Non-exercise activity thermogenesis

James A. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended that is not from sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. NEAT can be measured by one of two approaches. The first approach is to measure or estimate total NEAT. Here, total daily energy expenditure is measured and from it is subtracted BMR + thermic effect of food. The second is the factoral approach whereby the components of NEAT are quantified and total NEAT calculated by summing these components. The amount of NEAT that human subjects perform represents the product of the amount and types of physical activities and the thermogenic cost of each activity. The factors that affect the NEAT of a human subject are readily divisible into biological factors, such as weight, gender and body composition, and environmental factors, such as occupation or dwelling within a 'concrete jungle'. The combined impact of these factors explains the substantial variance in human NEAT. The variability in NEAT might be viewed as random but human data contradict this perception. It appears that changes in NEAT subtly accompany experimentally-induced changes in energy balance and are important in the physiology of weight change. NEAT and sedentariness may thus be important in obesity. It then becomes intriguing to dissect mechanistic studies that delineate how NEAT is regulated by neural, peripheral and humoral factors. NEAT may be a carefully-regulated 'tank' of physical activity that is crucial for weight control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-679
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy expenditure
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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