It's no secret that sitting at a desk for eight hours straight isn't good for you, but it turns out standing at a desk all day isn't much better. According to a new study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, standing up only burns approximately nine more calories per hour than sitting down—an insignificant difference when you consider that a single cup of coffee is around 50 calories. The real game changer was walking: Those who walked more throughout the day burned roughly 130 more calories per hour, enough to stave off yearly weight gain and transform an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. But if you already have a standing desk, don't worry—it's still shown to boost productivity, if not calorie burn.
The researchers recruited 74 healthy volunteers in their mid-20s and of average weight. One group was instructed to stand for 15 minutes and keep fidgeting to a minimum while another simply watched TV or typed at a computer while sitting down. A third group stood up for 15 minutes then sat down for 15 minutes, and a final group walked on a treadmill at a leisurely pace. The standing volunteers only burned an average of two more calories than the sitting volunteers while the walkers burned almost three times the amount of calories overall.
"If your goal is to control your weight at work, then standing up may not be enough," said Seth Creasy, the lead author of the study, in an interview with The New York Times. "Brief periods of walking can add up to make a big difference in energy expenditure, while standing barely budges your caloric burn." Creasy recommends simple lifestyle shifts like putting the printer at the opposite end of the office or taking a short walk to the water fountain once every hour instead of keeping a water bottle at your desk. Changes in commute can also help—try taking the stairs in the morning instead of the elevator, or walking instead of grabbing a cab.
Want to give the walking life a shot? Pick up a Fitbit to track your progress, and then share your insights with us!