One of the biggest reported benefits of a standing desk is that standing all day is much healthier than sitting for eight hours. For most people, burning calories with a standing desk is a good tradeoff for being on your feet all day. However, do all those burned calories equate to weight loss? Do standing desks burn calories?
If you're using a standing desk to burn more calories, University of Pittsburgh researchers have some bad news for you.
The scientists measured exactly how many calories people expended while sitting or standing for 15 minutes. According to the new study, standing only used a whopping two extra calories on average.
That translates to an extra 8 to 10 calories for every hour on your feet. However, the difference was not statistically significant—and it's probably not enough to affect your weight, says study author Seth Creasy, PhD.
It does sound good. All you have to do is stand up, and the weight you've been fighting to get rid of just slides off. However, how many calories burned at a standing desk equals meaningful weight gain? Do standing desks really contribute that much to weight loss?
Some research has suggested that standing burns more calories than sitting, which may explain why you've seen more standing desks around your office. However, most of that research looked at each activity (sitting and standing) in isolation. The current research team reasoned that most people were doing a combination of activities or the activities in different orders and decided that merited a look.
To that end, they recruited 74 young, healthy volunteers to participate in a series of carefully choreographed experiments. First, the participants were divided into four groups and directed to sit, stand, or different walk-in sequences.
The first group sat at a computer, typed for 15 minutes, and then stood. The second sat while watching TV for 15 minutes, then walked on treadmills. The third group stood then sat, while the fourth group walked before sitting. Each activity was separated by a 3-minute "transition" period during which the person was "seated at rest, not fidgeting, just relaxing," explains Creasy.
Heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premature death are only some of the adverse effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
A recent study found that excessive sitting may be responsible for over 430,000 deaths. Sitting down for too long can interfere with the body's ability to metabolise fat and regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Some studies have suggested that simply standing rather than sitting down could help counteract some of these adverse effects.
Other studies suggested that sit-stand desks, specifically, prompt people to move more and consequently burn more calories. As a result, many people believe that this innovative type of furniture, which most modern offices now have, can help with weight loss.
But a new review of existing studies challenges these views. April Chambers, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, led a scoping review of 53 studies that examined the benefits of sit-stand desks. Find here.
Sit-Stand Desks Do Not Aid In Weight Loss
Of the 53 studies included in the review, 47 were experimental trials. Overall, the studies examined between six and 231 study participants for a follow-up period of up to a year.
Chambers examined the effects of sit-stand desks across six parameters: "behaviour (for example, time sitting and standing), physiological, work performance, psychological, discomfort, and posture."
"The study found only minimal impacts on any of [the six parameters], the biggest being changes in behaviour and discomfort," reports study co-author Nancy A. Baker, who is an associate professor of occupational therapy at Tufts University in Medford, MA.
In other words, people who used sit-stand desks did indeed spend less time sitting and more time standing than those who used regular desks.
Also, sit-stand desk users reported feeling more comfortable at work. On the flip side, however, sit-stand desks were "least effective for productivity. "
In terms of the physiological effects, the reviewers report that sit-stand desks had no significant impact on obesity — even though the majority of the studies included in the review focused precisely on these effects.
The review did register some minor beneficial effects of sit-stand desks, but the researchers highlight the fact that losing weight was not one of them.
Why do people disagree about the calories burned by standing desks?
Hundreds of studies have attempted to measure the calories burned by standing instead of sitting. However, the results have varied widely due to differences in the subjects and the scientific methods involved in those studies.
There is one consistent finding: day-after-day spent passively sitting is one of the worst things that we can do to our bodies. Any activity at all, even standing still, is better for us than sitting.
How Does Standing Help Us?
At first glance, standing doesn't seem to do anything for our weight loss. After all, you are just standing still with maybe some minimal arm or leg movement. But, now, calories burned by standing desk, it burns anywhere from 100 to 200 calories per hour, while sitting at your L-Shaped standing desk tends to burn only 60 calories.
Whenever you are on your feet, you get your muscle mass going, and even if you do something as minimal as stretch your legs or tap your foot, that expends energy. So all of those little movements, plus the activated muscle mass, can get calories burned with standing desks than when you sit.
Yet, is it enough to lose weight? While standing might not replace the gym, it could still be something, right?
Standing Up Is Very Minor
Even if you use an office desk to burn calories, you aren't going to be melting away your body fat anytime soon. The extra 100 to 200 burned calories might seem like a lot, but it is barely a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of weight loss.
It's like eating one carrot stick for dinner and proclaiming that that is all you need to have a healthy dinner. It's too small to make a real daily difference and needs to be paired with something more. For losing weight while standing, you need to throw in some more movement.
For example, at your home office standing desk, maybe have a dance party during your breaks and get calories burned with standing desks that way. You could also go for a light walk, do some stretches or yoga, or hit the gym for an hour and do a real workout. Those are the activities that can get your heart rate up and should really start turning that body fat into muscle.
How many calories are really burned by standing?
A 2017 analysis published in the journal Circulation gives us the most up-to-date and widely accepted estimate of the calorie burn that comes from standing.
Doctors in that analysis looked at nearly seven hundred existing energy expenditure studies, selected the 44 most scientifically sound of the bunch, and then averaged them all together. As a result, we get the most accurate and universal results by aggregating dozens of credible studies rather than relying on potential outliers.
As it turns out, you shouldn't necessarily cancel your gym membership just yet.
While standing at your desk absolutely encourages blood flow in your body, activates the muscles in your legs and burns more calories than sitting down, standing still doesn't force those muscles to burn that many more calories than sitting.
