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For the Love of Food

by | Aug 14, 2015
For the Love of Food

For the Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week Coke’s dark secret is exposed, a surprising benefit of silverware, and how to lose 150 lbs in a year.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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For the Love of Food

by | Aug 7, 2015
For the Love of Food

For the Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week get your kids to eat fish heads, rethink your running shoes, and how to stop hating the gym.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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Do You Secretly Hate Your Workout Classes?

by | Apr 13, 2015
Photo by Nottingham Trent University

Photo by Nottingham Trent University

Recently a good friend told me she was struggling to maintain her workout habit. She could force herself to go to a class every now and then, but it wasn’t enough to keep her in the shape she prefers.

She was relying on willpower to get herself to go and it wasn’t working.

“In order to build any habit it has to be rewarding,” I explained. “You need to love it so much that you’re willing to rearrange your day to make sure you can do it.”

I know this firsthand, because it happens to me all the time. Especially when you have a flexible schedule, something my friend and I have in common.

Every week meetings, calls and opportunities come up that conflict with my workout. But skipping workouts makes me miserable, so unless it’s a life or death situation I reschedule everything else before sacrificing my workout time.

There’s no way that would happen if I didn’t love my workouts.

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For the Love of Food

by | Oct 17, 2014
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week how to preserve your aging brain, vegetables are the new bacon, and how to stay motivated to achieve your goals.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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For the Love of Food

by | Oct 18, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week homemade is the new organic, standing is as good as running marathons, and the creepy Big Brother-ish future of food marketing.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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How To Start Working Out When You Don’t Like To Exercise

by | Jan 9, 2013

Photo by kirainet

You know who you are. As hard as you’ve tried, you’ve never liked going to the gym. Maybe you’ve even hired a personal trainer a few times, hoping the added expense and accountability would be enough motivation to turn you into a regular gym rat.

But it didn’t work.

Every time you’ve started an ambitious workout program with the goal of getting in shape, something–you’re not even sure what–cuts you short before you’ve reached your goal.

Deep down though, you know what the problem is: you don’t like working out. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, it’s sweaty and the weight room has a weird smell. You don’t like how you look in those stupid clothes, and who even has time for that sorta thing anyway?

But still you wonder about those people who are in the gym all the time. What’s their secret? How do they stay motivated day after day and year after year? Are they a different species? Or is there something they know that you don’t?

Few people on this earth were born with an innate love of the gym. But what generally separates people who like working out from those who don’t is pretty simple: fitness.

Working out sucks when you aren’t in shape. But the good news is that you don’t need to become a complete meathead to get to a place where exercise is no longer a pain. Just like learning to cook, once you reach a minimum proficiency level–in this case fitness level–exercise stops feeling bad and starts feeling good. And just like with cooking, the only way to get there is to Just Do It*.

If you’re just starting a workout program your goal shouldn’t be to get buff or lose weight. The first step is getting to a fitness level where you no longer hate to exercise. And for that all you need is consistency.

When you first start your program don’t force yourself to do anything too hard or unpleasant, just make sure that you stick with it and never quit. I hated running my entire life, so the first time I went jogging after years without any cardio training I told myself I would just run until I got tired. I literally made it about 4 blocks and went home. After a week or two I was up to 8 blocks. That was over 10 years ago and I’ve since completed three marathons. Running is no longer my go-to sport, but I’m now the fit person I’ve always wanted to be.

There’s no reason to torture yourself at the gym. Once you’re in better shape you will enjoy pushing yourself a little harder every now and then. But until you get there, just make yourself do something. Anything. Just do it regularly and don’t make excuses.

The key to being consistent is making your workout so easy/convenient/fun/awesome that not doing it just feels stupid. Here are a few tips to set you up for a lifetime of fitness.

10 Tips For Starting & Sticking With Exercise

1. Commit to consistency

This is worth repeating. Make a commitment to sticking with your plan. If you find yourself not able to meet your goals, change them so they’re easier.

