Get moving, moms!

Recently, I’ve been more hyper-aware of commercials promoting physical exercise, billboards urging youths to “unplug” and TV spots advocating eating well and, basically, good ol’ fashioned horsing around.

It seems we’ve slowly begun the downward spiral portrayed on Disney’s movie “WALL-E” where people become so used to being entertained and having everything they could ever want at their fingertips that getting out and exploring the world — not on the Web but in real life — is a thing of the past.

Neither myself nor my husband have ever been big gamers. Sure, I’ve had fun tinkering around on Mario Kart or getting my groove on trying out the latest moves on Kinect (and perhaps trying a little too desperately to prove this mom hasn’t lost her mojo), but it’s a rare occasion we plug into a game system for entertainment.

It’s forbidden in our home for many reasons, but the fact that it promotes a very sedentary lifestyle is definitely up there. I’ve seen kids whose hands are basically pre-arthritic from so many hours furiously clicking away on a controller instead of throwing a football or digging in the dirt.

I’ve always known how important physical exercise is, and encourage rowdy playtime with my boys. A recent study done at the Mayo Clinic completely surprised me, and made me think twice about the importance of being active, not just focusing on one intense workout, but simply moving more during the day.

Ever heard of the “NEAT” (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) diet?

James Levine, M.D., is the Mayo Clinic endocrinologist who led the “NEAT” study. Basically, it’s anything you do when not sleeping, eating or participating in a sports-related activity. Examples: walking, cooking, taking the stairs, playing with kids, etc.

“Our patients have told us for years that they have low metabolism, and as caregivers, we have never quite understood what that means — until today,” said Levine. “The answer is they have low NEAT, which means they have a biological need to sit more.

“A person can expend calories either by going to the gym, or through everyday activities. Our study shows that the calories that people burn in their everyday activities — their NEAT — are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined.”

This was a huge eye-opener for me.

Not only to I relish the time I get to sit on a park bench, shooshing my exuberant 2-year-old to the slides, swings, etc., while I cheer him on, but because motherhood can be rather exhausting at times, I’ve sort of made excuses for myself as to why I deserve to “sit down and relax” multiple times a day.

How much happier would my son (and my waist!) be if I took the time to actually chase him up the playground?

Besides the benefit of burning calories and staying fit, more movement decreases your risk of heart disease and keeps you happier and healthier.

I want my boys to have wild imaginations and big dreams. I want them to build castles, crash their matchbox cars and run around the house yelling at the top of their lungs (although my neighbors might not appreciate that one). I want to join in the TV-weaning movement and cut out artificial stimulation and promote a NEAT lifestyle.

“This is entirely doable because the kind of activity we are talking about does not require special or large spaces, unusual training regimens or gear,” LeVine said. “Unlike running a marathon, NEAT is within the reach of everyone.”

So what do you say? Let’s get moving, moms!

What are some ideas you have for a NEAT lifestyle?

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