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Can Standing Desks Help You Lose Weight?

Chances are someone in your office has a standing desk. And they’ve got the right idea—research has linked sitting throughout the day to an increased risk of death and chronic disease. So, by all means, please stand up! But it’s important to know that standing isn’t a silver bullet, especially when it comes to weight management. In fact, research, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, found standing burns around the same number of calories as sitting. To understand how sedentary and light physical activities affect caloric expenditure, researchers randomly assigned 74 people to four activity groups:

  • Group one sat while using a laptop, then stood while watching TV.
  • Group two sat while watching TV, then walked at a pace of 3 miles per hour or less.
  • Group three stood while watching TV, then sat while using a laptop.
  • Group four walked at a pace of 3 miles per hour or less, then sat while watching TV.

Each activity lasted for 15 minutes, with a 3-minute break in between. Participants wore a mask that measured their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production during the activities so researchers could calculate their calories burned through indirect calorimetry. They found that, on average:

  • Walking burned about 56 calories.
  • Sitting while using a laptop burned about 20 calories.
  • Sitting while watching TV burned about 19 calories.
  • Standing while watching TV burned about 22 calories.

These findings suggest that if you’re trying to lose weight, just substituting sitting with standing probably won’t do the job. But substituting sitting or standing with walking, even slowly for 15 minutes, is a great place to start working off excess calories. And if you’re ready to really take care of your health, you’ll need more activity than that: the 2015–2020 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans states that adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week and muscle-strengthening activities twice a week, and adding more aerobic activity leads to even greater health benefits.

Source: Journal of Physical Activity and Health

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