2. Take baby steps

I jogged around the block for years before I got lost one day, accidentally ran 8 miles and decided marathon training no longer seemed so ridiculous. Don’t expect to turn into Superman overnight. For now just try to stop being Hedonism Bot.

3. Pick an exercise that’s fun

Not all exercise happens in the gym. Like to climb rocks? Shoot hoops? Swing the bat? Start with the fun stuff and work your way up.

4. Bring a friend, make it competitive

Having a workout partner is one of the most effective ways to be accountable and make your workout fun. Making it a competition is also great for motivation.

5. Join a sports team

Even better than one friend is a group of friends. Intramural sports teams are a fantastic way to get a few weekly workouts.

6. Get into music, podcasts and audiobooks

If your schedule isn’t conducive to group activities, your iPod still got your back. Put together an inspiring workout mix, download some of your favorite podcasts and audiobooks and whistle while you work.

7. Get a dog

You know what takes a lot of energy? Puppies! If you can’t motivate to exercise for yourself, at least do it for Fluff Fluff.

8. Caffeine charge

Sometimes a long day can make an evening workout seem impossibly difficult. At times like these, caffeine is your friend. After about half an hour you’ll need to workout to burn off that extra energy.

9. Get some nice workout clothes, shoes and mp3 player

New toys are fun. Sometimes it’s the little things that help the most.

10. Reward yourself

Doing something consistently is an accomplishment, even if your actual task seems small and insignificant. If you’ve been exercising regularly, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for many jobs well done.

*Dear Nike, please don’t sue me.

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Originally published Jan 3, 2011.

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My Weekly Workout

by | Jun 6, 2012

Food is by far my favorite thing to write about, but exercise is another essential component of my healthstyle and many readers have asked me to share my weekly routine.

To be honest, however, I have avoided posting my workout regimen for several reasons. First, I am not a trainer and this is in no way intended as a training program for anyone. These exercises are just what work for me and you should not assume they will work for you as well. I also worry that some fitness snobs will come out of the woodwork and accuse me of doing everything wrong, a criticism I have no interest in refuting or discussing.

That being said I have been a consistent gym goer for the past 18 years and feel very comfortable in the weight room.

My routine has changed over the years, but I am very happy with my current fitness level. At 30, I feel confident saying I’m in the best shape of my life and it feels awesome.

A few points to start:

  • I work out 3-5 days a week and start every session with half hour of cardio. The only thing that keeps me out of the gym is scheduling conflicts. I love exercise.
  • I almost always workout with a partner–a male nearly double my size–and our workouts are approximately the same (obviously using different weights).
  • We rotate cardio equipment between treadmill (either running or brisk walking at a steep incline), stationary bike and elliptical machine, trying not to repeat the same exercise 2 days in a row.
  • For strength training we focus on 2 or 3 muscle groups per day, and try to get through all the major muscle groups twice in a week (but I’ll settle for one time per week if that’s all I can fit in).
  • I do an abdominal workout every time I’m at the gym, rotating through a few different exercises throughout the week.
  • I always wear gloves when I weight train to avoid callousy man hands. (BTW, these aren’t hot on men either). They also make me look tough while I’m lifting.
  • I try to do my lifting slowly and controlled in both directions of the movement. But sometimes I forget.
  • For most of these exercises we use free weights, but once every week or two we’ll use the machines to mix it up.
  • In addition to my weight training sessions, I make an effort to walk extensively each day. According to my Fitbit pedometer I take between 8,000 and 17,000 steps per day (this includes my workout). This is intentional and I do it for both stress relief and fitness purposes.

On any given training day we do two or three of the following sets of exercises after our cardio workout. If we anticipate being able to workout every weekday, we will use the last two days of the week to push harder and complete the entire set in just 2 days.

Muscle Groups

Shoulders

My shoulder workout consists of shoulder presses and lateral raises in a superset (each exercise back-to-back, then rest). I do 3 sets of ~12 reps using dumbbells.

Biceps

My only bicep exercise is dumbell curls. I alternate each arm and do 3 sets of 20. I superset my bicep workout with lunges, still holding the dumbbells.

