If you do a quick google search on “calories burned at a standing desk,” you’ll find an interesting array of calorie obsessed articles, decisively claiming how standing desks do or don’t help you burn more calories (yes, people will use the exact same studies to reach opposite conclusions). Several websites even go so far as to provide “Calorie burn calculators” to help you quantify the EXACT calories burned standing vs sitting.
But ask yourself: What are these articles missing?
The truth is that the answer to the question “Does a standing desk burn more calories than sitting?” is more nuanced than any calculation from a simple calorie calculator.
In this article, we want to help you understand 2 key concepts that will help you determine the calorie benefits of standing desks, and how they can help you lose weight. Plus, we want to give you a few tactics to help maximize your calorie burn with a standing desk.
Let's review those two key concepts:
In other words, it doesn’t really matter how many calories you burn while standing vs. sitting. What truly matters is how standing and moving changes the body’s overall metabolism and chemical balance.
When you use a standing desk, your body benefits from enhanced fat and calorie burning throughout the day (and night), that it can’t get from sitting all day.
Now let's dig a little deeper into the science...
The short answer is “yes.”
Research shows that standing burns an extra 0.15 calories per minute on average, compared to sitting. Men burn an extra 0.2 calories/minute and women burned an extra 0.1 calories/minute (sorry ladies).
This is great news, but it’s also hardly enough of a calorie burn to significantly help you lose weight.
Instead of looking at a small amount of extra calories burned, let’s look at the whole picture and ask ourselves, “how does standing up and moving at your standing desk change your metabolism… and how does that help you burn more fat both day and night?”
According to Dr. James Levine, the easiest way to boost your metabolism and burn more calories is to add subtle movements to your day, such as swaying, shifting, and fidgeting. Dr. Levine calls these movements “Non-Exercise Activity,” which can be best accomplished with the use of a standing desk - and they are the key to unlocking their calorie burning potential
As you move more (even subtle movements), your metabolism begins to increase. As your metabolism increases, you burn more calories. This process is known as “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” (or NEAT).
And this increase in metabolism creates a momentum-like effect. The more you move, the more "momentum" your body gains, keeping your metabolic rate high, even while you sleep. In fact, Dr. Levine has found that those that engage in these non-exercise activity movements can burn up to an additional 2,000 calories a day.
So does a standing desk burn more calories than sitting? YES, absolutely!
But can you quantify the total benefit with a calorie calculator… Definitely not!
Let’s not lose sight of the real goal, in all this. Your goal is not simply to burn more calories. If you’re reading this article, your likely mission is to learn if a standing desk can help you lose weight.
But not all weight should be considered equal. The proper way to lose weight is to burn fat, so let’s focus on our a standing desk can help kick your fat burning hormones into high gear.
As we’ve already discussed, the addition of a standing desk creates a corresponding increase in NEAT movements, such as standing, stretching, swaying and fidgeting. We also know that these NEAT movements give our metabolism a significant boost, around the clock.
The regulation of insulin helps reduce the production of fat in the body, while an increase in LPL helps the body to capture and burn more fat in the bloodstream.
In summary, these hormonal changes - triggered by moderate levels of movement at your desk - help your body to store less and burn more fat. So not only are we burning more calories in the body - we’re burning the right fuel to help us reach our weight loss goals.
Now that we've determined that a standing desk can help us burn more calories (and fat), let’s discuss a few things you can do to maximize that calorie burn:
*Click here to learn more about how standing desks help with weight loss. In that article, we go even deeper on the metabolic and hormonal benefits of standing desks.
*Click here to read more about all the positive benefits of using a standing desk.
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