Get Outside - It’s N.E.A.T.!

June 2023

by tiffany ricci | photo by seth kroft

It’s finally summertime, and we are here for it! We are lucky to live in a beautiful place that offers loads of outdoor activities to enjoy this big natural playground in and around Billings. However, the lure of the outdoors can throw off our workout routines since we’d rather be outside than in the gym. Our calendars fill up with summer travel and festivities making it difficult to fit in our fitness endeavors.  

Not to worry - there’s a way to do both! You can soak up summer and exercise - especially when the summer vibes have zapped your motivation to stick to your fitness goals.  


The American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days each week. They also recommend performing activities that maintain or increase muscular strength endurance for at least two days per week. This means we should get our heart rate up and regularly strengthen our muscles. There are many benefits derived from consistent and regular exercise, including decreasing the risk of chronic disease, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress.  

The guidelines specify time and frequency - but give you, the exerciser, the liberty to decide how to accomplish this. This is where making the most of summer and exercising are a perfect match! Hiking, swimming, bike riding, yoga on the Rims - these outdoor activities count toward both recommendations. Two birds. One stone.  


If you’ve lost the motivation to hit the gym, try this: You can adjust your training schedule to flex with the seasons to max out your summertime fun. Consider scheduling a break during the summer from your regular routine. Remember that even elite athletes have off-seasons when their training is not as intense as during competition season. This allows them to stay motivated when they are training for competition. If the elites do it, so can you!  

The goal isn’t to ditch fitness but change up your routine:  

  • Include outdoor activities as part of your cross-training.  
  • Hike a new trail or try mountain biking.  
  • Play like a kid at the playground - master the monkey bars.  
  • Kayak or paddleboard across a lake.  
  • Mow the lawn and weed the garden weekly.  

Applying these tips allows you to maintain your fitness base and enjoy summer. It’s a win-win!  


Adventuring is more fun with others. Whether going for a family bike ride or changing your meeting from the conference room to the sidewalks, when others are involved, you’re more likely to follow through on your exercise commitment. Try committing to after-dinner walks with your family or a pick-up soccer game at the park with neighbors once a week. This activity allows us to enjoy summertime and meet those exercise recommendations.  

IT’S N.E.A.T. 

Even if you don’t struggle with a loss of motivation come summertime, these suggestions are still important to implement for two reasons: they help you enjoy this beautiful state we call home and increase your N.E.A.T., Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  

N.E.A.T. is all the movement you do in a day that burns energy (thermogenesis) outside of your regular workout (non-exercise activity). N.E.A.T. is important because it helps prevent weight gain as we age.  

We used to think that metabolism slowed as we aged, but a recent study in the Journal of Science shows that we don’t, at least for a while. Our metabolism is stable from age 20 to age 60. What does change is our N.E.A.T.. As we get older, we outsource our activity. Our kids take on more chores, we hire someone to clean our house and mow the lawn, and we tend to eat out more where someone else cooks and does the dishes. While these tasks are not expending energy as much as running a 5K, they add up over the months and years. As a result, we can put on a couple of pounds each year without much N.E.A.T..  


Walking office meetings and family bike rides are exercise and lay the foundation for an active lifestyle. By choosing activities that help us enjoy summer, we can create a rhythm of movement throughout the day. And this helps to increase N.E.A.T. Other ways to increase N.E.A.T. include:  

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.  
  • Using a restroom further from your desk at work.  
  • Setting an alarm for a 3–5-minute walk break each hour during the work day.  
  • Dancing in the kitchen during dinner prep and eating at home more often.  
  • Grocery shopping in the store instead of pick-up  
  • Taking the dog on a morning and evening walk.  
  • Reclaiming some outsourced activity - house cleaning, yard work, or laundry.  

We might not all agree on the same type of activity to include for exercise or N.E.A.T., but we all can agree that summers are magical in the Magic City and not to be missed. Stay motivated to stay active by choosing outdoor activities that get your heart rate up, and take advantage of our extensive outdoor playground.  

Originally printed in the June 2023 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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