Triceps

I do tricep workouts on the cables using the rope attachment. We do supersets of bent-over tricep extensions and tricep push downs.

Back

I use specific cable machines for back exercises. We superset cable seated rows and cable pulldowns, usually 3 sets of ~12. For lower back I do lifts using the Roman chair, usually holding a single 10-pound barbell weight to my chest.

Chest

For chest we superset bench presses (I just use the 45-pound bar) and flies using dumbbells. For these I’m happy to get through 3 sets of 10.

Legs

I’m not fond of the quadricep and hamstring equipment at my gym (my partner uses them), so I only use the machines for V-squats and hip extensions. I do 3 sets of 20, and superset if the gym isn’t too busy.

Abs

Each day we rotate between the various abdominal equipment we find in the gym. This usually includes hanging leg raises, incline crunches and a few others.

Final Thoughts

As a female I was reluctant to begin almost every one of these weight training exercises, besides abs.

Nervous, I started with biceps and triceps, then shoulders and back. I gave myself a 6-month trial period and said if I thought I was getting too “bulky” at that point I would stop. The opposite happened and I became more adventurous in the weight room.

Six months later I reluctantly worked chest exercises into my routine and was again pleased with the results. I only recently started my leg workouts and, again, was blown away by the unexpected awesomeness of the transformation.

I became stronger, thinner and my clothes looked better after each exercise I added to my regimen. From my perspective, strength training is infinitely more rewarding than running marathons.

Has weight training helped you reach your health and fitness goals?

Originally published April 14, 2010. Little has changed in my routine and I’m still kicking ass and taking names.

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UPdate: Jawbone Up is still really cool, but far from perfect

by | Dec 5, 2011

After a month I figured it’s a good time to check back in and give you my latest opinion on the Jawbone Up, since a lot of you are asking. I had only used it for five days when I wrote my last review (below), and how I’ve been using it over the past weeks has definitely evolved.

Apparently a lot of people are having trouble with the device. I’m on my second one (my first wouldn’t charge properly and eventually stopped working), but to be fair I’m on my third Fitbit as well. Since I’ve had the new one I’ve had no problems and it works perfectly (so does the latest Fitbit). I wonder if it’s working better because I stopped wearing it in the shower? Who knows.

I’ve heard a few people say they are having issues with the accuracy of tracking, but mine has consistently registered within a few hundreds steps of Fitbit, a difference that is virtually irrelevant. Someone in the comments here said their device counts steps when they drive their car, pushing the numbers very high. I don’t drive so can’t attest to this issue, but I would be pretty upset if it were true. I’ve also heard that a lot of people lose their plug caps, which hasn’t happened to me but would be annoying. To their credit, from what I understand Jawbone has been cool about replacing devices and caps for those with problems.

Hardware issues aside I still think the Jawbone Up is really cool, and I absolutely love the hourly reminders to get off my ass and move around. I set these myself, so the nudges aren’t a prerequisite for using the device, but I think they are by far the best reason to get the Up. (Are you listening Fitbit?)

As a pedometer, the lack of bluetooth wireless syncing bothers me more than I expected. This is especially true since I’m still using my Fitbit, which has a beautiful display of my steps (not to mention calories, stair flights, miles traveled and the time) at the push of a button. Though plugging the Up into your iPhone is easy enough, to get your data you need to launch the app and sync the device. This takes the better part of a minute and feels very laborious compared to the simplicity of the Fitbit that I can check easily without a second thought.

That said I do love that the Up presents my data in a graphical form that has me making progress toward a defined goal (10,000 steps). There’s something innately inspiring about seeing your activity build over the course of the day, and it is even more powerful when you can see it compared with friends (I’ll get more into the social side shortly). Once again, inspiration is probably the greatest advantage of the Up.

As much as I love data, however, I stopped using the Up to track sleep and food. I’m not a big food tracker anyway, but the interface is a bit too cumbersome despite its attempt at simplicity. It just isn’t very intuitive and doesn’t translate well onto my personal eating style (low-maintenance). I’d be interested to hear if any of you have found a way to make the food tracking worthwhile. If not, I’d recommend Jawbone kill this feature or spend some serious time rethinking how to make it work.

