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Several of my coworkers have desk systems that allow them to adjust the height of their workspace. They can lower and sit while working, or they can raise and stand. In fact, one of my coworkers even has a fancy treadmill desk where she can walk and work at the same time.

All of them talk about the health benefits of standing at work, rather than sitting all day. They all quote, “Sitting is the new smoking, you know.” While I appreciate the hyperbole, I wanted to know really just how much better standing is for you than sitting.

What I found

The short answer: Standing is a tiny bit better than sitting…but not by much.

Here’s the math

According to the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, people who sit at work (we’re talking desk-jobs here) burn about 80 calories per hour. People who stand at work burn about 88 calories per hour.

Assuming an 8-hour workday, that’s a difference of 8 calories per hour, or about 64 calories in a day. (To put that in perspective, the USDA says a small apple has about 78 calories.)

Clearly, the difference isn’t huge. But, over the course of a year, it does add up to a few pounds. And a few pounds are better than nothing.

Obviously, my coworker with the treadmill desk is going to see the biggest calorie burn. Walking burns about 210 calories per hour. But assuming you don’t have a treadmill desk, when are you going to fit in an hour of walking? The good news: You can fit in a few minutes of walking here and there throughout the day and still achieve the benefit.

For example, going on an 18-minute walk during your lunch hour will burn about the same calories as standing at your desk all day. Taking just 5 minutes of every hour to get up and move/walk around will burn about 140 calories throughout the day. And the health benefits don’t just end there.

Additional health benefits

Regular activity has been shown to improve your mood, increase energy, and boost productivity. Plus, according to the American Diabetes Association, “walking for five minutes, can reduce blood sugar levels by 34%, especially in postmenopausal women.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Sitting burns 80 calories/hr
  • Standing burns 88 calories/hr
  • Walking burns 210 calories/hr
  • Standing at work is better than sitting, but if you want to see real benefits, squeeze in some time every day to move.