In a world where our daily routines often involve spending long hours at desks and workstations, the battle of the bulge has taken on a new battleground: the chair. This kind of lifestyle can make us lazy and habitual to the sedentary lifestyle, and due to their busy schedules, many people cannot find time for walks or the gym.
Thankfully, we no longer live in a time where burning calories is exclusively associated with heart-pounding workouts and intense cardio sessions. Today, sitting versus standing has become a subject of scientific scrutiny and discussions around water coolers and virtual meetups.
As we strive to find simple and impactful ways to stay fit while performing predominantly seated tasks, we need to uncover the truths behind these seemingly inert postures. Join us as we review the calories burned standing vs. sitting and explore how we can optimize our health.
Is Standing Better than Sitting for Weight Loss?
Before we learn more, it’s vital to understand how weight loss occurs. Weight loss is determined by calories burned and we need to consume a certain daily calorie count to maintain weight (this can fluctuate depending on individual characteristics such as gender and height).
To put it in simple terms, if we consume fewer calories than our daily energy expenditure, we will gradually lose weight. However, if we consume more calories than we need, we may gain weight.
Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to check whether standing is better than sitting. Multiple studies have evaluated the calories burned standing vs. sitting. These studies have highlighted that standing is much better than sitting as the calories burned are higher (2).
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How Many Calories Do You Burn Standing for 8 Hours vs. Sitting?
The calories burned standing vs. sitting are dependent on age, gender, weight, and BMI. Regarding calories burned standing for 8 hours, it has been discovered that a 20-year-old American female who weighs 100 pounds and is 5 feet 4 inches tall can burn 691 calories (4 hours of sitting and 4 hours of standing). This is quite high in comparison to the 453 calories that are burned by 8 hours of sitting (3).
At the same time, a 20-year-old American male with the same weight and height may burn 500 calories by sitting for 8 hours. The same person can lose 762 calories through a combination of sitting and standing for 8 hours (4 hours each) (3).
Does Standing Burn Calories More than Sitting?
When you’re standing, your muscles are engaged to support your body’s weight and maintain balance. These subtle muscle contractions contribute to a slightly higher calorie expenditure than sitting, where your muscles are more relaxed.
Standing can burn more calories than sitting, as the body utilizes more energy to support our body weight, and our muscles are more engaged when we are standing. This causes a higher calorie utilization. When we are sitting, we are not generally moving and do not need to support as much weight, which results in fewer calories being burned. Sitting for a long period of time can also contribute to certain health conditions, such as increased blood pressure levels and cholesterol levels (14).
It is essential to remember that the calorie-burning difference between sitting and standing isn’t astronomical. The increase in calorie expenditure from standing may vary based on factors such as body weight, metabolism, and the duration of time spent in each position.
Does Standing for 7 Hours Burn Calories?
Standing for 7 hours may burn more calories than sitting for the same duration. While standing, your muscles are actively engaged to support your body weight and maintain balance. This can increase overall energy expenditure in comparison to sitting.
On average, an individual who weighs 170 pounds can burn approximately 160 calories when standing for an hour compared to 104 calories burned while sitting (3). In light of these figures, standing for 7 hours can burn more than 1,000 calories.
Similarly, the number of calories you can lose can change according to the number of hours, body weight, metabolism, and level of activity you engage in.
Is Standing for 8 Hours Bad?
Standing for 8 hours straight can affect your body both positively and negatively. Understanding if standing is bad for your health is dependent on factors such as your posture, health conditions, and conditions in which you are standing.
No activity is good when done to the extreme. Standing for a long time, particularly for as long as 8 hours, can cause adverse physical issues such as muscle fatigue, hip position, changes in posture, and potential discomfort (1). It is better to alternate your time between standing and sitting to maintain a healthy weight (7). If you have a job that requires you to sit for hours, you should take a mini-break and walk around for a while as this will (5):
- Improve circulation
- Alleviate back pressure
- Rest your eyes
- Allow joint and muscle mobility
A combined approach to movement can help you beat the drawbacks of sitting for long hours. Ergonomic experts recommend standing, walking, and moving around for a minimum of 2 hours during an 8-hour workday (7).
