Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Energy Homeostasis

In: Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA):, Inc.; 2000.


Low levels of physical activity combined with food intake in excess of daily energy expenditure over extended time periods precede weight gain and promote increases in body fat. Obesity and related insulin resistance are common sequelae of a chronically positive energy balance, potentially resulting in type 2 diabetes (T2D) and nonalcoholic/metabolic dysfunction associated fatty liver disease (NAFLD/MAFLD). The percentage of individuals considered as obese and morbidly obese is continuously rising and developing countries are catching up quickly as compared to industrialized nations. If the observed trend continues, global obesity prevalence will prospectively reach more than 21% in women and 18% in men by 2025. In addition to poor dietary habits, physical activity levels have decreased in recent decades in parallel with an increase in sedentary behavior. Given the technological advances in domestic, community, and working spaces in the last century it is not uncommon for people in industrialized countries to spend one half of their day sitting. As well, for a majority of people, voluntary physical exercise remains of minor importance. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) refers to that portion of daily energy expenditure resulting from spontaneous physical activity that is not specially the result of voluntary exercise. Levels of NEAT ranges widely, with variance of up to 2000 kilocalories per day between two individuals of similar size. These differences are related to complex interactions of environmental and biological factors, including people’s differing occupations, leisure-time activities, individual molecular and genetic factors, and evidence that food intake has independent effects on spontaneous physical activity. Available data support the hypothesis that targeting NEAT could be an essential tool for body weight control. This comprehensive review systematically describes the definition, evaluation methods, and environmental and biological factors involved in the regulation of NEAT. It further emphasizes the association with obesity and related disorders and suggests practical relevant implications, but also potential limitations for the integration of NEAT in daily life. For complete coverage of all related areas of Endocrinology, please visit our on-line FREE web-text, WWW.ENDOTEXT.ORG.

Publication types

  • Review