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10 Non-Exercise Activities to balance holiday eating

by Brad Callow |

If avoiding all holiday foods you love in the name of healthy living sounds like your own personal fast track to a Clark-Griswold-level-holiday-meltdown…then you’ve come to the right place.

Not only is this the hardest time of year to start a new health-kick, but for many of us, nixing certain holiday foods means cutting out traditions, tastes, and seasonal favorites that just…make us happy.

And we strongly believe:

Doing things that make us happy is an essential part of healthy living.

We must do things that make us feel good – both physically and mentally.

That’s why, when it comes to holiday indulgences, we think it’s particularly important to find balance.

So how can you have your ginger-spiced bundt cake and eat it too - without that sluggish, drained, did someone shrink my jeans in the wash feeling at the end of the season?

Here are two of the simplest, most effective ways to achieve that balance:

  1. Portion control : (which, ahem, we’ve got 7 tips for you right here)
  2. Move just a little more every day (aka: increase your N.E.A.T.)

And by move just a little more every day, we’re not even talking about exercise.

Actually, today we’re talking about all of the daily activities you do that aren’t exercise. Like standing. Or cooking. Yep, we’re even talking about talking.

This is what the medical field refers to as your N.E.A.T., aka, your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

My thermo…what now?

Basically, the idea is this:

Moving a little more each day can significantly increase your metabolism.

In the words of the experts (a la this pub med study):

“Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT.”

We’re huge fans of simplicity, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s say the name of the game is:

Find ways to move more and sit less.

Even 60 fewer minutes of sitting per day can make a big difference. Check it out:

This scientific review demonstrates that sitting 2.5 fewer hours each day could help a person burn up to 350 extra daily calories. Which is about 35 pounds a year. 35 pounds!!

But at 6AM Health, we’re all about making smaller tweaks so our new habits actually stick. So we say, focus on sitting just 60 fewer minutes per day.

Those 60 fewer minutes of sitting each day could mean 18 fewer pounds a year – or around 1 to 2 pounds over the holiday season. Which, incidentally, happens to be the average weight a person gains from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. No kidding!

But this isn’t just about reducing calories & pounds.

It’s about helping you feel good in your body during a time of year that elicits a pendulum of emotions – from anxiety to joy and back again.

By consciously choosing to move more, not only will your body feel better, but you will open yourself up to doing more activities that make you happy.

10 easy ways to increase your N.E.A.T. (aka sit less & move more):

1. Make a conscious effort to unplug.

If you follow just one piece of advice, we hope that it’s this: try to unplug from all devices, even if just briefly, every day. The constant phone checking we do out of habit, rather than necessity or pleasure, causes us to be accidentally sedentary. And maybe not as present as we’d like to be when surrounded by people we love.

Higher smartphone use is not only proven to lower our activity levels, but the positive correlation between smartphone use and depression is alarming.

So vow to unplug a little each day and the boost in your activity levels and mood will naturally follow.

2. Stand while you talk on the phone.

Bonus points for walking while talking. This time of year you might be doing a lot of catching up with old friends, family members, colleagues. Walking while talking will cause you to rack up a surprisingly high number of steps each day without even realizing it. And these steps add up quickly.

Speaking of which…

3. Track your steps.

Today’s step trackers are much more accurate, fun, and interactive than they were back when they were, ya know, called pedometers. Tracking your steps will shed light on just how big of a difference seemingly trivial activities can make – like walking while talking on the phone. Try to get the recommended 10,000 steps a day. Make it a game!

4. Start a Fitbit/Apple Watch/Garmin challenge with friends & family.

No literally, make it a game! When we enter into a competition with others, suddenly walking becomes a much bigger priority. Especially if the competition is close.

5. Fold laundry, wrap presents, or stretch while watching T.V.

Take even just 30 minutes out of whatever movie or show you’re watching to do something other than sit. Maybe it’s an art project. Maybe it’s just standing. Maybe it’s wrapping presents, folding laundry, foam rolling, or stretching.

6. Catch up with loved ones over a walk.

One of the best ways to spend quality time with friends and family is to simply go for a walk together. Also, it’s a great way to let off a little steam if family quarters are starting to feel a wee bit tight and you need a minute away.

 7. Play with your kids/little cousins/niece/nephew/godchildren.

Nothing will get your N.E.A.T. up like a few games of “head, shoulders, knees, and toes”. Or chasing a kid around for a while.

8. Get everyone on board with a board game!

Swap out some time you’d be watching TV with the fam by suggesting a board game. Maybe you don’t want to play them all night, but board games typically end up being a lot more fun than expected.

9. Ask Grandma/Mom/Dad/the-cook-of-the-family how to make their famous pie/gravy/buffalo chicken dip.

Not only will you acquire a new fabulous recipe - but the time spent learning how to cook something from a loved one is as quality as it gets.

10. The ole “take the stairs instead of the elevator” trick.

We’ll end with the most classic tip for increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis: taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s the poster child of N.E.A.T. for a reason. Easy to remember, not terribly difficult to do, and can have a huge impact on your daily activity levels.

 

So there you have it! Some ideas on how to ramp up your N.E.A.T. and feel better in your body over the holidays.

We believe there is a domino effect that occurs after starting - and sticking to - one small healthy habit. So try implementing just one or two of these and watch it snowball from there!

 

Happy and healthy holidays everyone - see you in the New Year!