The reason I stopped using the sleep tracker is more rudimentary: I don’t like sleeping with a bracelet on. I think Jawbone did a great job of making a sleek, cool looking device for wearing during the day. But when I sleep I have a tendency to move around a lot and I like to slide my arms under blankets, between pillows and other cozy places. In that setting the Up is obtrusively bulky. As much as I love the idea of naturally waking up every morning during the perfect time in my sleep cycle, it won’t happen for me with the current bracelet design.

Back to the app, the social aspect was the part I was most excited about and it kills me how difficult it is to find friends on Up. Why is there no Facebook or Twitter integration? This is baffling. The search function for friends is ridiculously difficult to use, and I don’t think there is any way to discover other friends who are using the device if you don’t already know they’re on there. From what I understand this is a fairly simple feature to add and I don’t understand why it wasn’t built in at launch. I share Alexia’s dream of Up seamlessly integrating with social services, but for now it’s a major social FAIL.

To summarize, I like the Up and still think it has tremendous potential. I still might choose it over Fitbit for that reason (a lot of these issues can be solved with software updates), as well as the buzz reminders. But if you aren’t the social butterfly I am (or if you happen to be an Android user) at this stage Fitbit is still an excellent alternative if you’re just looking to move more for health reasons.

How is your Up working out?

UPDATE from Jawbone (12/8/11):

I receive this email from Jawbone today guaranteeing a full refund, even without returning your Up. They say that have found a few hardware issues and are stopping production until the problems are fully resolved. There will still be software updates as necessary. Here’s the complete letter from the Jawbone CEO:

UPDATE FROM THE CEO
The UP™ No Questions Asked Guarantee
To the UP Community:

Earlier this year, we unveiled Jawbone’s vision to help people live a healthier life with UP. We’ve been thrilled by the passionate response to this product. We heard from tens of thousands of you through emails, tweets, blog posts and on our forums about how you’re changing your lifestyle and becoming consumers of your own health. In just four weeks, UP users have collectively taken over three billion steps, gotten more than 300 years of sleep and captured hundreds of thousands of meals.

While many of you continue to enjoy the UP experience, we know that some of you have experienced issues with your UP band. Given our commitment to delivering the highest quality products, this is unacceptable and you have our deepest apologies. We’ve been working around the clock to identify the root causes and we’d like to thank everyone who has provided us with information and returned their bands to us for troubleshooting. With your help, we’ve found an issue with two specific capacitors in the power system that affects the ability to hold a charge in some of our bands. We’re also fixing an issue with syncing related to the band hardware. Typically, these issues surface within the first seven to ten days of use. The glitches are purely performance related and do not pose any safety risk.

We’ve also received helpful feedback on the application experience, including bug reports, ways to make signup and finding friends easier, user interface suggestions and new feature requests. Your comments are invaluable as we continue to improve, so please keep them coming and check back frequently for updates to ensure you’re always enjoying the latest features and enhancements.

We recognize that this product has not yet lived up to everyone’s expectations – including our own – so we’re taking action:

The UP No Questions Asked Guarantee

This means that for whatever reason, or no reason at all, you can receive a full refund for UP. This is true even if you decide to keep your UP band. We are so committed to this product that we’re offering you the option of using it for free.

The program starts December 9th and full details can be found at http://jawbone.com/uprefund.

For most of you, this program is simply meant to offer peace of mind. Please continue to enjoy your UP band and keep sharing your experience with us. If you encounter any problems with your UP band, contact Jawbone directly for your choice of a replacement and/or refund under this program. It’s that simple.

Jawbone remains deeply committed to addressing all issues with UP, investing in the category and giving our customers the tools to live a healthier life. We’ve temporarily paused production of UP bands and will begin taking new orders once these issues have been sorted out. In the meantime, we’ll continue to release app updates for existing users.

