Does A Standing Desk Burn More Calories?

You may have heard that sitting at a desk all day is “killing you” but will a standing desk make a difference and can you expect to shed pounds if you spend your whole day standing?

It seems obvious that standing should be beneficial but you may be surprised to learn the truth.

Standing Desk

Whether you’re working remotely or have a hybrid job, you’re going to spend quite a lot of time at your desk each day.

We recently looked at “is sitting bad for you?” and we concluded that it probably was but does getting a standing desk fix this problem?

Probably not.

According to research that was published in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health by Creasy et al. when we’re sitting at a desk – we burn about 80 calories an hour.

That’s not good. It’s about the same level of caloric burn that we have when watching TV. 

However, once we get to our feet and stand up all day, we don’t burn much more in the way of calories.

That same study concluded that you’d burn 88 calories an hour. 

That’s about 10% more calories than you burn watching TV. 

By way of comparison, walking burns 210 calories an hour!

So, if you were to stand for a full 40 hour week, you’d expend an extra 320 calories a week.

According to McDonald’s there are 550 calories in a Big Mac.

Yes, standing up all week wouldn’t even buy you an extra burger’s worth of calories. 


Are There Any Measurable Benefits To A Standing Desk?

Are There Any Measurable Benefits To A Standing Desk?

Maybe, in fact, probably. 

It ought to be obvious that you’re not going to lose weight just by standing at your desk (though we note some people combine a standing desk with a treadmill set up – they’re going to burn more calories). 

But studies show that sitting down all day is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer (particularly colon cancer and breast cancer), premature death, back pain and more.

So, it would seem reasonable to assume that you’re going to get some benefit from not sitting. 

Unfortunately, the science isn’t clear on the absolute benefits of standing, yet, so, the best we can offer here is that it’s probably a good thing to use a standing desk but how much of a good thing? 

That’s yet to be measured. 


What About Downsides To Using A Standing Desk?

It’s very important to realize that using a standing desk can be a huge physical change for someone, particularly, if like the author, you’ve spent 60-80 hours a week at your desk in the recent past.

You can’t just throw out your chair and instantly switch to 80 hours on your feet or you’re going to find it hard going and potentially, even damaging to your body.

You risk hurting your back, legs and feet by a “cold turkey” approach to standing up and that’s not a good thing. 

And, in turn, these things are likely to stress you out and increase your chances of burnout (see our guide to avoiding burnout here). 

So, if you do opt to start standing (and you probably should for the reasons outlined above) then you want to start with say, 30 minutes a day.

Then work on increasing that over time. 

Use a timer for standing sessions so that you can be sure that you do sit down when the time’s up.

You should also gauge whether standing up makes you feel more productive – it does for us, we find we’re less likely to be distracted from actual work when standing. 

It’s also worth noting that some jobs need to be done sitting down, this is particularly true for anything fiddly that requires a lot of concentration. 


Final Thoughts On Standing Desks And Your Health

So, it’s fair to say that if you want to lose weight, then a standing desk is not going to be a miracle weight loss machine – you’d be better off going for a walk every lunchtime.

In fact, we strongly encourage everyone to go for a walk at lunchtime, even if they’re not trying to lose weight – it’s good for your wellbeing. 

But it may well be that using a standing desk could be highly beneficial to your health in the long run and it can also help shake up your routine and help you feel in a better mood to tackle work.

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Morgan Graff
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