Does Standing At Your Desk Burn Calories?

It is generally accepted and known that standing burns more calories than sitting. But is it significant and does this mean you should invest in a standing desk? In short, the research says this can be a good idea.

Key Takeaways:

  • Standing at your desk can burn up to 30% more calories than sitting.
  • Research shows that energy expenditure standing is greater than sitting, particularly in obese people.
  • Whether or not using a standing desk will help people lose weight in the long term is unclear.

Standing At Your Desk Does Burn Calories

Standing burns calories because it engages many core muscle groups, but obviously not as many as strenuous sports such as running or cycling. It does, however, burn slightly more calories than sitting down. 

Generally, subject to your weight, age, health condition, and gender, you could burn between 100 and 200 calories per hour. For example, a heavier person will burn more calories than a lighter person due to the extra work required to support their body weight.

What The Research Says

Several studies show that standing burns more calories and energy than people who sit more. Differences in caloric expenditure have been observed in students who use standing desks over 45 minutes compared to those who were asked to perform the same classroom tasks while sitting down. 

In a study published in Health, the authors said, “The use of a standing desk modestly increases energy expenditure in obese subjects but does not have the same effect in those of normal weight. It is unknown whether the increased energy expenditure would be maintained over time in the obese subjects/individuals, as they may adapt to the standing position.”

Essentially, the results for normal-weight individuals were not as apparent compared to obese participants. The study outlined that normal-weighted people may want to choose a standing for reasons other than calorie burning such as improved spine health and promoting better productivity.

However, a literature review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology looked at 658 historical studies on the subject. The review found that, on average, if a person replaced sitting with standing for 6 hours daily, that person would burn 54 kcal daily. The difference in energy expenditure would be translated into the energy content of about 2.5 kg of body fat mass in 1 year.

Of course, the amount of energy expenditure and calories burned will depend on how long you stand at your standing desk.

Why Standing Burns More Calories Than Sitting

As previously mentioned, standing burns more calories than sitting because it engages more muscles and requires more energy to maintain an upright position. When you stand, your body uses muscles in your legs, core, and back to keep you balanced and upright – as long as you have proper posture. 

This continuous muscle engagement increases your overall energy expenditure compared to sitting, where your muscles are mostly relaxed, and your body is supported by an ergonomic chair. Your muscles’ effort to keep you stable and maintain good posture adds to the calorie burn.

One factor to consider is that most people will sit during their working day and stand for brief periods.

The Factors That Influence Calorie Burning

Many factors explain why energy expenditure is greater in standing than in sitting. As mentioned in some of the aforementioned studies, here are some reasons for this.

Larger bodies lose more calories

If you carry greater weight, your muscles must work more to maintain your balance. That means that if you weigh more, you will burn more calories simply standing around than someone who weighs less. 

For example, someone weighing 120 kg will burn more calories than someone weighing 80 kg when standing for the same amount of time.

Younger people burn more calories 

Your age is also an important consideration. Younger people have faster metabolisms, so they burn calories more efficiently even when standing. As we age, our metabolism slows, so we may burn less calories standing than we did when we were younger.

Men burn more calories

Men typically have larger muscular mass than women, leading to increased calorie expenditure. Muscle tissue takes more energy to maintain than fat tissue, thus people with larger muscle mass will burn more calories while standing.

Your posture matters

Standing properly (engaging your core, keeping your shoulders back, and distributing your weight evenly) allows you to burn more calories. Poor posture, such as slouching forward, may diminish muscular engagement and lower calorie burn. 

The more actively you use your muscles, the more energy (and calories) you expend. So, if this is your focus, concentrate on your posture.

Physical fitness

If you are physically fit and have conditioned muscles, your body will use energy more efficiently. Even performing something as simple as standing, having more muscle mass results in a larger calorie burn. Being fit can help you burn more calories.

Try to get warm

Here’s an interesting fact: the temperature of your surroundings also matters. Standing in a chilly room may cause your body to work harder to stay warm, burning more calories. This is because your body must put in the effort and spend energy (calories) to keep you warm.

On the other hand, in a warmer atmosphere, you may burn fewer calories since your body does not have to work as hard to remain comfortable. If you want to use more energy then you can try some of these handy tips on staying active at your desk.

General physiological condition

If you have a fast metabolism, possibly due to an active thyroid, you’ll burn more calories standing. Overall health issues can have an impact on this. Muscle or joint pain, for example, may impair your ability to engage your muscles adequately, decreasing calorie burn.

Can You Lose Weight Using A Standing Desk? 

The long-term effects of standing desks on weight loss are not clear. However, current research suggests that standing more during the working day can potentially play a part in mitigating against obesity in the long-term. 

Using a standing desk is a fantastic start, but it’s not a magic bullet for weight loss. But it’s safe to say that using a standing desk isn’t bad for you.

Using a standing desk is about creating a healthy routine and self-awareness about posture. Combining standing with other healthy habits, like eating a balanced diet and incorporating regular exercise, will give you the best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does standing at a desk burn calories?

Yes, standing at a desk does burn calories. On average, standing burns about 100-200 calories per hour compared to 60-130 calories per hour while sitting. Standing engages more muscles, particularly in the legs and core, contributing to modest weight loss and offering additional health benefits like improved posture and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Do standing desks help you lose weight?

Standing desks can potentially help you lose weight by increasing your calorie burn, however, the long-term effects are not well understood. Standing uses more energy than sitting. Over time, this additional calorie expenditure can potentially contribute to some weight loss, especially when combined with other healthy habits like regular exercise and a balanced diet.

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