Prolonged standing poses many health risks, which can include:
Lower Limb Muscle Fatigue
The pooling of blood in the legs can affect the lower-body muscles, which can cause pain, fatigue, and swelling in the feet (9).
Prolonged standing could weaken veins as they have to work against gravity. When veins are weakened or damaged, this affects their potential to transfer blood, which could cause blood to flow back and lead to the expansion of veins or the development of varicose veins (13).
Individuals who do certain jobs, such as bartenders or teachers, often face this issue due to the nature of their work. Taking mini-breaks and sitting for a while is important to mitigate these risks.
What Are the Benefits of Standing?
The debate of standing vs. sitting has raged for a long time. If you are looking for the easiest way to shed unwanted pounds, standing could help cure your woes. Beyond just a physical position, standing has garnered attention due to its potential to reshape our well-being.
A few rewards it can bring include:
Fighting the Risk of Obesity
While standing, there is a greater likelihood of burning more calories than while sitting. This is because your muscles are working to keep you upright. A study has found that standing for six hours decreases the chance of obesity in both men and women (17).
Standing can be beneficial for those with diabetes or similar metabolic diseases. Some findings have suggested that standing for approximately 5-minute intervals during prolonged periods of sitting can reduce postprandial (post-meal) blood sugar levels by up to 34% in postmenopausal women (17).
Reducing the Likelihood of Untimely Death
A sedentary lifestyle is not good as it increases the chances of diabetes, heart disease, and death. According to a study, standing more and leading an active lifestyle can help increase your lifespan by at least two years (16).
Helping Improve Posture
Standing can also strengthen your muscles, particularly those in the legs, feet, and ankles, which can help enhance your posture and mobility. Here’s how you can improve your posture:
- Stand up straight with your legs aligned straight below your hips.
- Tuck in your tailbone and push your shoulders back. Straighten your neck and hold your head up as high as you can.
Maintaining this posture can tone your muscles and improve mobility.
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What Are the Risks of Sitting for a Long Time?
It’s important to include regular movement breaks into your day to mitigate the risks of sitting for long periods. You should aim to stand, stretch, and move for a few minutes every hour. If you have a desk job, you should consider using a sit-stand desk, which will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
Some drawbacks associated with sitting for a long time include (14):
May Reduce Lifespan
Leading a sedentary lifestyle with very little physical activity can lead to many adverse health effects. It can shorten our lifespan and make us victims of an early death (16).
Increases Risk of Diabetes
Sitting for hours may also increase the risk of diabetes. While scientists aren’t certain why this happens, they believe that sitting posture has something to do with insulin, the hormone that is responsible for the regulation of blood sugar levels (17).
May Cause Blood Clotting
Prolonged sitting could also make our blood clot. Sitting for hours may cause deep vein thrombosis, a clot that forms in the blood due to extended sitting. This may travel to the lungs, which can be incredibly risky. DVT can cause leg pain and swelling, but many people will not notice it. Therefore, it is essential to walk around and take breaks (9).
Can Amplify Anxiety
When you are glued to your screen and spend hours sitting, your sleep cycle can become disturbed. This can cause anxiety and other psychological troubles (8).
May Affect the Back
People often sit in a bad posture with a rounded back. This isn’t a favorable posture and can cause harm to the back. Sitting like this for several hours can affect the spine and cause neck or back pain.
What Are Some Good Standing Desk Workouts?
What are some good standing desk workouts? If you have a desk job, you can use it to your advantage. Several desk-oriented workouts can help you to stay fit and in shape. Here are some of the best exercises you can perform at your desk:
Chair dips can build muscles and tone the overall body. All this requires is a chair. The exercise is performed as follows:
- Place a sturdy chair behind you, ensuring it won’t slide or move during the exercise. Make sure that it is stable enough to support your weight.
- Sit on the edge of the chair with your hands gripping the front edge. Your fingers should face forward and your palms should be kept shoulder-width apart.
- Slide your buttocks off the chair and support your body weight with your hands. Bend your knees slightly and keep your feet flat on the floor. Your body should be just in front of the chair.
- Lower your body by bending your elbows. Keep your elbows pointing backward and close to your body. Lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground or at a comfortable depth.
