Non Exercise Physical Activity for Weight Loss

So, you go to the gym 3 times a week and you work really hard during those few hours. There is no denying that you’re doing yourself a lot of good but, what about the other 165 hours of the week? In this article, we’ll lift the lid on Non Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA) and look at ways you can get more active to enhance your health and reduce your waistline!

Previous generations were considerably more active than most of us are today. The increase in availability of labour saving devices, passive entertainment like TVs and computer games, a reduced requirement for manual labour and increased car ownership/usage have all contributed to a significant reduction of daily physical activity. Many of us spend large portions of our day sat at a desk, in our cars or on the sofa watching TV and even with the best will in the world, the 3 hours or so a week we spend in the gym is not a sufficient replacement for the active lifestyle of previous generations.  

walking sign

Combined with an increased availability of calorie-dense food, the lowered amount of daily activity is a significant factor in the ever growing world-wide obesity problem. Our appetites remain unchanged even though our calorie requirements have been significantly reduced. Your body was designed to be active often and your stomach (approximately 1 litre in size) is capable of processing all of your nutritional needs to fuel that active lifestyle. The problem is that we aren’t as active as we used to be and no one has found a way to reprogram our appetites! Any significant reduction in calorie intake can trigger the starvation response meaning that metabolisms slow, body temperature is lowered, hunger levels are elevated and calorie burning is down-regulated. If cutting calories too greatly causes the starvation response, what is the alternative for anyone looking to maintain their weight and improve their health without starving themselves? The answer is Non Exercise Physical Activity or NEPA for short.

NEPA simply means moving more. It doesn’t matter what you do but just by moving more we will expend more energy. NEPA shouldn’t be tiring and isn’t a replacement for your regular exercise routine – it’s just additional daily activities done with the purpose of using your body a little more than usual to create a greater calorie deficit and make up for all those hours when we are sedentary.

car wash

Examples of NEPA

  • Walk instead of driving – especially if journeys are less than 1 mile
  • Cycle instead of driving – especially if journeys are less than 4 miles
  • Get off the bus or train a couple of stops earlier and walk the rest of the way to work
  • Stand instead of sitting – standing uses far more energy
  • Use the stairs instead of the lift
  • Walk during lunch breaks instead of staying at your desk
  • Wash your car by hand
  • Water your garden by hand using a watering can instead of a garden hose
  • Take the dog (or the kids) for an after dinner stroll around the neighbourhood
  • Carry your shopping in a basket instead of using a shopping trolley
  • Periodically stand up and move around whilst at work – don’t get too desk bound
  • Move at every opportunity – stretch while sat at your desk or while watching TV
  • Try doing an active leisure activity like going bowling or ice skating instead of sitting in front of the TV


I’m sure you can think of plenty of other ways that you could get more NEPA into your day. Start with a few small daily increases in activity like maybe a 10 minute walk before breakfast or after dinner and build up from there with the aim of being physically active for at least 60 minutes per day. Don’t worry – they don’t have to be consecutive minutes, just fit them in where you can. The point of NEPA is that it should become habitual – a shift in attitude where you look for ways to move more and sit less. By the end of the year you may well find yourself several pounds lighter all because you made the effort to move around a bit more every day. Go and get your NEPA on!

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