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November 21, 2017

You may want to sit down for this: Standing desks won't cause you to lose weight, study says

Daily Briefing

A standing desk isn't likely to cause you to lose weight—but it might stave off weight gain, and it's still better than sitting, according to a study published in Circulation, Rachel Rettner writes for the Washington Post.

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Details on research

For the study, Farzane Saeidifard, a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic, and colleagues analyzed data from nearly 50 previous studies that compared the number of calories burned while sitting with those burned while standing. The studies included a total of over 1,100 people.

The researchers found that standing burned an average of 0.15 extra calories per minute when compared with sitting. The rate varied based on gender, with men—who typically have more muscle mass, which helps burn calories—burning around 0.2 extra calories per minute and women burning around 0.1 extra calories per minute.

Overall, according to Rettner, the findings mean that a person who weighs about 140 pounds would burn an extra 54 calories a day if he or she stood instead of sat for six hours. 

In a separate review, Saeidifard and colleagues assessed how standing instead of sitting affected risk factors for heart disease, including high BMI, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. The researchers analyzed seven studies that together involved around 830 people, some of whom received an intervention, such as a standing desk, intended to address their heart disease risk factors, while others did not.

The researchers found that, over the course of four months, people who received an intervention stood longer than people in the control groups. Further, the researchers found that people in the intervention groups, when compared with the control groups, reported slightly more significant reductions in levels of blood glucose and body fat levels.

Unfortunately, according to Saeidifard, losing an additional 54 calories a day probably isn't enough to help you lose weight—although it could help prevent weight gain.

She explained that while standing is "better than sitting, … you need more activity" to lose weight and maintain health. According to Saeidifard, on a scale where 0 is sitting and 100 is activities like running or swimming, standing would rank only about 5 or 10.

Similarly, citing the second review, Saeidifard said while it's useful to know that "just substituting sitting with standing" can lead to reductions in blood-sugar levels and fat levels, people still require more activity to lose weight and improve their health. "Please sit less," Saeidifard said. "You can substitute sitting with at least standing," and if possible, other activities such as walking (Rettner, Washington Post, 11/19).

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