All or Nothing Mindset? NEAT Ideas for Reframing Exercise

If you’re like most people, myself included, at some point you’ve talked yourself out of exercise because you can’t do it “right,” meaning if your workout doesn’t fit a preconceived notion of what you “should” do that you will instead do nothing at all. Oftentimes, this notion takes the form of something like, “I have to work out for an hour for it to be worth doing.” Rather than doing a few minutes of an enjoyable movement activity, you decide to postpone activity time after time, day after day.

The law of inertia seems to apply to physical activity: small activities beget more activity, while lack of activity begets more inactivity. An all or nothing mindset toward exercise—and other facets of life—does not result in healthy, productive, sustainable habits. There’s no rule that you absolutely must workout for a pre-determined minimum of time. Many current guidelines, in fact, recommend small 10-minute bouts of exercise throughout your day for those strapped for time.

How about looking to incorporate movement—and movement variety—throughout your day rather than fixating on just “exercise?” Household chores, gardening, and taking the long way around (at the grocery or at home) are all contributors to non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

Pause button—what’s that? NEAT is everything you do outside of what you designate “exercise,” and having a high level of NEAT contributes to your overall activity levels. In terms of weight maintenance or weight loss, we can control our levels of NEAT. While some people are indeed prone to fidget and be NEATer in general, you can also be more NEAT. I see examples of higher and lower NEAT in my own life with my children. When my kids are home from daycare all day on the weekends, I often get way more steps on my activity tracker than days when I just “workout.” Think about all the effort required to run after kids, cook, clean, get up and down off the floor to play and so on. What areas of your life already have high NEAT? What could you do to be a little NEATer?

Speaking of getting up and down off the floor, research really is finding that we truly do “use it or lose it.” I would add that “use it too much, and lose it.” One thing that is often overused is a sitting posture. You’ve probably heard, and experienced, that too much sitting does not make you feel good. We sit on the couch, we drive seated, we sit down at work. You get the picture. When we are in this seated posture the majority of the time, it leads to muscle imbalances, postural degradation, and contributes to just feeling gross. In short, consider how you can vary your postures throughout the day. Your joints will be more prone to staying mobile, your muscles will likely stay more balanced, and your movement health will be better all around.

To recap:

  • Exercise does not have to be all or nothing. Consider the mantra: “a little bit of something is a whole lot better than a lot of nothing.” Find joy in movement rather than punishment.
  • Consider movement activities to make your day NEATer.
  • Movement variety (getting up and down off the ground, standing, kneeling, crouching, reaching) lubricates our bodies and helps counteract over-sitting.

If you’re looking for guidance on ways to get more active, schedule your or get moving with 4-Week Programs – Where You Are Personal Training!

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