We regret any disappointment we’ve created for our community of users and appreciate the trust you’ve put in us. The fact that you’ve taken the time to talk with us and help us make a better product is simply phenomenal. Our customers have always been part of our team and we’re incredibly grateful for that.

Please know that we’re doing – and will continue to do – everything we can to make things right. This is just the beginning for UP and we are excited to keep improving until we realize the powerful vision of what this category can be.

If there is absolutely anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

Hosain Rahman
CEO
Jawbone

Jawbone Up is the coolest pedometer in the history of the universe

November 9, 2011

I don’t write a lot of product reviews, mainly because I don’t use a lot of products. For my healthstyle I prefer simplicity, and until recently the only health tracking I’ve done regularly involves making sure the same jeans fit me year-after-year. Super fancy, I know.

That was until a few months ago when I realized that it is very easy for me to lose track of how much walking I do, which I’ve learned is absolutely critical for maintaining my weight. Since then I’ve been tracking my steps with a Fitbit (that I adore), and in just two months I’m back down to what I consider my ideal size.

But as much as I love my Fitbit, the Jawbone Up I got last weekend is way cooler.

What is it?

Like any pedometer, the Up tracks your steps. I’ve been wearing both my Up and Fitbit for a few days and the numbers are very similar.

Instead of clipping to your pants like the Fitbit, Up is a water-proof wristband that you wear at all times. The Up plugs directly into your iPhone sound port, and syncs with an app that displays the data.

It has three different modes: regular, sleep and active. There is a single button on the device you use to change modes. Generally you keep it in the normal mode, but if you are exercising vigorously the active mode will give you more accurate readings. The sleep mode tracks how much sleep you get and displays when during the night you were in light versus deep sleep.

The Up allows you to track your meals as well, which is powerful when combined with the various challenges you can set up for yourself. For instance, if you take a picture of your lunch and you have also challenged yourself to eat something green at both lunch and dinner, you will have the option of giving yourself credit for that meal.

Up is also proactive. It has a built in vibration that can be used as an alarm clock that gently wakes you up at the right time of your sleep cycle around the time you specify. Or if you want to break the habit of sitting at your desk for long stretches of time, you can have it nudge you if you’ve been inactive for a set amount of time.

Why it’s awesome

Where Up has a huge advantage over Fitbit is how the data is displayed. For the most part the app interface is beautiful and intuitive, making it easy and fun to use. You can scroll through your days and look for the patterns of activity, and the sky appears to cycle between night and day as you look back in time.

The social integration is also way better in Up than Fitbit, and it is highly customizable for any goals you may have. Your engagement can be friendly or competitive, so you can set it up for whatever motivates you best. It’s really fun when there are two devices in one house, it’s a constant competition here over who takes the most steps every day (I always win).

The sleep mode is also awesome. While Fitbit has a sleep mode as well, it’s a pain to use and doesn’t give you much insight. The Up sleep data is more similar to the Zeo personal sleep manager, but has the advantage of not requiring you to sleep with the equivalent of a camping headlamp strapped to your face, which is nice. The sleep data is simple and gives you information that is actually useful.

I also like what they’ve done with the meal tracking. This is usually a tough sell for me, because tracking can easily become way too labor intensive to be practical. The Up only requires a picture, but it is also proactive in that it will remind you to evaluate how you feel a couple hours after the meal. The simplicity is key, and I think this could actually be helpful in selectively building and breaking various eating habits.

I think this app has huge potential for habit building. With the challenges and built in reminders, tracking and nudging has never been more simple. And since the key to habit building is repetition and consistency, these tools are incredibly powerful for making meaningful behavioral changes.

Lastly, the Up is surprisingly cool looking and is relatively comfortable to wear. I expected it to look something like the rubber LIVESTRONG bracelets (which fit better on my ankle than my wrist), but the form factor is much more elegant. I got a black band and I love it, but it also comes in bright red, bright blue or silver, and dark brown, dark red and white are coming soon.

Down sides

So far I don’t have many complaints. There is the obvious disadvantage that it cannot be used if you don’t have an iPhone, but I could write pages about why the iPhone is the best thing I’ve ever bought in my life so I personally don’t think this is a major negative.