The Circulation study found that standing burns about two extra calories per fifteen minutes than sitting down at a computer for that same amount of time.
This averages out to an additional eight calories burned every hour that we are standing instead of sitting down at our desks. Meanwhile, sitting and watching TV burns even fewer calories – passive sitting burns four fewer calories per hour than sitting while working.
Of course, every study has its limitations and detractors (some studies "prove" that standing desks boost all forms of productivity, while other studies "prove" that standing desks mainly boost productivity for tasks related to creative thinking), and new and conflicting research is released all the time.
Why Standing Desks Burn Calories
On average, people sit for 7.7 hours a day, which, combined with the amount of time we are sleeping, means that we aren't on our feet for very long. Unsurprisingly, obesity rates have continued to rise, with 1 in 5 American adults classified as morbidly obese. This sedentary lifestyle, combined with unhealthy eating habits, gives rise to weight gain throughout our youth and adult populations.
Does standing burn calories? Yes. Does standing burn more calories than sitting? Absolutely! While standing doesn't necessarily feel like exercise, you will increase "passive" calories burned by standing and staying more active. So, how many calories does a standing desk burn? Believe it or not, you can burn up to 30,000 calories over a year by standing for just three additional hours each workday. In easier to understand terms, that's the equivalent of eight pounds of fat! To reach this level of calorie burn with exercise, you would have to run ten marathons; or simply stand up.
How do the calories burned by sitting and standing at desks compare to those burned by other activities?
According to the research published in Circulation, sitting down at a desk burns roughly 20 calories per fifteen minutes, while standing at a desk burns about 22 calories per fifteen minutes. More standing desk ideas over here.
Sitting and standing while working burn more calories than sleeping or passively sitting, but how do they compare to other activities, such as cooking, gardening, or playing hopscotch with your kids?
Here is a breakdown of the average calories that various physical activities burn over the course of fifteen minutes:
- Sleeping: 11.5 calories
- Sitting and watching TV: 18.66 calories
- Sitting and working: 19.63 calories
- Standing and working: 21.92 calories
- Walking: 55.9 calories
- Downhill skiing or waterskiing: 111.5 calories
- Basketball: 149 calories
- Running: roughly 200 calories, depending on your speed
The above results for sitting, standing and walking came from the analysis published in Circulation. At the same time, the other totals were provided by Harvard Medical School and indicated the average calorie burn for a 155-pound person.
Keep in mind that these numbers are only averages and that we all burn calories differently based on our individual size, metabolism and gender. For example, due to differences in muscle mass, standing men burn twice as many calories on average as standing women.
Other Benefits of Using a Standing Desk
Reduce Back Pain
Back pain is something that 80% of adults will experience over their lifetimes and one of the greatest complaints of office workers who are seated all day.
Many studies have explored the impact of using a standing desk on office workers with long-term back pain. For example, the "Take-a-Stand Project" 1 in 2011 found that participants who spent an average of 66 minutes of their workday standing experienced a 54% reduction in the upper back and neck pain.
Lower your Risk of Heart Disease
Researchers have been studying the benefits of standing for more than 60 years! In 1953 a study of bus conductors found that those who stood all day had half the risk of heart disease-related deaths of the seated bus drivers.2
Sixty years later, a comparison of 18 studies with almost 800,000 participants came to the same conclusions as to the original bus conductor study. Their findings were that a sedentary lifestyle had been linked to a 90% increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality and a 147% increase in the risk of cardiovascular events as compared to an active lifestyle.
Lower Blood Sugar Levels and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
While an increase in blood sugar levels is expected after a meal, individuals with large spikes in blood sugar have a much higher risk of becoming diabetic. Blood sugar increases have also been linked to a general sense of poor health.
In 2013, a small study of 10 office workers showed that standing for 185 minutes after lunch reduced the workers' blood sugar levels by 43% compared to sitting for the same time period. The participants also wore pedometers that were analyzed and found no significant changes in physical movements between the two groups. This indicates that the decrease in blood sugar levels was a function of standing vs. sitting.
Another study of 23 overweight office workers found that alternating every 30 minutes between standing and sitting reduced blood sugar spikes by an average of 11.1%. Again, diet and physical activity were monitored during the experimental period.
As shown by the above studies, you can reduce blood sugar spikes and your risk of diabetes just by using a standing desk. No extra effort is required! You navigate to this website.
Boost Your Productivity
One common concern among those interested in a standing desk is the ability to complete daily tasks such as typing or answering phone calls. In addition, working while standing may take some getting used to. However, there has been no negative impact on daily activities reported by those using standing desks.
The boost in mood and energy, as well as the reduction in back, shoulder, and neck pain, is likely to improve productivity and mental alertness. When the body as a whole is in better shape, it functions more efficiently, and it can be reasonably expected that this would, in turn, boost productivity.
Frequently Asked Questions About Standing Desk
To achieve the benefits of a standing desk, it is important to adjust the platform to your height. While knowing your height and health conditions are required for best results, the rule of thumb is to raise your standing desk to elbows' height with the screen at eye level and your wrists equal to the desk surface. For in-depth instructions, follow our standing desk height guide.
When using a standing desk, an individual burns about 88 calories an hour compared to the 80 calories burned while sitting. While these additional eight calories may not seem like much, adjustable desks offer many additional health benefits.
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Although a standing desk might improve back pain, it's likely not a cure-all. For example, a standing desk might help improve your posture and take the pressure off your neck and lower back; however, it's not enough to correct more serious problems, such as scoliosis or a bulging disc.