You’ve likely heard that sitting too much is a growing health risk. That’s why standing desks have received so much attention for being a much healthier alternative. Some people even say they’re great for losing weight. However, when it comes to a standing desk vs. a sitting desk, which one really is better for you? The answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you may think.
Standing Desks Burn Calories (Kind of)
There’s a myth that standing desks are a great way to lose weight, but the calories burned aren’t significant enough to replace regular exercise. Harvard broke down a study performed by the Journal of Physical Health and Activity surrounding weight loss benefits of standing desks. The study compared a person at a standing desk vs. a sitting desk along with walking.
Sitting for an hour burned approximately 80 calories, which isn’t too bad for just sitting and typing. Standing, though, only burned eight more calories per hour, meaning you’d only burn an average of 24 more calories per work day if you stood. On the other hand, spending an hour per day walking burned 210 calories. So if you took a walk break during lunch or even after work, you’d burn 2.3 times as many calories in an hour as you would standing all day.
However, that’s just one study. The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology shows a slightly more positive outlook. Participants burned 0.15 more calories per hour standing rather than sitting, averaging 54 more calories a day in a six-hour period than sitting. The study also shows that you could lose more simply because you move around more while standing, leading to more weight loss and increased muscle activity.
Overall, you may lose a little weight, but 54 calories isn’t enough for any significant weight loss.
Sitting Desk Pros and Cons
Obviously, sitting is typically more comfortable. It’s also how most desks are designed. If you have any type of disability or injury that prevents standing for long periods, you’ll want to opt for a sitting desk.
The good news is you can still reduce the risks associated with sitting by increasing your movement. An under-the-desk fitness trainer is a great addition that keeps you moving and burns some extra calories every day. Once again, it’s not a significant amount, but if you’re counting calories, every little bit helps.
On the other hand, sitting for longer periods is dangerous. According to Mayo Clinic, a combination of data from 13 studies shows that sitting for eight hours or more a day increases the risk of premature death as much as smoking and obesity. Taking frequent breaks to move around and exercising regularly helps counter the risk. Standing desks also help.
According to WebMD, you’re also at an increased risk for heart disease and joint trouble. Poor posture and staying in the same position for long periods can stress your joints and hurt your back. You also increase your risks for obesity, cancer, and an overall shorter lifespan.
Standing Desks Reduce Some Risks
This may make you believe that standing desks are the obvious winner in the standing desk vs. sitting desk debate, but not entirely. Standing desks increase your natural movement and encourage better posture. After all, you can’t exactly slouch in your chair while standing.
However, standing for prolonged periods isn’t any better for you than sitting. The American Journal of Epidemiology shows that you’re twice as likely to develop heart disease if you work in a profession where you stand all day. Of course, all that standing can cause leg, foot, and back pain.
There is one more bit of good news for standing desks. One study shows a correlation between standing desks and productivity. Some saw as much as a 46-percent increase.
Standing Desk vs. Sitting Desk
So which one really is better for you? The answer is neither – on its own. The healthiest choice you can make is a combination of both. Mixing up your day between the two types of desks gives you the benefits of both without the risks of too much sitting or standing.
If possible, opt for an adjustable standing desk that easily converts from sitting to standing. Or, set a timer to get up and move around every 30 minutes to an hour if you can’t have any type of standing desk. Some of the more popular adjustable standing desks include:
- VariDesk Pro Plus 36
- Seville Classics airLift Height Adjustable Stand Up Desk
- FlexiSpot M2B Standing Desk
- VIVO Black Height Adjustable Stand Up Desk
Of course, you can also create a DIY solution if standing desks are too expensive. Sturdy boxes or plastic cubes often work as a homemade solution.
The lesson – simply move around more to stay healthier and more productive no matter which desk you use.
Image credit: Geek Kazu
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