There are still a few imperfections in the app UI, which can easily be addressed. For example, it isn’t particularly easy to search for friends to add to teams. But presumably all this will can be fixed in software updates.

It would be nice if the Up tracked elevation like the new Fitbits do. I encourage all of you to be taking the stairs whenever possible, and elevation data is a nice feature in that regard.

My last critique is that you can’t see your data with just a push of a button like you can with Fitbit. The Up requires you take it off and plug it into your phone, which isn’t that much of a hassle but makes me slightly less inclined to check my status.

But considering you’re basically getting Fitbit, Zeo and Health Month rolled into one, at $100 it’s hard to beat.

You can order yours on Amazon or the Jawbone Up website.

What do you think of the new Up?

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How To Eat Like A Sane Person (and lose weight too) – Episode 16 – Summer Tomato Live

by | Nov 15, 2011

Tonight is another episode of Summer Tomato Live. I’ll be interviewing friend and Summer Tomato success story Chris Lea on how he learned to eat sanely and get control of his health. But I’ll let Chris explain more about who he is:

I’m Chris Lea, a computer geek who works at (mt) Media Temple splitting time between performance oriented R&D work for websites, and business development. The geeky computer friend you have in your life probably thinks I’m pretty geeky compared to his or herself. I’m friends with Darya’s boyfriend Kevin, which has (very fortunately) led to my being friends with Darya, which has fit in incredibly well for me as I’ve taken an increasing interest in my own health over the last five years or so. I’m very, very keenly interested in figuring out ways to not actually get any older as I get older.

Tune in here at 6:30pm PST to ask me and Chris your questions. To participate click the red “Join event” button and login with Twitter or your Vokle account. The show is now open and free to everyone, so no password is necessary.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

If I don’t get to your question or you’d like a more in depth follow up, you can Ask Me or subscribe to the Tomato Slice newsletter.

Click here to see past episodes or subscribe on iTunes (video podcast or audio only).

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Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – It’s NEAT!

by | Nov 8, 2010
By regelzamora

By regelzamora

Today’s guest post is by Travis Saunders, MSc, Certified Exercise Physiologist. Travis and his colleague Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D, MSc, are both PhD trained scientists who have a fantastic blog over at PLoS Blogs, Obesity Panacea.

While Summer Tomato is more food-centric, Obesity Panacea focuses on exercise and physiology.  Perfect match, right?

I asked Travis if he would be kind enough to write a post on how to get more exercise without having to actually go to the gym (NEAT), something both busy and lazy people alike can appreciate.

Personally I’m a big believer in NEAT. A year and a half ago I stopped taking BART to work and started walking instead. To my surprise this added only 5 minutes to my commute time and is infinitely more enjoyable.

Even though I already logged 4-6 regular cardio and strength training workouts per week, this added mileage caused me to drop another 3-5 lbs that has never come back. It also gives me time to listen to my favorite podcasts!

But what is NEAT exactly? For that I’ll turn the mic over to Travis.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – It’s NEAT!

by Travis Saunders

For decades, we have been told of the benefits of physical activity, and with good reason – regardless of body weight, people who exercise live longer, healthier lives than people who don’t exercise.

In the past, the focus has been on performing structured sessions of moderate or vigorous exercise (e.g. 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise on a bike or treadmill).

While intense physical activity has a tremendous health impact, a growing body of evidence suggests that accumulating short bouts of low-intensity physical activity throughout the day can also have substantial health benefits, which may even rival those associated with more vigorous sessions.  This low-intensity physical activity is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.

The concept of NEAT was proposed by Dr James Levine, who defines it as:

“…the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise. NEAT includes all those activities that render us vibrant, unique and independent beings such as dancing, going to work or school, shoveling snow, playing the guitar, swimming or walking in the modern Mall.”

I can understand why some people would be skeptical that activities like gardening or mall walking could have a measurable impact on health.  After all, those things aren’t exercise, right?

