From the Apple Watch to standing desks, a number of products attempt to get users to stand more and sit less. But how many more calories do you burn, and can this help you lose weight?
A new study set out to answer these questions by analyzing data from nearly 50 previous studies on the topic. The studies included more than 1,100 people in total. All of these earlier studies measured the difference between calories burned while sitting vs. standing.
The results show that standing burned an extra 0.15 calories per minute, on average, compared with sitting. Men burned an extra 0.2 calories per minute while standing, which was twice as much as women, who burned an extra 0.1 calories. Men burn more calories per minute because they typically have more muscle mass than women, the researchers said.
The findings mean that, for a person who weighs about 140 pounds, substituting sitting with standing for six hours a day would burn an extra 54 calories per day, the researchers said.
This amount is probably not enough to help people lose weight, but it could help prevent weight gain, said study lead author Farzane Saeidifard, a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who presented the findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions meeting last week.
Standing is "better than sitting, but you need more activity" for weight loss and for overall health, Saeidifard said. On a calorie-burning scale of 0 to 100, where sitting is 0 and activities such as swimming and running are 100, standing would be about a 5 to 10, Saeidifard said.
A growing body of research has found that sitting too long is linked with an increased risk of a number of conditions, including breast and colon cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as an increased risk of early death.
In a separate study, Saeidifard and colleagues looked at the effects of substituting sitting with standing on the severity of heart-disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high BMI.
The researchers reviewed seven studies involving about 830 people in total. In these studies, some participants received an intervention, such as a standing desk at work, while others — the control groups — remained sedentary.
That study found that, over about four months, people in the intervention groups stood longer, on average, than those in the control groups. And those in the standing groups showed a slightly greater reduction in blood glucose levels and body-fat levels at the end of the intervention, compared with people in the control groups.
It's helpful to know that "just substituting sitting with standing" can lead to some reductions in fat and blood-sugar levels. But again, people still need more activity in their day for weight loss and overall health, Saeidifard said. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.
Overall, the main takeaway of this research is "Please sit less," Saeidifard said. "You can substitute sitting with at least standing," and preferably with other activities such as walking, she said.