Standing Up At Your Desk To Lose Weight? You’re Wasting Your Time, Study Suggests


Research shows the average person burns less than 10 calories after standing up for an hour.


BATH, England — Sit or stand? That seems to be a question plaguing many health-conscious office employees who would otherwise be glued to their chairs at work all day long. But with so many studies suggesting sitting all day is horrible for our bodies, plenty of workers are requesting stand-up desk options from their companies. Now a new study finds the craze carries little benefit for people looking to lose weight.

Researchers from the University of Bath say those who spend their day on their feet only burn slightly more calories — about nine more per hour — than colleagues who stay on their butts. In fact, it would take a person nearly an entire workday standing at their desk just to burn off the calories from their morning cup of coffee.

“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 waist lines in any meaningful way,” says study co-author Dr. Javier Gonzalez, a senior lecturer with Bath’s Department of Health, in a media release.

Gonzalez and his team, who collaborated with researchers from Westmont College in California, sought out to determine the “true energy cost” of sitting compared to standing for a similar period of time. The authors tested the resting metabolic rates of 46 healthy men and women, and then had them either sit down, stand up, or lie down. Afterwards, the researchers calculated how many calories participants burnt from each position.

“We found that energy cost increase of 0.65 kJ per minute from sitting to standing naturally which equates to a 12% difference. However current interventions to reduce prolonged sitting like standing desks or wearable technologies only increase standing by a maximum of two hours per day,” says Gregg Afman, a professor of kinesiology at Westmont. “This limited time-frame would cause a person to expend less than 20 kcals more each day.”

In other words, the number of calories a person would likely lose is hardly significant, and likely wouldn’t aid one’s attempts to trim down his or her waistline.

“To put this difference in context, it would require an additional 20 hours of standing time, on average, to burn off a medium latte,” says Gonzalez.

That said, Gonzalez doesn’t debate the other health benefits that studies have touted for standing up at work versus sitting. Previous research has tied being sedentary for extended periods of time to heart disease, cancer, and even clogged arteries. Another study claims standing at your desk can even boost productivity. But if you’re doing it to lose weight, well, you’re better off just getting to the gym regularly.

“In order to lose body weight, people should focus on increasing physical activity and focus on their diet too,” says Gonzalez.

The full study was published November 8, 2018 in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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