Fortunately, it turns out that the body doesn’t care whether those activities are exercise.  James Levine’s work has shown that NEAT burns an average of 330 calories per day in healthy individuals (and up to nearly 700 calories/day in some people!), and that obese individuals perform drastically less NEAT than their lean counterparts.

Levine has also made convincing arguments that NEAT could burn up to 1000 calories per day when properly incorporated throughout the work day.  These results suggest that NEAT can burn a tremendous amount of calories, which has obvious implications for weight maintenance and obesity prevention.

But the other key benefit to increased NEAT is that it reduces sedentary time, itself a strong predictor of both death and disease.

Independent of total physical activity levels and other risk factors like abdominal obesity, recent evidence suggests that time spent being sedentary (e.g. sitting or lying down) is a strong predictor of metabolic risk, as well as mortality.  This means that regardless of how much they exercise, people who spend more time sitting are at a higher risk than those who sit less.

New research has even shown that merely taking more frequent breaks from sedentary activities (e.g. standing up) is also associated with reduced metabolic risk and abdominal fat levels.  The reasons for these associations are still being worked out (it probably is to due to changes in LPL and glucose transporter protein activity in skeletal muscle, which are altered by even short bouts of inactivity), but the findings are consistent and have been observed in both adults and children.  Since NEAT includes activities like standing and walking, any increases in NEAT will obviously result in reductions in time spent in sedentary activities.

So, how can you reduce your time spent being sedentary and increase your NEAT levels?  Luckily, it’s not very hard.

Here is a brief list, and for more suggestions, please read “10 Ways to Become More Active”, which can be found on Obesity Panacea.

6 Ways To Get More NEAT

1. Buy a Pedometer

Pedometers are beeper-sized devices which are worn on the waist and keep track of the number of steps taken each day.  They are cheap (a good one costs about $20), and are a great way to assess your level of NEAT.  Each week, try to increase your daily step count by 1,000 steps/day, with a goal of reaching at least 10,000 steps per day.  Friendly step-count competitions with co-workers can also be surprisingly fun, and are a great way to promote increased physical activity within the office environment.

2. Take the Stairs

This one is obvious.  I can’t tell you how often I see people taking the elevator up or down one single floor.  It doesn’t save any time, and it deprives people of physical activity.  You don’t have to walk up twenty flights of stairs to make this worthwhile – try to walk up at least one flight, and down at least two, and build up to more flights as you feel up to it.  If you have to go further than you can walk comfortably, take the elevator the rest of the way.

3. Active Transportation

Walk or bike to work and when performing errands whenever possible.  If that is not an option, consider taking public transportation, which almost always involves a short walk at both ends of the trip.  And if you absolutely have to drive, park as far from the door as possible.  It might only add 5 minutes of walking to your day, but that’s 5 minutes you wouldn’t get otherwise.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

This sounds odd, but it’s a trick that I’ve been using for years. If you are constantly sipping water throughout the day, you are going to have to pee at least once every couple hours. Every time you have to pee, you have a guilt-free excuse to go for a 5-minute walk to the washroom and back! To crank it up a notch, use a washroom in another part of your building, which may give you an opportunity to use the stairs as well.  It’s easy to forget to take a 5-minute walk-break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go pee.

5. Have “Walk” Meetings

These types of meeting are becoming increasingly popular at my workplace.  Think of all the times that you need to have a 5-10 minute chat with another co-worker or superior.  Instead of doing it at your desk (and potentially annoying your colleagues), why not talk while casually strolling down the hall?  This is another great way to accumulate activity without even noticing that it’s happening.

6. Walk During Your Lunch Break

If you are one of those lucky individuals who has a daily lunch break, why not use it for a short walk?  A ten or twenty minute walk on a daily basis can add up over time, and you’ll almost certainly feel better than if you spent your whole break sitting at your desk.

These are only a few examples, but I hope they illustrate how easy it can be to incorporate more NEAT into your daily life.  Give it a shot, and good luck with your healthstyle!

Let’s have a big round of applause for Travis!

Originally published at Summer Tomato on October 19, 2009

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