A Few Unique Ways to Burn Extra Calories -- NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)

It might be the simplest way to lose weight that ever existed – simply laugh more, stand and pace when you’re on the phone, gesture with your hands when you talk, and lower the heat. According to James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, you can burn an additional 100-150 calories per hour by incorporating Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT, into your life. What is NEAT? Basically, it’s moving around more. Here are a few ideas to help you get moving in the new year.

Talking with your hands and your body, foot tapping, tapping your hand or fingers on a table and hair twirling all burn calories. In fact, Levine has shown that those who do more fidgeting and gesturing can burn as many as 350 extra calories per day — which could add up to 36 pounds lost per year.

Laugh More
Have you seen Tootsie, Some Like It Hot, Annie Hall, Blazing Saddles or Duck Soup? You might consider getting those and a few other comedies on DVD. A study conducted at Vanderbilt University demonstrated that real laughter will burn 10 to 20 percent more calories, which means that 10 to15 minutes of laughter per day could increase total calories burned by10 to 40 calories (as much as 4 pounds lost in a year).

Stand Up
Standing burns about 50 percent more calories than sitting. So, by standing while talking on the phone, working at your computer or reading the paper, a 155-pound person can burn as many as 50 more calories per hour. Pace while you talk and you can burn another 35 to 40 calories per hour. If you’d like to buy a standing desk, Staples (www.Staples.com) sells one called the Balt Ergo E. Eazy Sit/Stand Workstation that costs about $420. It’s important that the desk have a separate keyboard platform to keep it ergonomic. There is also a Sit Stand Computer Desk (model EH-46572) available for $349 from www.ergonomichome.com.

Walk While You Work
Ever think you could burn calories while you work? What about using a treadmill and the computer at the same time? Talk about multitasking! Well, there is a new desk called the Walkstation produced by Details, a Steelcase company. The upright workstation allows you to use a standard personal computer while walking on a treadmill. “The Walkstation is not intended to provide a gym-style workout in the office; its purpose is not to cause users to raise their heart rates or work up a sweat," says Levine. The idea is to increase movement. The machine looks like a regular treadmill with a metal frame, on the front of which is a desk area with adjustable arms holding a screen and a keyboard with a mouse.

Levine estimates that if people replaced sitting computer time with walking and working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 calories per hour. So if you replace time spent sitting at the computer with walking computer time for two to three hours a day, everything else being equal, you could lose 44 to 60 pounds per year. Levine recommends starting slowly, walking 15 minutes every hour and during all phone calls. For the rest of the time use the desk while seated, and increase the walking portion gradually. The Walkstation costs about $4,000 to $4,500. For more information go to www.details-worktools.com/index.php.

If you already have a treadmill and want an alternative, try the Walk N Work treadmill workstation (www.thewalknwork.com) for about $500. And if you feel like a project, you can build your own treadmill desk for about $50 — check out the blog www.Treadmill-Desk.com for instructions.

Get a Stepper for Under Your Desk or to Use While Watching TV
Using a mini-stepper under your desk (or in your office) could be an approach to increasing your energy expenditure. According to a study by Dr. Levine that was reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, by using the stepper you could burn an additional 100 calories per hour. If the stepping device were used to replace sitting for two hours per day, working at a stand up desk, or if you were to use it under the desk weight loss of 40 or more pounds could occur over the course of the year. Gaiam (www.gaiam.com) makes a mini-stepper for about $70. A company called Gamercize (www.gamercize.net) offers a stepper (GZ PC-Sport) that can actually control the power to your computer — you can set it up so that your mouse or keyboard shuts down when you stop moving. Prices are approximately $200 plus shipping from the UK, or you can go to www.ThinkGeek.com, the American retailer. You can also pick up the Stamina InStride Electronic Mini-Stepper from Amazon.com for about $60.

Drink a Cold Glass of Water
Your body temperature is incredibly hot at approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and ice water is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to maintain homeostasis (a constant internal temperature), your body has to bring that ice water up by about 60 degrees, and, by definition, it takes 1 calorie to raise the temperature of 1 liter of water by approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that to raise the temperature of 1 liter of ice water by 60 degrees Fahrenheit, your body would burn about 30 calories. Two liters, which is about eight glasses of water, would burn 60 calories.

Get Out in the Cold
You actually do burn more calories when it’s cold outside. According to Andrew J. Young, Ph.D., of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass., “There are two factors that could cause energy expenditure to increase with falling outdoor temperature. First, if shivering is elicited by cold, then energy expenditure increases. However, different people have differing shivering-response sensitivity, and intensity of shivering will be influenced by magnitude of decrease in body (deep core and skin) temperature, which in turn is influenced by body size and fat content that vary widely among people, as well as clothing worn. So some folks don't shiver at all (well-dressed, lots of body fat), and a man in the cold is not always a cold man. The other reason energy expenditure might increase in cold weather is if you perform heavy physical labor (walk in deep snow, carry or wear heavy clothing).” Additionally, there is a likelihood that you could have a slight increase in calorie burn (about 3 to 7 percent) from your body re-warming itself from cold air touching your skin and warming the cold air that goes into your lungs, adds Wayne Askew, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of Utah.

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CHARLES STUART PLATKIN is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder and editor of DietDetective.com, the health and fitness network and author of The Diet Detective's Calorie Bargain Bible (Simon & Schuster, 2007). Copyright 2008 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter and iTunes podcast at www.DietDetective.com