Want to lose 5 pounds? Try a standing desk—for a year

Using a standing desk may help you lose weight. Just don’t expect rapid results.

According to a meta-analysis in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a 143-pound person could burn an additional 54 calories by standing instead of sitting for six hours. Assuming food intake remained steady, that would translate to a loss of 5.5 pounds over the course of a year.

“Standing not only burns more calories, the additional muscle activity is linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes, so the benefits of standing could go beyond weight control,” senior study author Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, the chief of preventive cardiology at Mayo Clinic, said in a press release.

Lopez-Jimenez said the study may have actually underestimated the calorie burn associated with standing because it didn’t factor in small movements people are more likely to make if they are upright, such as shifting weight from one foot to another or taking small steps forward and backward.

The meta-analysis included 46 studies with 1,184 total participants. Standing versus sitting was associated with an additional 0.15 calories burned per minute—0.1 for women and 0.19 for men.

The authors attributed the greater energy expenditure (EE) in men to them having more muscle mass activated while standing compared to women.

Lopez-Jimenez et al.’s calculation for weight loss was straightforward in assuming extra calories burned would equal fat loss. But they acknowledged it might not be that simple.

“Whether such a small difference in EE will truly translate into long-term weight loss is yet to be proved, as compensatory mechanisms in basal metabolic rate, increased caloric intake as a result of more muscle activity, or other factors may negate the benefit of spending a few extra calories a day,” the authors wrote.

Most of the studies included in the meta-analysis were of moderate to fair quality and the overall population of the dataset was largely white. Despite these limitations, Lopez-Jimenez is confident there is some benefit to being on your feet.

“It’s important to avoid sitting for hours at a time,” he said. “Standing is a very good first step—no pun intended—to avoid this mindset of sitting interminably without moving.”