Non-exercise activity thermogenesis: The crouching tiger hidden dragon of societal weight gain

James A. Levine, Mark W. Vander Weg, James O. Hill, Robert C. Klesges

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise. NEAT includes all the activities that render us vibrant, unique, and independent beings such as working, playing, and dancing. Because people of the same weight have markedly variable activity levels, it is not surprising that NEAT varies substantially between people by up to 2000 kcal per day. Evidence suggests that low NEAT may occur in obesity but in a very specific fashion. Obese individuals appear to exhibit an innate tendency to be seated for 2.5 hours per day more than sedentary lean counterparts. If obese individuals were to adopt the lean "NEAT-o-type," they could potentially expend an additional 350 kcal per day. Obesity was rare a century ago and the human genotype has not changed over that time. Thus, the obesity epidemic may reflect the emergence of a chair-enticing environment to which those with an innate tendency to sit, did so, and became obese. To reverse obesity, we need to develop individual strategies to promote standing and ambulating time by 2.5 hours per day and also re-engineer our work, school, and home environments to render active living the option of choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-736
Number of pages8
JournalArteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Energy expenditure
  • Malnutrition
  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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