Most people want to lose a little weight. Getting in 2-3 strength training sessions a week will do wonders for the shape of your physique—but with most of us sitting at a desk all day long, or looking after kids, there often doesn’t seem to be time to get in more exercise. This is where these neat ways to lose weight come in…
The idea for this post came from Mrs Fitness. She’s on a mission to save the planet, and also save a little money in the meantime. So little-by-little, she’s introducing alternative activities into our family routine.
What Is N.E.A.T?
We live in a motorised world. It seems we can’t even raise our arms to brush our teeth anymore, so we use an electric toothbrush instead. Shutting the trunk of a car is also getting to be a little too much effort for our weak bodies, so we push a button instead. Where does it all end? Well if you’ve watched the film WALL-E, then we’re all doomed to weigh 400 lbs and spend our lifetime living in a floating chair.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), also known as Activities of Daily Living (ADL). With some simple changes, you can easily burn more calories in a day, than a single exercise session. These could be household chores, or practically anything that involves movement.
It’s so simple to make what seem like tiny changes, to burn a few more calories each day.
For example, according to Harvard Medical School1 a person weighing 185 pounds (13 stone 3 lbs) will burn an additional 34 calories per hour if they read, rather than watch TV in the evenings. The average person watches 24 hours of TV a week! Talk about having “no time” to exercise! If you read a book instead, you’d burn an additional 816 calories a week. That’s equivalent to about an hour of jogging—who would have guessed.
Mrs Fitness and I try to watch only 45 minutes of TV a night, and spend the rest reading. But we’ve been a little slack recently, with three hours the other evening…so we are planning to tighten it up this week.
OK. Onward with some N.E.A.T. tips you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle.
I needed to put this at the top, as Mrs Fitness is proud of her latest acquisition, a 5 bladed push lawn mower from WOLF-Garten. Powered only by your muscles, it’s environmentally friendly. There’s no fiddly cable to accidentally run over, which is handy if you have a lot of things to mow around in your garden—like the outdoor multi-gym where I train Calisthenics clients, and the kids’ large trampoline and slide.
The mower makes a pleasing swoosh sound as the blade cuts, which also reduces the noise pollution, versus a noisy electric or petrol powered version. Your neighbours will thank you. So ditch your ride on mower, and use some muscle power instead. 🙂
She’s also got rid of the electric powered strimmer, and is looking for some good quality grass shears to cut the grass around the various objects and where the grass meets the wall of the house—if you can recommend a good one, please let me know in the comments box at the bottom.
So how many calories can you burn?
- General gardening burns 800 calories per hour.
- Pushing a lawn mower burns nearly 500 calories.
- If you take the grass collection basket off your mower, you can burn another 356 calories per hour raking up the grass.
- If you shovel snow instead of using a noisy gas-powered blower, you’ll burn 532 calories per hour.
- Planting bulbs—which doesn’t seem like hard work to me—astonishingly burns 356 calories.
2. Walk Your Kids To School
The mornings are often a rush with kids.
“Get your shoes on, we need to go to school.”
“I don’t wan’t to go to school! I’m playing with cars.”
“Put on your coat. Your shoes are on the wrong feet! Sit down and swap them over…You still haven’t got your coat on.”
“I need the toilet.”
“What do you mean you need a wee?…okay be quick.”
“Where’s your coat now?”
“I left it in the toilet.”
“Go and get it from the toilet. We need to go now.”
Outside. “Get in the car.”
After fastening one kid in the car, I ask “Where’s he gone?”
“I’m collecting stones.”
“Put those down, and get in the car. We need to go to school.”
“But I don’t want to go to school”
“Wait a minute…Where’s your coat?”
“I took it off, because I’m hot…”
It seems to take about 15 minutes just to get the kids out of the house in the mornings. We drive about 6 minutes in the car to our local school, which is all up hill.
This week there was a break from all that rain and cold. On one of those sunny days, Mrs Fitness and I walked up the hill to the school, and then walked the children back home. We were armed with a couple of snacks as bribery.
One of them got a little enthusiastic running downhill, and had a little tumble, but was ok. Then of course there is the obligatory picking up sticks, or should I say dragging branches all the way home. “Do you really need a giant stick? How about this small one?”
“No, I like this one! I’m a pirate.”
There was a little bit of grumbling from the kiddies, as they became tired towards the end—”carry me.” But overall it was really nice to be on a walk with them in the sunshine, and we notched up a few more calories.
