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Standing Desks – Long-Term Weight Loss

August 13, 2021

Standing Desks – Long-Term Weight Loss

By Paulina Wegrzyn.
Paulina Wegrzyn is a physiotherapist residing and practicing in British Columbia, Canada. She completed her Master’s in Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. She currently treats a large persistent pain population. Paulina is a certified pelvic floor physiotherapist, and takes a biopsychosocial approach to treatment. She uses a combination of education, manual therapy, soft tissue release, and exercise prescription with her clients. She is interested in educating others regarding the benefits of physiotherapy in order for them to feel empowered to take control of their health. She enjoys writing content related to this field of study as she believes that physiotherapy should be accessible to all.
Pauline - Masters Qualified Physiotherapist

One of the many benefits of using standing desks is the increase in energy expenditure. Energy expenditure is, in simplified terms, the total amount of calories that you burn each day. When your energy expenditure is larger than your caloric intake from food, weight loss occurs.


-Sitting vs. Standing (11.5 kg over 10 years) 
-Balance Boards (an extra 1.7kg over 10 years) 
-Standing Desk Exercises (an extra 12.5kg over 10 years) 
-Stability Balls (for exercise only) 
-Walking (an extra 18kg over 10 years) 

Sitting vs. Standing (11.5 kg over 10 years)

The research is still not consistent regarding how much energy we use sitting vs. standing, and many studies vary vastly in how they measure energy expenditure. But a 2018 meta-analysis of all of the studies regarding the energy expenditure between sitting and standing concluded that the average difference between sitting and standing was 0.15 calories/minute, or 9 calories an hour. This means that substituting four hours of sitting a day with four hours of standing would result in 36 more calories burned.

Spending half of your time using the standing feature of your sit-stand desk would mean burning 180 extra calories a week, 720 extra calories a month, and 8640 calories a year. Since a kilogram of body fat is equivalent to around 7500 calories, the difference in energy expenditure would translate to about 1.15 kg of body fat in one year.

To expand the picture, for somebody working from a standing desk long-term, over 10 years they could expect to weigh up to 11.5kg less than if they had not used a standing desk at work.

Our calculations assume that there is no additional increase in energy intake, you are working 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, 52 weeks per year and that the only difference in your activity levels is the amount of static standing vs. static sitting.

Even better, there are a number of simple ways to increase this number even more, such as using a balance board, taking walk breaks, or doing standing exercises while using your height adjustable desk.

Check out UpDown Desk's PRO Series Electric Height Adjustable Standing Desks!

Balance Boards (an extra 1.7kg over 10 years)

A 2018 study measured the energy expenditure between sitting, standing, and using a wobble board in standing. The study concluded that the difference in energy expenditure (and therefore, weight-loss) while using a wobble board was 15% higher than just standing still. The balance board also provided a number of other benefits. It elevated heart rate, activated postural stabilizer muscles, and increased blood flow more effectively than static standing, making it a good option for individuals who find static standing tedious or boring.

After 10 years the average person could expect to weigh up to 1.7kg less than if they had not used a balance board at work.

Standing Desk Exercises (an extra 12.5kg over 10 years)

A 2015 study measured the difference in heart rate and energy expenditure among individuals who used standing desks throughout their work day. During the intervention, individuals broke up 30 minutes of sitting with either two minutes of standing, two minutes of treadmill walking, or two minutes of calisthenic exercises (including squats and lunges). The research showed that calisthenic exercises elevated the worker’s heart rate and energy expenditure the most, with about 13 +/- 5 calories being burned with two minutes of exercise, as compared to sitting (3 +/- 1 calories) and standing (5 +/- 1 calories).

This means that on average, an individual will burn 13 calories with two minutes of calisthenic exercise. If one were to break up bouts of sitting with calisthenic exercise throughout their work day, this could lead to a significant increase in energy expenditure.

Let us assume two calisthenic exercise breaks throughout one’s work day. This would translate to 26 extra calories being burned a day, or 130 extra calories burned a week. Twice daily exercise breaks would result in 6240 extra calories burned a year, or 0.83 kg a year. If you take three calisthenic breaks a day, this number jumps to 9360 calories, or 1.25 kg a year.

