Standing vs. Sitting: Which Burns More Calories?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on March 4, 2020

Sitting for long hours is linked to various health problems. Although it is inevitable to sit for long hours, you should learn various ways on how to stand more at work. Of course, standing requires more energy, which means that it burns more calories. 

In this article, we will learn how calories are burned, the factors affecting calories burn, the number of calories burned when standing or sitting, which has better health benefits, and how to stand more at work. 

How Calories Are Burned

Due to the prevalence of obesity, many methods and products for weight loss are available in the market. And one of the common promises of these methods and products is to help you burn calories. Here are just a few ways on how calories are burned:

  • Exercise

It is already a common understanding that exercise is not only good for our entire being but also for losing weight. According to experts, the more you spend time exercising, and the more the intensity of the exercise, the more calories you will burn. 

The calories you burn may further depend on your pace, weight, and height. If you weigh more, you will most likely burn more calories. Anyway, the calories you need to burn may also depend on these factors, so you should know how to calculate it (1)

  • Build muscles

Exercise also helps in building muscles. Muscles are responsible for burning more calories without doing anything. You can burn up to 50 calories even if at rest if you have 10 pounds of muscles. On the other hand, you can burn around 20 calories every 10 pounds of fats (2)

One of the best exercises is strength training. If you get older, you will have a slower metabolism. If you want to avoid this to happen, you can do some strength training even just a few times a week. Your abdomen, chest, thighs, and arms contain the largest muscles, which means that these parts burn the largest calories. 

  • Drink caffeinated black or green tea

Do you know that stimulants can help burn calories?  Stimulants give the impression that you have a high dose of energy, which can make you perform more physical activities. Aside from that, caffeine can lead to metabolic changes, which can burn more calories (3)

Furthermore, black or green tea may contain catechins. Catechins are linked to weight loss. Several studies show that caffeine consumption makes users lose weight compared to those who have lesser caffeine intake. But you should drink the appropriate amount of caffeine as too much of it can cause anxiety, palpitation, upset stomach, and dizziness.

  • Smaller, frequent meals

Your gastrointestinal tract is activated every time you eat food. If you digest food, your body absorbs nutrients. It also needs enough calories for you to have proper digestion. That is the reason why if you eat smaller meals frequently, the more the calories your body will burn. 

  • Eat breakfast

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, skipping breakfast may result in weight gain. If you don’t eat breakfast, chances are you will consume more calories for the rest of the day. Other studies show that skipping breakfast is linked to a higher body mass index. 

It is also associated with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and obesity. Nutritionists stress that the most crucial meal of the day is breakfast. The reason why breakfast is called as such is that it is a meal that breaks the fast (4)

What Affects Calories Burn

Several factors affect the number of calories burned every day. Here are just a few factors that affect calories burn (5)

  • Age: Older people tend to burn fewer calories than younger ones. 
  • Sex: Women burn fewer calories than men.
  • Daily activity: People who have more physical activities burn more calories.
  • Body composition: More muscles means more calories burned. 
  • Weight: Heavier people burn more calories than less-heavier ones.
  • Thermogenesis: the more the energy the body uses, the more calories burned. 
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women burn more calories
  • Breast-feeding: Extra calories are burned by women who breastfeed. 

How Many Calories Burned When Standing and Sitting

You can burn about 100 to 200 calories every hour if you are merely standing. But the calories you burn mainly depend upon your age, sex, weight, and height. On the other hand, the calories you burn are only 60 to 130 calories every hour if you are sitting (6)

A woman who weighs 100 pounds can burn 453 calories by sitting for 8 hours. On the other hand, a woman with the same weight can burn 691 calories by standing for 4 hours and sitting for 4 hours. The difference in calories burned over 8 hours is 238 calories. And that is already a huge number of calories burned compared to when you merely sit throughout the day. 

A man who weighs 100 pounds can burn 500 calories by sitting for 8 hours. On the other hand, a woman with the same weight can burn 762 calories by standing for 4 hours and sitting for 4 hours. The difference in calories burned over 8 hours is 262 calories.

Sitting burns fewer calories because your body doesn’t move. Although the mere standing may not involve several movements, you can burn more calories. This is because muscle mass is activated. As we already learned, the more muscles you have, the more calories you will burn. Of course, your body moves, including those foot stretches and taps.

Which Is Better For Your Health

Probably, you are guilty if you sit too much throughout the day. Remember that your body is not designed to sit all day. If you stay in the same position for many hours, you are putting your body at risk of various health diseases (7). So which is better for your health?

  • Standing can help prevent weight gain and obesity

Your body burns more calories if you stand more compared to if you sit. The truth about the sedentary lifestyle is that it might kill you (8).  You know what will happen if you are overweight, much worse obese. 

