Men with buff physiques who preach that NEAT can help dad bods transform their body are feeding you nonsense.

You’ve been doing NEAT since birth yet still have a dad bod.

What exactly is NEAT?

It stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is a fancy way of saying the calories you burn when not eating, sleeping, playing sport nor working out.

NEAT includes the energy expended while doing the smallest of tasks such as texting, writing out checks and walking to the mail box.

Of course it also includes bigger tasks such as raking leaves and changing a window screen.

The concept of NEAT is similar to the concept of “housework counts as exercise” — with the exception that the tiniest of tasks count, such as showering and brushing your teeth.

Again, NEAT refers to everything other than sleeping, eating, sport and conventional exercise.

NEAT literally means the energy you expend while LIVING.

Proponents of this concept for transforming the physique act as though the activities of daily living never existed until someone came up with the funky sounding “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.”

“Brushing my teeth helped me get this body — NOT!” Credit: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

Why is there excitement over NEAT these days?

Because it sounds trendy and scientific: “non-exercise activity thermogenesis.”

The funkier or more scientific a new term or phrase sounds, the more it catches on.

If you ascribe a fancy name to something that’s already been happening since the sun began rising, people will think they have a new magic bullet for their situation. This includes men who don’t like having a dad bod.

Would this term be as appealing to dad bodders if it were instead called “activities of daily living sources of calorie burn”?

What is a dad bod?

This is yet another term that has caught on like wildfire to refer to something that’s been around since the dawn of time: a male physique that looks typical rather than like the ones seen in professional sports or swim trunk ads.


The term “dad bod” infers a new discovery even though the planet has teemed with hundreds of millions of dad bods at any given time.

And likewise, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, too, has been around since man began inventing the wheel.

Just because the activities of non-sleep, non-eating and non-working out/sport NOW have a new, scientific-sounding name … doesn’t mean that suddenly, the childcare activities that a dad bod father does will buff up his physique. To believe this is utter nonsense.

A bazillion men have children. How many have dad bods?

Any male personal trainer who tells you that the activities of daily living (NEAT) can contribute to developing a six-pack, tightening your waistline and sculpting your overall body is feeding you BS.

If you find an article written by a fitness expert telling you this, consider that he’s just trying to reel in more Instagram followers and clients.

A savvy, entrepreneurial personal trainer will use several tricks to build clientele and a strong social media following (which can also earn him money).

One of those tricks is to be more relatable, to tap into a demographic that’s intimidated or discouraged by traditional exercise.

How much better relatable can this trainer be than to announce to all the men out there with dad bods that carrying children and shopping bags count towards physique transformation?

No Science or PhDs Needed to See the Facts

If you’ve allowed yourself to be sucked into this nonsense, here are some points to ponder:

• If carrying shopping bags and playing with your young kids, etc., count towards physique transformation, then shouldn’t every involved father on this planet have a GQ body? Hmmm…

• Men with dad bods have ALREADY been doing non-parenting-related NEAT, such as walking to and from work and playing tug-o-war with their dogs. Um…why don’t they have lean buff physiques?

Well…some DO. And it’s no coincidence that those particular men have been hitting the gym or regularly engaged in some kind of sport activity that has generated their enviable physiques such as lengthy hikes to reach slabs of granite to do rock climbing a few times a week.

• Can’t ask this enough: If parenting-related duties contribute to a buff body, why are so many involved (repeat: involved) dads out of shape, flabby, “skinny fat” or chubby?

Shutterstock/Ben Gingell

You’ve Seen the Evidence Yourself

You’ve seen plenty of involved fathers with dad bods romping with their children, setting up the child car safety seats, hoisting their toddlers in them, lifting grocery sacks out of their cars, teaching their older child to ride a bike, etc.

Do not be faked out by some new, gimmicky term for what the human body has been doing since the dawn of time: LIVING.

From Sedentary to Active

Suppose a dad bod man spends eight hours a day sitting at work, then the remaining time sitting before a TV or computer screen, while his wife does all the housework and childcare.

Now suppose this lazy man, who’s a little overweight and has a soft body, decides to share household and childcare duties, fetch things for himself instead of having his wife wait on him hand-and-foot, walk the dog instead of ordering his tween to do it, and periodically march in place while watching TV. Over time, he’ll lose a little weight.

But he’ll simply be a smaller version of his soft-bodied self.

He will not get a hard body that looks like a personal trainer’s, even if he divorces and gets full custody of the four kids.

Perk up Everyday Movements

I’m all for adding zest to common daily movements.

For example, when it’s time to return the empty shopping cart in the parking lot, I recommend RUNNING across the parking lot while pushing the cart rather than doing what nearly everyone does: lackadaisically push it.

Have stairs in your house?

Always dash up, rather than lumber up. Got a spare 10 minutes? Clean up the kitchen for your wife and do some laundry.

Bits and pieces here and there of peppy movements will help contribute to improved agility, stronger joints and the preservation of mobility long-term.

BUT … don’t kid yourself. These periodic perks of movement will not transform a flabby dad body into a swim trunk model’s body.

The evidence is right under your nose, in that you personally know many men who are very actively involved with their children and the housework – yet they still have dad bods.

Just because the concept of LIVING now has a new, trendy and techy sounding name doesn’t mean that what you’ve already been doing your entire life will now suddenly transform your physique.

To attain that hard-body look of male models, you must do intense weight workouts focusing on compound (multi-joint) movements.

This doesn’t mean many hours of training per week. It means SMART training.

And instead of lengthy stints on cardio machines, you might want to check out high intensity interval training.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov