It's all the stuff we didn't realize mattered – until we stopped doing it! If recent months have taught us anything, it's how much activity we do as part of our normal life contributes to our energy burn.
It's called 'NEAT' – the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. The drastic change in routine meant that many of the daily tasks we did were restricted, and as a result, we burned far fewer calories throughout the day. A week or two might not have an impact, but a month or two and we may have started to notice gradual weight creep!
Any amount of movement requires energy and therefore burns calories, so try to fidget a bit. Tap your foot, play imaginary drums with your hands to music or twizzle a pen between your fingers. Ideally not enough to annoy anyone around you!
When you are moving about, try to do it with a bit more conviction. Walk more briskly or rise up and down on your tip toes when standing in a queue for example.
We tend to always look for a parking space as close to the building as possible or to walk to the closest bus stop only, or carry all the grocery bags to the house in one go. Stop making life so convenient and instead park a little further away or carry one bag at a time into the house. It all adds up!
In your mind tell yourself the elevator is broken, so you must take the stairs – no question. You'll likely get to where you're going just as fast and you'll have burned a few calories and lifted your bum in the process. Or while at home, always go to the bathroom that is on a different floor of the house so you have to go up and down the stairs.
Find ways to stand more throughout the day rather than sitting. Opt to stand up during virtual meetings with your colleagues, consider investing in a stand-up desk to use sometimes and walk around while on the phone to friends and family. Standing requires much more energy than sitting, plus you can move your legs a bit more easily to keep the blood flowing.
Rather than waiting until you're bursting for the bathroom, head there with enough time to go to the one furthest away in the house or your place of work. You'll feel better for getting a bit of a longer screen break and you’ll get in some extra steps for the day.
Ideally, we should all move around a little at least once an hour to help keep our blood circulating properly and to take any unnecessary pressure off our blood vessels. Trying to get up and either walk or to do a couple of squats or a quick dance will help with this, as well as burning some extra calories.
Rather than popping a pizza in the oven and sitting down on social media while it cooks, why not stick your favourite music on and cook from scratch. This will keep you on your feet for another 20-30 minutes – helping to burn some extra calories. And you’ll also have a more nutritious meal in the end.
Give your appliances a rest and wash the dishes by hand. You could save a little on your home energy costs, while spending a little more on your biological energy!
It's true that laughing burns calories and it also makes us feel great! So, when you do finally put your feet up, stick something funny on!
This is technically not a contributor to NEAT but to the thermic effect of food – it's close enough! Out of the macronutrients protein requires the most energy in order to be digested, above fat and carbs, so eating more protein can actually lead to a bigger calorie burn throughout the day. Aim to include more day to day but avoid having excessive amounts. To find out more about healthy protein intakes read this.
Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.