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Secret Weapons of Weight Loss

Get more out of your life and your workouts


Updated July 14, 2014

Secrets to weight loss
Thomas Tolstrup Collection/Stone/Getty Images

If you're trying to lose weight, your first instinct is to look for ways to burn the most calories. Cardio, strength training and, of course, a healthy low-cal diet are the obvious ways to burn calories and lose weight, but what you may not know is that your body has secret ways of burning calories as well. Below you'll find out about these secret weight loss weapons and how to maximize your workouts and your life for weight loss and health.

1. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

While non-exercise activity thermogenesis sounds like some bizarre metabolic process in the body, it's meaning is actually very simple: Spontaneous activity. Every time you stand up and move, you're involved in spontaneous activity and you know what else? You're also burning calories. We haven't paid much attention to NEAT until recently because none of us realized how much non-activity contributed to our weight problems. Now, researchers know that simple movement is one of the keys to losing weight.

People are so focused on structured exercise and target heart rate zones they forget that general activity can be a huge contributor to weight loss. Want to know how much of a difference you could make if you moved around more?

Consider one study in which 20 self-proclaimed couch potatoes were studied to determine how different activity levels contributed to different levels of weight. In the study, one group of volunteers (5 men and 5 women) had an average BMI of 23 (lean), while the other 10 men and women had an average BMI of 33 (mildly obese). What researchers found was very interesting:

  • The obese group sat for 164 minutes longer each day than the lean group.
  • The lean people were upright for 153 minutes longer than the obese people.
  • The lean group burned an average of 350 extra calories each day (36 lbs a year) by walking and standing more throughout the day.

Though neither group did any structured exercise, the lean group burned extra calories just by moving around more - no sweating required. This proves that the advice you've heard a million times (e.g., take the stairs, walk around more) really does make a difference and can contribute to your weight loss just as much as structured exercise, albeit more slowly.

Maximize It

To maximize the calories you burn with NEAT, you simply need to move around more:

  • Stand up every chance you get.
  • Walk everywhere. Pace when you're on the phone, visit your co-workers instead of emailing them or use a pedometer and see how many steps you can get in each day.
  • When at the mall, make three laps around the mall before you can buy anything.
  • When you park the car, make a complete circuit around the parking lot before entering the building.
  • When carrying groceries, bring the bags in one bag at a time.
  • If you're stuck sitting for long periods of time, change position, shift in your seat or even do some isometric exercises - squeeze your hands together, contract your abs or squeeze your glutes.
  • Hide the remote control and get up to change the channel.
  • Sit on an exercise ball and roll around while you watch TV or work at the computer.

Find more ways to Incorporate Exercise into your Life or be creative an come up with your own list. Even just a little more activity each day can make a difference.


James A. Levine, Lorraine M. Lanningham-Foster, Shelly K. McCrady, Alisa C. Krizan, Leslie R. Olson, Paul H. Kane, Michael D. Jensen, Matthew M. Clark. "Interindividual Variation in Posture Allocation: Possible Role in Human Obesity". Science 28 January 2005: Vol. 307. no. 5709, pp. 584 - 586. 20 Mar. 2007.

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