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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Keep Up with NEAT: Less Sitting and More Calorie Burning

GettyImages-513205085If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably started exercising, maybe you’re trying a new diet, and maybe you’ve been super consistent for months now, but nothing’s changing. You feel like you’re doing everything right, but you haven’t seen any changes on the scale. How can this be? Weight loss is all about diet and exercise, so why aren’t the pounds just falling off? Research suggests there’s more to weight loss and weight management than diet and exercise alone.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure: The Calories You Burn

Throughout the day our bodies expend energy in the form of calories. The components of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) include Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), and Physical Activity (PA). BMR accounts for about 60% of total daily energy expenditure. This is the amount of calories a body burns at rest. People who have increased muscle mass will have a higher BMR because of the amount of calories muscles use, even at rest. This is one reason why strength training is important for weight loss.

TEF results in roughly 10% of TDEE. This includes chewing food, digestion, absorption, and all other processes that go into consuming and processing food within the body.

The remaining 30% of TDEE is physical activity, which then gets broken down into exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) and nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). EAT accounts for about 5% of TDEE, while NEAT can contribute as much as 15%.

NEAT vs. EAT

NEAT are the little movements or tasks you do throughout the day, but are not considered moderate to vigorous exercise. This can include walking, taking the stairs, vacuuming, doing the dishes, playing fetch with the dog, talking, standing, tapping your foot, cooking, yard work, and so on. These small tasks vary from 50 to 200 calories per hour. All of these small movements can add up to a significant caloric deficit. On the other hand, EAT is the exercise-type activities like running, weight lifting, and so on.

Exercise is encouraged in weight loss because it can increase muscle mass, improve mood, encourage movement, and so many other benefits. However, if your workout is one hour long and you sleep for 8 hours, there’s still 15 hours of the day in which you might be completely sedentary, which is not ideal for weight loss.

We live in a society that encourages sedentary behaviors throughout the day, for example, working in an office. Meanwhile, over half of leisure time is spent watching television. This means that Americans are spending the majority of their time completely sedentary. This is thought to be one of the causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States.

What Does This All Mean?

To be clear, increasing NEAT activities is not a replacement for exercising. Structured exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity for 150 to 300 minutes a week has countless benefits that have been researched over and over again. However, in overweight and obese patients, adherence to workout programs shows low long-term success. And those who do show success initially seem to gradually gain the weight back. Instead, replacing sedentary behaviors with NEAT-type activities can boost energy expenditure throughout the day while maintaining long-term adherence. Not only is NEAT easier to maintain, but the amount of NEAT activities seems to increase over time.

Overall, weight-loss programs should focus on a healthy diet, a structured workout program, and strategies to decrease sedentary behaviors to increase NEAT. Although the full mechanisms of NEAT still need to be explored in research, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that decreasing sedentary behavior may aid in weight loss when combined with diet and exercise.

For some ideas of increasing NEAT at work and at home, check out this blog.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: staying active healthy habits weight loss calories weight management exercise at work sitting

Get an A+ in Back-to-School Nutrition

GettyImages-1026132188Whether you are starting your first year in college, sending your kids off to school, or are teaching classes this school year, make sure that your nutrition stays at the top of your priority list. It can be easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day routine and quickly lose sight of your goals. Follow these steps to help you stay on track this year.

1. Eat Breakfast

It’s okay to be a creature of habit and eat the exact same meal every morning, as long as it is nutrient dense and keeps you satisfied throughout the morning. Pair a little protein (about 15–20 grams) with a carbohydrate. This gives your brain the boost it needs, but also helps keep you full so that you don’t arrive at lunch with a growling belly.

A few ideas to try:

  • Oatmeal with berries and a spoonful of peanut butter (try making overnight oats for easy grab and go).
  • Scrambled egg with sautéed veggies and whole-grain toast.
  • Banana or apple slices with a thin layer of almond butter on whole-grain toast.

