Movement, exercise, activity
How “The Neat Theory” and “Magic Underwear” Keep You ThinBy Dr. Gifford Jones
Why is it that some people are thin and others prone to obesity? Hundreds of books have been written to explain this dilemma. Some blame the under-active thyroid. Others cite genetics. But Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologists and Professor of Nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has a “neat theory” supported by “Magic Underwear” to explain the difference.
In Nutrition Action Health Letter he reports a unique experiment. He gathered together a combination of thin people and obese couch potatoes who never went to the gym. He then gave both groups an extra 1,000 calories a day above their usual caloric intake for eight weeks to see what would happen.
They were also fitted with underwear that was equipped to monitor every movement and posture change. It was impossible to roll over in bed or scratch an ear without this magic underwear picking it up. And it showed that obese people moved two-and-a-half hours less per day. This meant they burned 350 fewer calories every day. You don’t need to be an Einstein to conclude that these calories, stored as fat, were the problem.
So what is “Neat”? Levine says it stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”, a fancy name, but the message is that you have to keep moving, either shopping until you drop, tapping your toes or being a little twitchy.
Levine doesn’t like to use the word “walking” to explain the difference. He says for most people this means putting on jogging shoes. He prefers the term “ambulation” to stress that just ambling around in a variety of ways burns more calories for most people than jogging.
So how much of our daily energy expenditure comes through Neat? First, remember we can’t change our basal metabolic rate that accounts for 60 percent of our daily energy. We use this mount of energy just to keep our organs functioning. Then we use another 10 percent of calories to absorb, digest and store food. This leaves 30 percent for Neat.
Levine says Neat is like disposable income which you can spend or save. It’s wise to save money for a rainy day. But here’s one situation where it’s better to spend, spend, spend. Staying in bed all day saving Neat means you’re storing it as fat.
So is it off to the gym to rid yourself of excess Neat? It helps, but Levine says, “Most people don’t like going to the gym and don’t go even if they do like it”. Moreover, it takes 15 minutes to get to the gym, 10 minutes to change and 30 minutes on the bike to burn 100 calories. Doing this 3 times a week burns only 300 calories, just 42 calories a day.
Levine suggests the best approach is to get out of your cushy, comfortable chair. He practices what he preaches by integrating walking into his work. He answers telephone calls while walking on his treadmill and responds to e-mails this way. He also talks with people while exercising on a $50.00 stepping device. You may have guessed by this time that he has no chairs in his office. He stands to work.
Mayo Clinic shares Levine’s enthusiasm for encouraging people to be more mobile. Its staff now employs “Movologists” to train people to increase their physical activity, to use walk and talk meetings to expend Neat. And they’re designing offices, schools and furniture to encourage mobility and reverse a lethal static trend.
Remember, it’s taken millions of years to evolve the human body, but only the last 100 years to develop the lethal rust of obesity, diabetes and other degenerative diseases by using modern technology and devices that keep us immobile.
I know Neat could reverse this trend. I’ve recently returned from Kenya where I visited rural villages. All the school children were thin, largely because they were walking miles to school every day. And they did not return home to watch T.V., sit on electric lawn mowers or stand on escalators.
So, Dr. Levine, I like your “Neat” idea.
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Dr. Gifford Jones Bio
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W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones. He can be reached at: