Bad news: that standing desk at work isn’t helping you burn a significant number of calories.
Everyone wants to stay slim and fit, and the best way to do so is by burning calories. Naturally, burning calories usually involves copious amounts of exercise. After all, something like 25g of sugar (found in a bottle of coke) contains approximately 100 calories.
Standing instead of sitting has become popular over the past few years, as a way to shake off the excess any excess calories while virtually doing “nothing”. This has particularly been popular in offices, where standing desks are becoming more commonplace. But does it actually work?
Well, an analysis has shown that it indeed does, just not to the extent you may think. From the 658 studies identified for the analysis, 46 studies (with 1184 participants) were eventually chosen. What they found from the analysis was that on average, the difference between standing and sitting was 0.15kcal/min. One kcal is the equivalent of the normal calorie you can find on nutrition labels and recipes. Interestingly, men had a higher average difference in the number of calories burned than women, with 0.19kcal/min.
According to a quote in the analysis, “By substituting sitting with standing for 6 hours/day, a 65 kg person will expend an additional 54 kcal/day. Assuming no increase in energy intake, this difference in energy expenditure would be translated into the energy content of about 2.5 kg of body fat mass in 1 year.”
While seemingly insignificant, this may actually be helpful in keeping your calorie intake in check. After all, 54kcal a day is the equivalent to (roughly) 7:43 of low-intensity cycling, according to Sarah Joy Jespersen, founder of Trumi. If you want a way to mindlessly lose some calories while at work, then standing may be a good way to supplement your fitness routine.
Aside from the fitness benefits, standing up at work also has health benefits too. It helps you control your blood sugar levels while also making you more productive at work.
Even standing up for 3 hours a day yields a 1.25kg fat loss over a year. With various holidays endlessly causing weight gain, this might be a minor but useful way to somewhat stave off the kilos. However, this does not just apply to standing up at work. Rather, standing up more often at home instead of sitting down can be considered as well.
In one of the studies identified in the analysis, James Betts, a professor of health research at the University of Bath, who led the study, said “while standing does not represent an effective weight-loss strategy,” it may be able to at least prevent yourself from adding weight. After all, even small changes can add up and have a big impact over time.
In a statement, she also stated, “The biomechanics of standing means that more muscles are used to support a greater proportion of the body weight in an upright position, so should cost more energy than when sitting.”
Dr Javier Gonzalez, who was also involved in the study from the University of Bath, added: “The very small increase in energy cost of standing compared to sitting that we observed suggests that replacing time spent sitting with time spent standing is unlikely to influence our waistlines in any meaningful way.
However, while this might be an interesting way to keep your weight in check, the tried and true methods of a proper diet and fitness routine are still the best ways to do so.
A version of this article first appeared on www.menshealth.com.sg.