NEAT vs Cardio - Which is better for fat loss

NEAT vs Cardio for fat loss?

For so long it has been thought the key to weight loss is getting in the gym doing endless hours of cardio in the attempt to get rid of that unwanted body fat.

However, we now know that weight loss all comes from one simple factor, calories in vs calories out. Therefore it does not matter how you go about doing this, whether it be spending two hours in the gym a day or just simply increasing your daily expenditure. Personally, I would much prefer to walk more throughout the day, get out and go for walks, take the stairs instead of the lift and stay away from boring gym cardio where possible. 

Related article - Calculating your calories

What is NEAT?

NEAT is a term that is short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, simply meaning the calories you burn throughout the day outside of the gym (walking to work, walking up stairs, cleaning the house, shopping etc.) Everything you do throughout the day requires energy. Therefore the more NEAT you do in a day the more overall calories you will burn, simple.

So, therefore, which is better for weight loss, doing extra cardio or increasing NEAT? Simply put, either. As long as you are putting yourself into a calorie deficit you will lose weight. Whether you do this through added cardio in the gym or increasing NEAT is up to you.

However, from experience, we highly recommend keeping cardio to a minimum where possible and increasing your NEAT first before thinking about doing more cardio. 

Related article - 10 simple rules to increase NEAT and fat loss


Firstly it is a lot more sustainable making small changes in your day to day to life rather than finding an extra hour in the day to go and carry out cardio. 

Secondly, cardio should always bee seen as a tool. It is not always needed. We always recommend weight training and increasing your activity levels in the day before finally incorporating cardio. 

Another reason why we always say limit cardio, is that if you do an hour or even 2 hours cardio a day on top of a weight session the chances are your going to be absolutely fried and probably end up sitting most of the day trying to savour every bit of energy for your gym sessions and extra cardio. An increase in cardio normally results in lower activity levels throughout the day (NEAT). Therefore counteracting the calories you have burnt doing your cardio as you are burning fewer calories the remainder of the day. 

Related article - Are you lifting weights the right way?

How to increase NEAT?

  • Walk to work
  • Always take the stairs when possible 
  • Take a walk on your lunch break at work
  • Get outside when possible (A brisk morning walk is a great way to start the day)
  • Get on your feet or bicycle for short distance journeys rather than always driving
  • Purchase a fitness tracker to measure your daily steps as a guideline on how active you are. Anything above 10,000 steps is great 

Related article - 5 reasons fat loss stalls

Take away points

Yes, cardio is a very important tool for weight loss and is likely to be used in most cases at some point. However, a slight change in your daily routines and doing more can have a massive impact on your weight loss. If you do have the opportunity throughout the day to get out and do more then go for it. For some, this isn't always possible. For people working an office job and unable to get on their feet much then sometimes cardio is needed.