Standing rather than sitting burns, on average, an additional 0.15 calories per minute — a small increase that could add up to a weight loss of nearly 6 pounds per year.
Is sitting the new smoking? There’s plenty of research that claims associations between sedentary behaviors and mortality, but the findings of these studies tend to vary.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reviewed 46 studies, selected out of a pool of 658, that looked at the effects of standing, rather than sitting, on energy expenditure in an attempt to understand how beneficial it really is to get up from that swivel chair. A total of more than 1,100 participants were involved in these 46 studies.
The review found that, on average, standing increases calories burned, which could promote weight loss.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Farzane Saeidifard of the Mayo Clinic’s department of cardiovascular medicine found that, on average, participants who stood burned 0.15 kilocalories per minute more than those who sat. While this number was “less than expected and generally perceived,” they calculate that it translates to 54 extra calories burned per day for a 145-pound individual who spends about six additional hours standing. Though this is a modest daily deficit, if calorie intake remains the same, over the course of a year, it would result in a 5.5-pound weight loss.
For reference, a study in which participants in the United States tracked their activity for an average of 14 hours a day found that participants spent about half that time sedentary.
The authors also found that, on average, men burned more calories standing than women. The researchers attribute this to the fact that men’s bodies tend to have greater muscle mass, and energy expenditure is directly linked to this element of body composition.
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Standing is considered a form of “non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).” NEAT consists of low energy activities that elevate calories burned above baseline, which is the level of energy the body expends at rest.
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Citation: Saeidifard, Farzane; et al. "Differences of Energy Expenditure While Sitting Versus Standing: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis," European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, January 2018, doi: 10.1177/2047487317752186.