Office workers who stand at their desk only burn nine calories an hour

Standing desks are NOT better: Scientists reveal users of the gadgets burn just nine calories an hour more than their colleagues who are seated

  • Workers would need to stand for 20 hours to burn off their morning latte
  • Researchers in the US said standing is unlikely to reduce waistlines 
  • Standing desks are becoming more popular to reduce sedentary lifestyles 
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They’ve long been hailed as boosting productivity among sedentary office workers, while also helping them lose weight.

But scientific research has now revealed standing desks are not better for you – and won’t help you in your battle against the bulge.

A trial found office workers who stand at their desks lose only nine calories an hour more than their seated colleagues.  

The researchers revealed this was the equivalent of just one stalk of celery.

Scientific research has now revealed standing desks are not better for you – and won’t help you in your battle against the bulge

Workers aiming to burn off their morning latte would have to stand for an average of 20 hours to see results, the scientists calculated.

Exercise is a better way to burn calories, according to the medics at the University of Bath and Westmont College in California.

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The researchers, led by Dr Javier Gonzales, tested the resting metabolic rates of 46 healthy men and women.

Participants were then asked to either lie down, sit down or stand up before they had measurements taken of their expired gases.

This was to allow the team to assess how many calories each participants had burnt through the activity.

A trial found office workers who stand at their desks lose only nine calories an hour more than their seated colleagues. The researchers said this was the equivalent of just one stalk of celery


The basic amount of calories an average adult needs per day is 2,000kcal for women or 2,500kcal for men.

This is based on the amount of energy the body needs to carry out basic functions and to walk and work throughout the day.

People who exercise a lot need to eat more calories to fuel their efforts, and young people and children burn more energy, too.

If you eat more calories than you burn in a day, you will get fatter.

Eating fewer calories than you burn will make you lose weight.

Foods which are processed and have high levels of carbohydrate, sugar and salt have higher calorie numbers than fresh fruit and vegetables.

Example calorie counts include:

  • A McDonald’s Big Mac contains 508kcal
  • A two-finger KitKat contains 106kcal
  • A banana contains 95kcal
  • An apple contains 47kcal

Source: NHS  

Professor Gregg Afman, one of the researchers, claimed that standing burns around 0.65kg (0.2 calories) per minute more than sitting. 

He pointed to an array of evidence which has shown standing desks only increase standing by up to two hours a day. 

Professor Afman said: ‘This limited time frame would cause a person to expend less than 20 calories more each day.’ 

The findings were published in the scientific journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.

Dr Gonzales described the increase in energy cost between standing and sitting as being ‘very small’. 

On the back of the study, he added that standing at work is ‘unlikely to influence our waistlines in any meaningful way’.

Standing uses more muscles to support weight when sitting, the authors said, and so should cost more energy.

Standing desks are becoming more and more common in the workplace amid fears our increasingly sedentary lifestyles could send us to an early grave.

Those who spend more than six hours sitting each day are at higher risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to research. 

The healthier solution for many has been to invest in a sit-stand workstations, with a standing desk costing anything between £200 and £1,000.   

Dr Gonzalez said: ‘Many people are becoming aware of the negative health effects of prolonged sitting, and so may opt for standing desks.

‘These people should be aware that whilst there are still some health benefits to standing more, they should not expect to see drastic changes in their body weight.

‘In order to lose body weight, people should focus on increasing physical activity and focus on their diet, too.’ 

It comes after the UK Health Sectretary last month said workers should stand at their desks and hold stand-up meetings to increase their exercise levels.

Matt Hancock said he had his own stand-up desk and encouraged standing meetings wherever possible, partly because they did not go on as long. 

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