Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): Environment and biology

James A. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. It includes 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 is to measure or estimate total NEAT. Here, total daily energy expenditure is measured, and from it "basal metabolic rate-plus-thermic effect of food" is subtracted. The second is the factoral approach, whereby the components of NEAT are quantified, and total NEAT is calculated by summing these components. The amount of NEAT that humans perform represents the product of the amount and types of physical activities and the thermogenic cost of each activity. The factors that impact a human's NEAT are readily divisible into environmental factors, such as occupation or dwelling within a "concrete jungle," and biological factors such as weight, gender, and body composition. The combined impact of these factors explains the substantial variance in human NEAT. The variability in NEAT might be viewed as random, but human and animal data contradict this. It appears that changes in NEAT subtly accompany experimentally induced changes in energy balance and are important in the physiology of weight change. Inadequate modulation of NEAT plus a sedentary lifestyle may thus be important in obesity. It then becomes intriguing to dissect mechanistic studies that delineate how NEAT is regulated into neural, peripheral, and humoral factors. A scheme is described in this review in which NEAT corresponds to a carefully regulated "tank" of physical activity that is crucial for weight control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E675-E685
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5 49-5
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Energy expenditure
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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