Americans spend an average of seven hours a day sitting down, which isn’t doing their health any favors. The good news: a new study suggests that standing instead of sitting for six hours a day could help people lose weight over time.
Finding a way to stand for six hours, rather than sit, may be difficult for people with desk jobs. But the new study, published by Mayo Clinic researchers in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, underlines just how potent the effects of being even a little bit more active can have on overall health.
“We think this is doable,” says study senior author Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, chair of preventive cardiology at Mayo Clinic. “Some people might do less than that and still get a benefit.”
In the report, researchers looked at data from 46 different studies that included a total of 1,184 men and women. Based on that data, the researchers concluded that standing burns 0.15 more calories per minute than sitting down. That may not seem like much. But if a person were to substitute standing for sitting for six hours out the day, a 143-pound adult would burn an extra 54 calories, the researchers estimate. Over time, that could translate to 5.5 pounds in a year, or 22 pounds over four years.
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The findings don’t mean that a person must spend most of their day standing, Lopez-Jimenez says, but that if a person can stand rather than sit, they’ll be better off. Moving more, to whatever extent, is even better. Adding more simple activities that still burn calories—like standing instead of sitting—will likely be better for health down the line.
Since sitting has been linked to a host of complications, from heart disease to obesity, Lopez-Jimenez recommends getting a standing desk or making your own. “Avoid sitting for too long,” he says. “Even if it’s just standing, it can be beneficial.”