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Do Standing Desks Really Help You Lose Weight?

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A sedentary lifestyle in general, and sitting in particular, is emphatically the new smoking. Experts in the medical field state that prolonged sitting exposes people to the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and sudden death. 

This is concerning news for the general population, with studies revealing that more than 36 per cent of adults are morbidly overweight. However, office workers seem to be the most affected, since they spend about 9 hours every day (on average) sitting behind a desk. 

For this particular group of people, prolonged standing is also not much of an option; the effects of prolonged standing can be just as harmful as prolonged sitting. It is against this backdrop that sit-stand desks have risen to prominence.

Sit-stand desks (or standing desks) have been widely embraced by the professional community because of the potential advantages they offer. According to various studies, standing desks can help boost focus and productivity, improve mood and energy, improve health, and help foster weight loss.

While the other benefits have mainly been verifiable, the jury is still firmly out on that last one. The question has sparked fierce debate among members of the professional circle, and there’s been no consensus as to what extent, if any, standing desks affect weight loss. 

In this article, we’ll examine the question of whether standing desks play any role in weight loss in-depth. 

What The Studies Say

According to a recent study, approximately 430,000 fatalities may be caused by excessive sitting. Sitting for an extended period of time might impair the body’s capacity to metabolize fat and control blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Furthermore, some studies also suggest that simply standing rather than sitting can help prevent some of these negative impacts. Other research has found that sit-stand workstations, in particular, encourage people to move more and therefore burn more calories. For several people, this cutting-edge furniture, which can now be seen in most modern offices, can aid in weight loss. 

However, a fresh evaluation of previous research casts doubt on these assumptions. April Chambers, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, led a preliminary assessment of 53 papers on the advantages of sit-stand workstations.

There were 47 experimental trials among the 53 studies in the review. The research looked at between six and two hundred and thirty-one study participants over a year. Behaviour (for example, time spent sitting and standing), physiological, work performance, psychological, discomfort, and posture were the six parameters investigated by Chambers.

Nancy A. Baker, a professor of occupational therapy at Tufts University in Medford, MA, explained that the study found relatively modest effects on any of the six parameters, with changes in behaviour and discomfort being the most significant effects.

Another way to put it is that people who have sit-stand desks spend less time sitting and spend more time standing than people who use conventional desks. Additionally, those using sit-stand desks said they were more comfortable at work. In contrast, sit-stand desks were the least effective for boosting productivity.

Even though most of the studies that were included in the review specifically examined these effects, the reviewers concluded that sit-stand workstations have no significant impact on obesity. Researchers found some minor benefits of sit-stand desks, but stress that weight loss is not one of them.

In a separate study, it’s revealed that sit-stand desks do in fact burn calories, but the amount of calories burned by them is negligible, certainly not significant enough to have any notable impact. That said, researchers note that the impact of standing desks can be felt after sustained usage. 

Researchers discovered that standing does burn calories, but not a lot of them: roughly 54 calories (226kJ) during a six-hour day of standing. To put this into context, that’s the same number of calories you’ll get from eating a carrot or an orange.

A review of over 700 studies about the health benefits of standing desks was conducted by the researchers. However, they found that only 46 studies could be considered thorough enough to be included. These studies were careful not to include other possible calorie-burning behaviours and only measured sitting vs. standing. According to the researchers, they also used a scientific method of calculating calories. More than 1,100 people who use standing desks were studied in total.

Standing, explained Lopez-Jimenez, a co-author of the study, burns more calories than sitting. However, the research also found that the number of calories burned was not nearly as high as some standing desk advocates claimed.

While 54 calories per day may not seem like much, the researchers concluded that someone could lose 10 kilograms for four years—roughly the same amount of time that standing desks have been popular. According to the study, men burn twice as many calories per minute while standing as women do.

Lopez-Jimenez, an obesity and cardiovascular disease researcher, nevertheless recommends adopting standing desks at work, despite the study’s meagre findings. According to studies, people who use standing desks move more during the day, burning more calories than those who simply stand. There’s also the issue of back problems caused by prolonged sitting, which is something that standing workstations were designed to address.

As often as you can, Lopez-Jimenez recommends standing for at least 30 minutes at a time throughout the day. The goal is to avoid sitting for prolonged periods. Our glossary and standing desk faq offers more answers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much weight do we lose by standing all day?

According to various studies, adults can lose about 54 calories per day by standing up as opposed to sitting for prolonged periods. This adds up to about 5.5 pounds per year or 22 pounds after four years.

Standing desks are good for you, say doctors, but can they improve your health?

The short answer is yes. Standing desks may help you avoid a wide range of illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and associated health risks.

Should you ditch your chair for a standing desk?

Standing desks offer a variety of benefits that most office chairs do not, but standing all day is likely to take time to get used to. The best approach is to combine sitting, standing, and movement throughout your work day.

Author

I'm a product researcher at Product Reviewer. I help fellow Aussie consumers make better buying decisions.

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