3. Burn Calories On Your Commute
I train my clients in the outdoor gym in my garden, and my indoor studio gym…so my commute to work is only a few seconds.
However, Sasthene—one of my dear friends, has been an expert at this for many years. He lives in London, England, where the traffic is very congested during the “rush hour” to get to work, and travelling on public transport feels like being packed in a sardine can.
If he takes public transport to work it will take him 40 minutes. However, if he uses pedal power, and cycles to work his commute will take him…
the same amount of time. Whoa. So there’s no downside. And to top it all off, you can burn over 700 calories an hour when cycling outside.
If you currently drive to work, then you can help to save the environment by using muscle power instead.
4. Burn Calories At The Office
There are a number of simple ways you can burn a few more calories, without getting sweat on your office apparel.
Standing burns 12 calories an hour more than sitting reading. It’s not a huge amount, but when combined with all the other suggestions, it all adds to the total number of calories burned for the day. I’m sure you’ve all been on those conference calls lasting hours, where you’re struggling to stay awake–so the next time you’re on the phone, stand instead; you’ll burn a few more calories and increase your attention. If you’re hands-free on the call, then also try pacing around—people get some of their best ideas walking.
Instead of all sitting down at your next group meeting—waiting for your glutes to go numb—invite people to a standing meeting instead. In addition to burning calories, your meeting will probably get shorter and more productive.
If the management has the budget for it, then get a treadmill desk. You can set it at 1 mile per hour and slowly walk for the whole day. This is better than trying to stand in one position all day long, which can leave you feeling stiff.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator when going between floors. Stairs are a great way to get the heart pumping.
With summer just around the corner, there’s no excuse not to get outside. When I worked in an office in my previous life, it was really common to buy a sandwich on the way to work, and then sit and eat it at your desk over lunchtime. Instead, take the stairs down, and walk to a local park or a nearby bench, to get some sunshine and a little exercise.
5. The Car Wash
I’m an epic fail on this front. I remember meticulously cleaning and washing the first car I ever owned—a red BMW Compact Sport. They don’t sell those anymore, but it was my pride and joy at the time.
When I bought my next car, I started getting lazy, and took it through a car wash instead. You had to queue up to buy a token, and then sit in the car whilst the rollers cleaned it.
Next, I went to a place where a group of guys washed your car by hand. Now I didn’t even need to get out of the car, as I just lowered the window and put some cash in their hand at the end.
To top it all, I’ve gotten even worse lately—I’m now burning a minuscule number of calories when it comes to washing my cars. I don’t even drive to get it washed—I only open my front door and hand my keys to someone who washes my cars on the driveway.
If you wash your car yourself, you can burn 400 calories per hour.
6. Grocery Shopping
I’m a semi-failure on this one. I usually get food delivered to my house by a van twice a week. And then walk to the supermarket another two or three times for small things. Sometimes I drive…although if I’m being honest with myself—by the time I’ve strapped two kids into their car seats, then driven around the car park trying to find a space, I could easily have walked there in the same amount of time.
Walking carrying a weighted load such as bags, is the “farmers walk” exercise that strongmen do. It works your entire body, including your core—and burns more calories than walking alone.
I could vastly improve our shopping habits. Mrs Fitness has a “granny trolly” which we often use for days out with the kids—unfashionable, but practical. That thing will easily handle a grocery shop for three days worth of food.
If the trolley isn’t big enough, then you can strap a trailer to a bicycle to pick up a serious amount of food.
7. Intense Housework
Mrs Fitness hates housework.
So, to take the pain out of weekly chores, she sets a timer for 2 hours and then blitzes the house. She makes sure there are no other distractions, such as children. You can get quite a workout if you move quickly.
8. Have Fun With Your Kids
Instead of sitting your kids in front of the TV after school, if you play with your kids with moderate effort, you’ll burn 356 calories per-hour.
If you take things up a notch, and chase them, or play hop scotch, or other vigorous games, you’ll burn 444 calories per hour.
I hope this has given you some great ideas on how to burn a few extra calories each day, and do your little bit to save the planet. If you have any other tips to share on how you burn calories, then please do drop me a comment in the box below. It will be great to hear from you.
George D. Choy
Personal Trainer & Calisthenics Instructor
Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, United Kingdom
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 Harvard Medical School. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Health Publications. July, 2004. Updated: January 27, 2016.
 Katherine Rushton. How we spend a decade of our adult life watching TV: Average Briton now spends 24 hours a week in front of the box. Mail Online.