Have you ever heard someone say, "use it or lose it"? It is often used when describing being active to maintain your mobility, or something along those lines. New research has shown that when it comes to physical activity, there are four types of people: active couch potatoes, sedentary light movers, sedentary exercisers, and movers. It will likely come as no surprise that researchers found that people who fit into the movers category live longer and healthier lives than people in the other three categories. Something that may surprise and excite you, however, is that you do not have to necessarily exercise in the traditional sense to fit into the movers category. Researchers have found that people in the movers category maximize the amount of time they spend each day doing activities that are considered to be NEAT vs. EAT.
According to an article from Well + Good, "NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and includes any movements you perform throughout your day that aren't a workout, sleeping, or eating." This can include activities such as taking the stairs, housework, gardening, walking, playing with your grandchildren. The article defined EAT as, "exercise activity thermogenesis. As you may have surmised, this refers to any energy you expend doing more traditional workouts like cardio or strength training."
So why is maximizing your daily NEAT minutes so important? According to the article, our bodies are meant to move, and by moving our muscles, it creates a lot of important signals to our bodies. Examples of signals from our muscles could include telling our bodies to activate our metabolic system, cardiovascular system, stimulate digestion, release hormones, and so much more. And what happens when we don't move as much as we need to? Our bodies don't get enough of those important signals. According to Dr. Sharon Gam, an exercise physiologist from the article, '“That means we don’t get as many feel-good chemicals released in our brains each day, our heart and lungs don’t get to practice making the small adjustments needed to send blood around our body as we change positions, we’re not as good at pulling fats and carbs out of our bloodstream to use for fuel,” she says. “When our bodies don’t do those things well, it can put us at higher risk of disease.”'
The exciting news is that research is showing that people who maximize their daily NEAT minutes have a lower risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, and it helps protect your brain from age-related cognitive decline. Even small changes can make a significant impact on your longevity. The article also emphasizes that consistency is key. Start with small changes of low intensity movements (NEAT minutes) and gradually increase the amount of movement you do each day. If your health allows for it, you can also add in some EAT minutes a couple of days a week. Bottom line: every bit of movement helps.