The effort you put into your training in the gym accounts for a tiny fraction of the energy you burn throughout the day. In fact, if your goal is to increase the calorie amount your body burns a day, you better become mindful of your activity levels throughout the day every day.
You can think of activities you enjoy and those will become very efficient because you'll keep doing them, but there may be a few things in this article you didn't even think of and are easy to integrate into your lifestyle. But first let's clarify what I mean by burning more calories outside of the gym.
NEAT is an acronym. It stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis - or in other words, all the movement you do during a day that aren't structured. NEAT contributes to between 10-50% of your calories burned during a day - a massive amount. But it’s more than energy expenditure.
In essence, think of ways you can make your everyday tasks more active or include more activity into your schedule without having to schedule a workout. For example, choosing a car parking spot far away from the entrance to the store; taking the stairs rather than the escalator or the elevator. If you have the time, it could even mean leaving the car at home entirely and going on foot where it’s practical to do that.
NEAT could include going for a walk with your dog - and taking the long way home, through a part of your neighbourhood you’ve not visited much. You could plan a weekend hike with your family, and maybe include some fun activities while you’re out, like paddling a canoe or rock climbing. If you’re doing adventurous activities like this, always take the advice of your instructor or guide so that you stay safe.
Of course, this is exercise, but it often doesn’t feel that way. It feels more like quality time, often spent outdoors with loved ones. It can feel really special to pack a camera, or a picnic and make some memories together.
Throwing a frisbee around in the park or garden on a summer evening, or even riding a skateboard or going for a bike ride. In fact, learning a new skill or sport is a brilliant way to increase your NEAT, particularly while you’re still learning the co-ordination of the movements. While you’re still moving inefficiently, there’s an increased energy burn!
In the Home
One of the most effective ways to improve your activity levels outside your workouts is cleaning at home. This is physical and involves continuously moving for sometimes hours at a time. Getting down on your hands and knees to empty and clean out your store cupboards feels less like a workout and more like some house keeping - but either way, it feels productive.
Really deep cleaning, the kind where you’re rolling up rugs and climbing on furniture to reach high up cobwebs in undeniably physical and later that day you can feel like you’ve really done something.
Throwing on some great music, and spending an afternoon spring cleaning or decluttering your home can feel like a great use of time. And the benefits last and can be enjoyed by you and your family for days afterwards.
Outside The Home
Gardening and yard work has some of the highest returns on activity levels and they are practically guaranteed to improve your sleep quality. All that fresh air and exercise can really help you get a great night sleep and help to make your home environment beautiful.
Don’t have any outdoor space? Look around your area for sports clubs or teams you could get involved in. This sort of exercise is different from training alone in the gym because you’re applying your competitive spirit to a sport. Many of us haven’t played a sport since leaving school and belonging to a team can be a great way to make some new friends.
A Google or Facebook search for what’s going on in your local area might show you some sports that you could try out. Many small local teams are desperate for players wanting to get involved, and it can be a really fun way to get active that doesn’t feel like hard work. It can also lead to a network of friends that you may not otherwise have been able to meet - something which is always valuable and welcome.
The gym is great; it’s a wonderful place where we take care of our health and feel part of a community. But exercise and physical activity aren’t limited to what we do in that one building. In fact, in many ways, it’s the gym which should prepare us to be more active outside it. Living longer, healthier lives with our families and friends.
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