A small study has suggested that sit-stand desks can help maintain weight levels through the mixing of sitting and standing with low-intensity activities throughout the work day.
Specifically, the study, which looked at 18 adults, found that a half hour of standing burned roughly 5.5 more calories than the participants would have lost from sitting the entire hour. When the standing time was extended to a full 60 minutes, the calories burned rose to 8.2. When the effects of switching between sitting and standing during an eight hour workday—half the time standing, half the time sitting—was examined, the total calorie expense was as high as 56.9 in men and 48.3 in women.
For context, the amount of calories being lost here is not enough to cause meaningful—or in some cases, any—changes in a person’s weight. The researchers point out, however, that past studies have suggested people could prevent weight gain simply by burning an extra 100 calories each day. The proposed benefit of sit-stand desks, therefore, is that they can accomplish half this goal in a way that is easy to seamlessly fit into an office environment.
By mixing low-intensity activities (walking to coworkers instead of emailing, etc.) with a sit-stand desk, office workers could have an easier time maintaining weight levels. Since maintenance is an important part of weight management, the potential may be worth considering.
Although the study is focused in its measurements and objectives, it does still have some drawbacks. Most notable is the small sample size of only 18 people. Another area that should be explored is whether sit-stand desks impact productivity.
During the study, participants had to complete sample office tasks like copying articles or rudimentary reading, but how well these tasks were performed seems to have been outside the bounds of the research. Still, although a minor piece of research, it seems like it could be useful for informing future, more extensive investigations.
Gibbs, B., et al., “Energy expenditure of deskwork when sitting, standing, or alternating positions,” Occupational Medicine, 2016; 10.1093/occmed/kqw115.