“Small bursts of activity are just as important as the time you put into going to the gym,” Lugavere says. Scientists call these mini-movements NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Some examples include walking a pet, cleaning the house, folding laundry, or playing with your kids. “NEAT movements improve heart health and can burn anywhere from 300 to 1,000 calories per day,” he says. They benefit the brain, too. “When you move, the body pumps fresh and nutrient-dense blood up to the brain, which boosts attention, energy, and focus,” says Lugavere.
Incorporating NEAT can be as easy as taking a walk during your lunch break or getting up to stand and stretch during long stints at your desk.
Thermal exercise is the practice of putting the body in temperatures cooler or warmer than room temperature (around 68 to 70 degrees) which includes going to the sauna or taking a dip in an icy pool. “I was blown away by how just tweaking the temperature a few degrees up or down can impact health, and the effects occur without changing diet or exercise,” Lugavere says. “Research out of Finland found that regular sauna use cuts one’s risk of high blood pressure, stroke, dementia, and early mortality.”
Cold temps are health-promoting, too. “Studies have found that spending time in water temps of 57 degrees aids metabolism, decreases cortisol, and hikes up brain levels of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that supports focus and attention,” says Lugavere. You don’t need to enter a cryo chamber or even seek out a cold pool to get results. “I try to take a really cold shower in the morning,” Lugavere says. Sleeping in a chilly room makes an impact, too. “Research has found that 66 degrees is not only optimal for sleep, but helps boost brown fat, a good fat that helps to burn sugar and fat,” says Lugavere.
“Being distracted has the power to distort our eating experience,” Lugavere says. One study found that eating while using a smartphone resulted in participants consuming 15 percent more calories, which could add up over time.
Stepping away from devices is good for mental health, too, says Lugavere. “A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that limiting social media use to just 30 minutes a day decreased feelings of loneliness and depressive symptoms,” he says.