Would switching to a standing desk help you lose weight? Maybe so, research review suggests

Using a standing desk burns about 54 calories per day—but that could add up to 5.5 pounds of weight loss per year, according to a research review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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About the research review

For the meta-analysis, researchers reviewed 46 studies involving a total of 1,184 participants that compared calories burned sitting with calories burned standing. The participants were, on average, 33 years old and 143 pounds, and 60% were men.

The researchers found that standing rather than sitting burned an additional 0.15 calories per minute. As a result, a 143-pound adult who spent an additional six hours per day standing instead of sitting (for 365 days a year)—and did not change any other dietary or exercise habits—would lose an average of 5.5 pounds per year. But that average concealed big differences between the participants, the researchers said: Men, for instance, tended to burn about twice as many extra calories as women.

According to Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, the senior author on the review and a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, the findings show that standing "has some potential … to be used in weight-control strategies."

Lopez-Jimenez acknowledged, however, that more research needs to be done on possible negative effects of standing, such as back pain, leg soreness, and varicosity due to blood pooling in the feet and ankles. In addition, he noted that as people became acclimated to standing, they might burn fewer calories.

Discussion

Lopez-Jimenez acknowledged that the calorie deficit from standing may be small—but he said that should not stop people from considering a standing desk, especially since people who stand are more likely to move around during the day. "Our results might be an underestimate because when people stand they tend to make spontaneous movements like shifting weight or swaying from one foot to another, taking small steps forward and back," he said. "People may even be more likely to walk to the filing cabinet or trash bin."

Lopez-Jimenez added, "I tell my patients to try to apply some common sense," recommending that people stand during the day "as many times as you can" for at least 30 minutes at a time. "The ultimate goal is to avoid sitting for too long continuously," he said.

Separately, Rachel Bond, the director of Women's Heart Health at Lenox Hill Hospital, said, "Any amount of exercise is good exercise. When it comes to sitting, we can see clear-cut detrimental effects to cardiovascular disease risk factors" (Healy, "Science Now," Los Angeles Times, 1/31; Dallas, HealthDay News, 2/1; Greenfield, Bloomberg, 2/1).

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