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Whether it’s salad, Atkins, the soup diet or lighter life, women have tried every slimming trick in the book, says the Daily Mail. In fact, the average 45-year-old has been on 61 diets, a recent survey has found. Few of them would appear to have had the desired effect, however, as from the age of 16 that equates to around two a year. Logic dictates that even if only one of these diets worked then the subject would be slim and not need to try any more. Thus, diets don’t work.
In a poll of 2,000 British men and women, more than 75% had tried a diet in the past year. But women had attempted the biggest array of eating plans to try to shift the pounds. There are now fears that these fad diets are rubbing off on the next generation, causing potential future health problems.
Six out of ten people surveyed said they had been asked by their children not to give them foods such as bread, potatoes and fruit, believing they are bad for them, when they are healthy as part of a balanced diet. Around half of parents did remove some of these foods from their children’s diet. More than 85 per cent of those surveyed on behalf of the bread company Warburtons said they did not know calcium was important to their diet and around half did not know calcium was found in white bread. The fact that this survey was commissioned by a bread maker, and markets bread as a good source of calcium is also of some concern.
Weight is, in most cases, defined by the amount of energy that you take in (food and drink) less the amount of energy that you expend. If there is a surplus of energy then your weight will increase, this excess energy being stored as fat. If on the other hand there is a deficit of energy (you expend more than you eat) then your weight will decrease as your body uses fat and lean muscle to fill in the energy gap.
Traditionally the focus of our physical efforts to lose weight have been on gym based exercise, activity that takes place two or three times a week for a duration of an hour or so each time. Although this form of structured exercise is proven to improve fitness levels, provide huge health benefits and increase feelings of well-being, it’s a relatively small amount of energy expenditure when you look at the overall week.
Over a week, there are 168 hours. If you sleep for 8 hours a day that leaves 112. Going to the gym will make you fit and healthy, but even if you can manage 3 hours a week that’s only 2.7% of the time available for activity. Logic dictates that this wont make a huge increase in your overall calorific expenditure, so might not help to make you less huge! What about trying to increase your energy output for the other 97.3% of the time? It’s time to increase your NEAT.
NEAT, or non exercise activity thermogenesis, is made up of all the energy you burn while not taking part in structured exercise. Rolling over in your sleep, sitting at a desk, walking up the stairs, throwing a ball for the dog are all examples of NEAT. In fact it includes any type of movement that requires muscle contractions.
Although structured exercise has been the target of most exercise physiology research in the past, new evidence is suggesting that NEAT plays a role in both health and obesity. The first paper to focus on NEAT (performed at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota) examined weight gain in 16 non-obese adults who were given a 1000 calorie surplus (roughly the same as 2 Big Macs) every day for 8 weeks, while keeping their level of structured exercise at the same level. Not surprisingly, all of these subjects gained weight, but there was a huge variation: some individuals gained just 1.4 kg while others gained as much as 7.2 kg. What is very interesting is that changes in NEAT accounted for roughly 50% of the variation in fat gain. So, when overfed, some individuals naturally began to burn more calories through activities of daily living, postural changes, and even fidgeting, and this increase appears to be at least partly responsible for their resistance to weight gain.
A second paper by this same group compared the amount of NEAT in obese and non-obese individuals. As you might expect, obese individuals performed less NEAT than lean individuals. In fact, if obese individuals had NEAT levels similar to the more active people in the study, they would have burned an additional 350 calories a day, equivalent to roughly 1lb of fat every 10 days. Or 40 minutes of strenuous exercise in the gym! What is also interesting, however, is that this reduced NEAT was found in obese individuals even after weight loss, suggesting that NEAT levels are at least partially influenced by genetic inheritance.
In a recent BBC Horizon program, “The truth about exercise”, Dr Michael Mosley further investigated the effects of NEAT on individuals with different jobs and lifestyles. Using specially designed GPS monitors (fidget pants) the show concluded that even small changes to lifestyle can make a huge difference to the amount of energy expended during the course of a single day. Repeating the mantra “the chair is a killer, the chair is a killer” Mosley started cycling to work, having walking meetings, standing up to type and taking the stairs rather than the elevator. The fidget pants showed that he was burning up to 500 calories more each day – the same as attending a bootcamp. So of you would like to do a bootcamp without actually breaking into a sweat, get NEAT!
Ways to increase your neat could be walking to work, getting off a stop early and walking, parking a bit further away from your destination, sitting down for less time, having meetings walking and pacing up and down the office while on the phone (studies show that this also increases confidence and is a often used tool of sales people). Strength training will also increase NEAT, as small, non-exercise related movements will burn more calories if they are having to utlise more lean muscle.
We would like to congratulate Jack Allan as he joins the DDW team, he is now one of our Personal Trainers in the Windsor, Maidenhead and Ascot areas. Jack comes highly qualified with the prestigious Diploma in Personal Training from Premier Global plus a degree in Sports Science. Jack has already been working wonders with our clients, who report feeling better, full of vitality and lighter after personal training with Jack. His enthusiasm and passion for sport really come through in his sessions, and keep an eye out on our facebook page for updates on his latest charity run (he’s always doing them) so that you can sponsor him!
Jack’s official profile is here, call or email us to book a free consultation with Jack to discuss how he can help you finally achieve your health and fitness goals.
Lizzie Taylor has now finished her 3 weeks of free personal training, having won the DDW scholarship 2012. She has lost 11 pounds, an inch off her waist, nearly 2 inches off her hips and an inch off her thighs. Everyone should be inspired, this is what you can achieve with just a little dedication and hard work. Watch the website next Xmas for details on how to apply. More will follow nearer the time..