3. If you’re taking the bus, get off a few blocks early and walk. If commuting by bike or foot is an option, do it!

4. Play with your kids and walk your dogs. Engaging in playtime with your family is good for your physical, mental and emotional health.

5. Hit up some chores and run some errands. Cleaning and organizing your house requires effort and plenty of movement. Make a list and hit the deep cleaning. Get out and about to check errand off your list, and, as above, park a little further from the store—or walk or bike there.

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Create a Healthy Lifestyle

A woman in a purple bikini and a man in brown shorts stand on paddleboards floating in an Ontario lake.

Get active, have fun!

If you can increase your daily NEAT and make solid nutrition choices more consistently, sustained weight loss becomes much easier. You’re creating a lifestyle change, not struggling with a crash diet.

Setting a goal of increased daily movement isn’t as daunting as setting out to totally overhaul your nutrition, work out 5 times a week or restrict snacks at social gatherings. You just have to move around a littlem more, and lots of wearable fitness technology can help you track your movement. Did you know the iPhone Health app will track your steps? Check it out.

Consider making these changes as part of a long-term strategy in combination with smart nutrition goals, such eating more veggies and drinking more water.

Getting movement and nutritious food into your life isn’t about restriction. It’s about positive additions! This type of healthy, inclusive attitude will make the process far more enjoyable, achievable and sustainable for the long term.

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