The next time someone tells you to "shake a leg," take their advice. Shaking your leg and fidgeting in your seat or with your hands can burn calories.
NEAT Ways to Lose Weight
NEAT, an acronym for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, refers to maintenance of posture, fidgeting and other non-exercise activities of day-to-day life that burn calories. In an early study published in Science, James Levine, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, over-fed volunteers by 1000 calories per day for 8 weeks. He found that subjects who consumed calories in excess of what they needed to maintain their weight tended to increase their fidgeting and other NEAT activities, and consequently burned more calories.
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Some people increased their fidgeting, while others didn't. Those who didn't exhibited a 10-fold increase in fat storage compared to the fidgeters, as reported at Science. Those who fidget more by shaking their leg, repositioning themselves, standing up and walking around, and so forth can burn 350 more calories per day than their more sedentary counterparts, according to Levine at U.S. News & World Report.
Follow-up research by Levine, described at NPR.org, found that people with obesity tend to be more sedentary. In comparison, people without obesity fidgeted more, tapped their toes, wiggled in their seats and stood and moved around more, burning more calories per day.
Walk it Off
Simply shaking a leg, however, is not sufficient, cautions Levine, at U.S. News & World Report. He recommends that you intersperse standing, walking and moving about into your daily activities throughout the day. He found that on average, people with obesity spent 150 more minutes sitting than those without the condition.