2. Take Snacks

Your body needs a little fuel throughout the day to keep energy levels high and keep you focused. Just like breakfast keeps you full throughout the morning, you want to make sure you aren’t arriving to your next meal famished—otherwise, people have a tendency to eat too much, too quickly. Keep the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy and easy snacks so you can grab one and go in the morning.

A few ideas to try:

  • The original fast-foods: bananas, apples, oranges.
  • A variety of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and pecans.
  • Granola bars such as Larabar or KIND snacks.
  • Hummus and veggies.
  • Whole-grain crackers and guacamole.

3. Practice Smart Hydration

Skip high-calorie beverages and aim to increase your intake of water. Opt for alternatives like flavored sparkling water, unsweet tea, or fruit-infused water to mix up your choices. (Here are some more tips for proper hydration.)

4. Make a Meal Plan

Just like you plan a time to do homework, work out, or go to sports practice, don’t put your nutrition on the back burner to everything else. Sit down as a family or roommates and write out your plan for the week. Start with breakfast—this is often the easiest. Next, plan dinners—dinner often will help you fill in your lunch plans with leftovers. From here, make your grocery list. This not only helps keeping you out of the closest fast-food joint, but it also helps with budgets—a win for everyone!

Meals do not need to be complicated. Keep the Plate Method in mind. Simply try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies, keep protein portions to one quarter of your plate, and make the other quarter of your plate whole grains.

5. Allow for Splurges

After a long day of exams, helping with book reports, or grading papers, everyone deserves a little treat, right? Try to avoid rewarding yourself with food at the end of every day, but also know that if you plan for some of your favorites you will be less likely to over-eat these items when you “cave” at 3 AM on a Tuesday! Take the kids for Friday night ice cream every week, hang with your friends and enjoy a slice or two of your favorite pizza, and then plan to get right back on track with healthy eating after that. One meal or snack will not throw you off track.

Sweet alternatives:

  • Chocolate hummus with fruit
  • Dried and pitted dates filled with almonds or dark chocolate
  • “Nice cream” (frozen banana blended with peanut butter)

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We at NIFS hope your school year gets off to a great start. Best of luck in the 2019–2020 school year!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast hydration school meals meal planning

How Getting Outdoors Helps Your Well-Being

GettyImages-857107456nGrowing up and continuing to live in the Midwest, I’ve grown to appreciate the summer months more and more. In fact, in Michigan we joke that there are really only two seasons:

  1. Sweltering summer with a side of construction.
  2. The endless frozen tundra that is 8 months of winter.

Long story short? When it’s nice enough to not have to wear a parka to brave the outdoors, you best believe I’m outside on a bike ride, relaxing by a lake, or unplugging on a hike in the woods during my down time.

Recharging Your Batteries with Nature

I’ve always felt like this has helped me recharge my batteries, anecdotally at least. But now, more and more research is mounting to support the idea that simply being in nature has numerous benefits to health and well-being. For example, a meta-analysis completed by Jones & Twohig-Bennett (2018) found statistically significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure, incidence of diabetes, and salivary cortisol (hello decreases in stress), while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving life expectancy and mental health. Not too shabby, right?

Spend Two Hours or More Outside Each Week

But how much time do you need to spend in nature to reap the rewards for health and well-being? It looks like current research is supporting the 120-minute threshold per week.

White et al. (2019) examined results from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey in England, which included 20,000 people over a three-year span. They found that those who reported being in nature for two hours or more during the week were overall healthier and had a greater sense of well-being compared to those who did not get outside at all. Spending 60 to 90 minutes came with some improvements, but it was not as significant an effect as two hours. And over 5 hours per week had no additional benefits. What’s more, these results rang true across all demographics examined in the study: age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, proximity to nature—all exhibited improvements to health and well-being at the two-hour mark.

So, the moral of the story? While the exact mechanism remains unknown, making time in your schedule to get outside in some way, shape, or form for two hours a week (in ANY increments of time) can not only help you mentally recharge, but also significantly improve your health and well-being going forward.

For some tips on exercising outdoors safely in the summer, check out this blog.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: outdoors cardiovascular outdoor exercise stress relief longevity nature mental health well-being