The good news is that standing for long hours is proven to reduce the risk of obesity. And this is true for both men and women. A study shows that men who stand for more than 6 hours a day have lower chances of obesity around 59 percent. On the other hand, women who stand for more than 6 hours a day have a 35 percent reduced probability of obesity (9)

  • Standing lowers the risk of heart diseases

Standing can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It also helps to maintain your weight, which is also linked to a decreased chance of heart diseases. A study shows that standing can help improve good cholesterol while reducing the levels of bad cholesterol (10)

Sitting is linked to increased waist size, weight, blood sugar levels, and bad cholesterol. It is advised to substitute even just 2 hours of standing for sitting to improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels. If you stand more, your risk of heart diseases will be reduced. 

  • Standing reduces the risk of diabetes and other metabolic diseases

 A study recommends breaking up sitting withstanding. And if you have time, you can substitute walking from standing (11). A study shows that you can reduce up to 34 percent of blood sugar levels by doing this shift. 

This is also highly suggested for women during their postmenopausal period. Standing and walking can reduce insulin levels and blood glucose levels. This is an indication that standing truly helps in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

  • Standing can decrease the mortality rate

Sedentary time, such as sitting, increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, much worse death (12). If you reduce excessive sitting, you can add up to 2 years of your life expectancy. So if you want to have a longer life span, then make it a habit to stand more than sitting. If you want greater health benefits, opt to run as you can burn more calories. 

  • Standing reduces the risk of cancer

Do you know that around 40,000 cases of colon cancer and about 50,000 cases of breast cancer every year are due to inactivity? And even if you engage in regular exercise, you are still at a higher risk of getting cancer if you are used to prolonged sitting (13)

If you make standing a routine, you will have a reduced risk of inflammation. It can also help in improving your circulation. And yes, prolonged sitting is one of the biggest factors of cancer. So if you want to prevent cancer, you should be more active to burn more calories. 

  • Standing can reduce back pain

A study shows that people who are fond of sitting and standing experience lesser back pain. But those people who sit throughout the day usually experience chronic back pain (14). Another study also shows that people who shift their positions from sitting to standing every 30 minutes experience less fatigue and back discomfort (15)

How to Stand More at Work

We already discussed how a sedentary lifestyle, such as prolonged sitting, can lead to various health diseases. It cannot be denied, but if we are facing heavy workloads and desk jobs, we tend to sit throughout the day just to finish them. 

Yes, we have to face our tasks, but we should make sure that we also find time to stand even just for two hours. If possible, we should stand for four hours for every workday (16).  Just make it a goal to stand, walk, or even do stretching during those times allocated for standing. 

Here are some of the ways to stand more at work (17):

  • Try to stand up if you receive a phone call
  • Position your recycling and trash cans away from you so that if you need to throw something, you are required to stand up
  • If someone visits your desk, you can stand up when greeting or speaking with the
  • If you need to talk with your co-worker, you should go to his or her desk instead of messaging, calling, or emailing him or her
  • You don’t need to keep a big water bottle within your reach. It is advisable to have a small glass instead so that you are compelled to have frequent trips to get water. 
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator
  • During presentations or meetings, you can stand at the back of the room instead of sitting at the time (if possible)
  • Make sure that your feet are convenient to move anytime. If possible, choose an adjustable desk
  • Instead of commuting, try to bike or walk to your workplace. If you ride a train or bus, you should opt to stand than to sit

Conclusion

There are many ways on how you can burn calories, such as exercising, building muscles, drinking caffeinated black or green tea, eating breakfast, and not skipping meals. The calories you burn may also depend on various factors such as age, sex, daily activity, body composition, weight, thermogenesis, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.   

Furthermore, the calories you burn are higher when standing than sitting. Imagine burning about 100 to 200 calories by mere standing. If you are a woman, you can burn up to 691 calories, and if you are a man, you can burn up to 762 calories by standing and sitting for 4 hours each. 

Not only standing can help you burn more calories, but it is also linked to various health benefits such as the decreased risk of weight gain, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disease, chronic back pain, cancer, much worse death. So if you want to avoid these health issues, you should learn how to stand more at work. 

References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-exercise-burns-the-most-calories
  2. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-many-calories-does-muscle-really-burn-1231074
  3. https://www.livestrong.com/article/279551-is-black-tea-or-green-tea-more-effective-for-weight-loss/
  4. https://www.ndtv.com/food/heres-how-skipping-breakfast-may-lead-to-weight-gain-1783669
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319731.php
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/calories-burned-standing
  7. https://www.developgoodhabits.com/standing-vs-sitting/
  8. https://www.developgoodhabits.com/sedentary-lifestyle/
  9. www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(15)00628-X/abstract
  10. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150730220021.htm
  11. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2015/11/29/dc15-1240
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22890825
  13. https://www.livescience.com/35953-prolonged-sitting-raises-breast-colon-cancer-risk.html
  14. https://journals.lww.com/joem/Citation/2016/03000/Impact_of_a_Sit_Stand_Workstation_on_Chronic_Low.11.aspx
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25168375
  16. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/21/1357
  17. https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/9-ways-start-standing-more-work

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