- Press into the chair with your palms and straighten your arms to lift your body back to the initial position. Exhale as you push back up. Keep your movements controlled and smooth.
- Perform the exercise for 5-6 reps if you are a beginner.
Desk push-ups are a modified version of regular push-ups performed at a desk. If you are free at your office, you can utilize the time to complete this exercise:
- Stand facing a sturdy desk or elevated surface.
- Place your hands on the edge of the desk, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your body should be at an angle, with your feet a few steps away from the desk.
- Lower your chest toward the desk by bending your elbows. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Push away from the desk by extending your arms and returning to the initial position.
- Perform the exercise for 7-8 reps if you are a beginner.
Standing Pilates Exercises
Standing Pilates exercises combine upper-body, core, and lower-body exercises. These can be effective for building your overall strength. To perform this exercise:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders relaxed, and spine elongated. Engage your core muscles to maintain good posture throughout the exercise.
- Practice deep breathing. Focus on engaging your deep abdominal muscles throughout. This will stabilize and support your spine.
- Extend your arms to the sides at shoulder height. Make small forward and backward circles with your arms while maintaining good posture and engaging your core.
- Lift one leg off the ground while keeping your pelvis stable. This challenges your balance and engages your core. Perform this movement for each leg.
- Rise onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the ground. Lower them back down. This works the calf muscles and challenges your balance.
- Extend one arm overhead and reach the side, creating a gentle lateral stretch. Return to the center and switch sides. Keep your core engaged to ensure your spine is stabilized.
- Stand with your hands on your hips. Circle your hips in a gentle and controlled manner, clockwise and counterclockwise.
- Lift your knees alternatively, engaging the core and focusing on controlled movements.
- Place your hands on your hips. Rotate your upper body to one side and then the other, keeping your hips stable. This helps with spinal mobility.
These exercises may appear easy, but they require practice to ensure you make the most out of them. Try performing them under the guidance of a certified fitness trainer, as they require controlled breathing and proper form.
Read more: 10 Glute Stretches for Instant Relief .
The Bottom Line
As we reflect on the difference between standing and sitting, it is evident that choice of posture is not merely a matter of convenience. Instead, it is a powerful determinant of our health and well-being.
The discussion about calories burned by standing vs. sitting highlights the importance of moving around and remaining active. The notion that the simple act of standing can contribute to increased calorie burn may seem modest, but in the grand scheme of a sedentary world, these seemingly small differences can lead to substantial health benefits.
As our lives are often confined to screens and chairs, we need to empower ourselves with the knowledge that every time we stand or stretch takes us one step closer to a healthier and more engaged existence.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Will I lose weight if I stand all day?
Yes, you can lose weight if you stand for a few hours throughout the day. It has been observed that adults can burn more calories when standing compared to sitting.
How many calories do 10,000 steps burn?
An average individual may burn 30-40 calories per 1,000 steps, which leads to a loss of 300-400 calories when walking for 10,000 steps.
Does drinking water burn calories?
Cold water may increase your capacity to burn calories as the body expends energy to heat water for digestion.
How many calories do you burn in a day without exercise?
You will burn 1,300 to 2,000 calories a day without exercise. This is dependent on age, gender, metabolism, and daily activities.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A detailed description of the short-term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged standing for office computer work (2018, tandfonline.com)
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- Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of an active break and postural shift intervention on preventing neck and low-back pain among high-risk office workers: a 3-arm cluster-randomized controlled trial (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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- How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk? (n.d., thestandingdesk.com)
- Increased anxiety associated with sitting down (n.d., biomedcentral.com)
- Regulation of Increased Blood Flow (Hyperemia) to Muscles During Exercise: A Hierarchy of Competing Physiological Needs (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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- The effects of prolonged sitting, prolonged standing, and activity breaks on vascular function, and postprandial glucose and insulin responses: A randomised crossover trial (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Varicose Veins (2022, nhlbi.nih.gov)
- What are the risks of sitting too much? (n.d., mayoclinic.org)
- Why Sitting Too Much Is Bad for Your Health (2022, webmd.com)
- Why Sitting Increases Your Risk of Dying Sooner (2013, forbes.com)
- Workplace standing time and the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes: a longitudinal study in adults (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)