After 10 years the average person could expect to weigh up to 12.5kg less than if they had not had 3 x 2-minute daily exercise breaks at work.

Stability Balls (for exercise only)

The research on the efficacy and benefits of stability balls is very variable. From an energy expenditure perspective, a study published in 2015 determined that the energy expenditure between static sitting and sitting on a stability ball is statistically insignificant. A 2008 study showed that sitting on a therapy ball burned an extra four calories an hour as compared to sitting in a traditional chair. This minute difference in energy expenditure adds up in the long-term. However, it does not warrant the potential adverse effects of stability balls if you have lower back pain.

A 2016 study, among others, has shown the use of stability balls to be an ineffective strategy in the management of low back pain. The lack of stability and support for the lumbar region, or low back, that occurs while sitting on a stability ball often forces individuals into a forward flexed posture. This can decrease the space between your discs and joints in the low back, and lead to further discomfort and pain.

When sitting at your desk in between bouts of standing, we recommend using an office chair with adequate lumbar support and good armrests. Stability balls, while being an excellent tool for exercise, should not be used in an office setting.

Walking (an extra 18kg over 10 years)

The best way to increase your energy expenditure at work is to take walking breaks throughout the day. A 2016 study showed that the most effective way to burn extra calories at work was to take frequent walk breaks. Walking at a self-directed pace, participants burned approximately 56 calories within 15 minutes. This means that one fifteen-minute walk break a week could result in 280 extra calories being burned. Over an entire year this translates to 13440 calories, or 1.8 kg of body fat being burned.

After 10 years the average person could expect to weigh up to 18kg less than if they had not taken a 15-minute daily walk at work.


There are many ways to increase your energy expenditure at work. Using your standing desk feature, taking calisthenic breaks, and taking walking breaks throughout the day are all good ways to burn extra calories. Wobble boards and stability boards also increase energy expenditure, but in a smaller, less significant way.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to increasing energy expenditure at work. We recommend starting with one change to decrease the amount of time spent sitting throughout the day, and work up from there!

Remember, the best way to burn calories and improve your health is by participating in consistent physical exercise. Try spending 150 minutes a week engaging in moderate to vigorous physical exercise.


Beers, E. A., Roemmich, J. N., Epstein, L. H., & Horvath, P. J. (2008). Increasing passive energy expenditure during clerical work. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(3), 353-360. doi:10.1007/s00421-008-0713-y
Carter, S., Jones, M., & Gladwell, V. (2015). Energy expenditure and heart rate response to breaking up sedentary time with three different physical activity interventions. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, 25(5), 503-509. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2015.02.006
Creasy, S. A., Rogers, R. J., Byard, T. D., Kowalsky, R. J., & Jakicic, J. M. (2016). Energy Expenditure During Acute Periods of Sitting, Standing, and Walking. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13(6), 573-578. doi:10.1123/jpah.2015-0419
Elliott, T. L., Marshall, K. S., Lake, D. A., Wofford, N. H., & Davies, G. J. (2016). The Effect of Sitting on Stability Balls on Nonspecific Lower Back Pain, Disability, and Core Endurance. Spine, 41(18). doi:10.1097/brs.0000000000001576
Nelson, M. C., Casanova, M. P., & Vella, C. A. (2018). The Effectiveness of Standing on a Balance Board for Increasing Energy Expenditure. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50(8), 1710-1717. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000001595
Saeidifard, F., Medina-Inojosa, J. R., Supervia, M., Olson, T. P., Somers, V. K., Erwin, P. J., & Lopez-Jimenez, F. (2018). Differences of energy expenditure while sitting versus standing: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 25(5), 522-538. doi:10.1177/2047487317752186
Tudor-Locke, C., Schuna, J. M., Frensham, L. J., & Proenca, M. (2013). Changing the way we work: Elevating energy expenditure with workstation alternatives. International Journal of Obesity, 38(6), 755-765. doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.223


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