Office jobs aren’t exactly the most active way to spend 40 hours a week, and we’ve all heard how having one makes you 60% more likely to die early, yada yada yada. But while the lack of movement being chained to your desk brings isn’t great for your overall health, it turns out our bodies do still expend energy when we’re sitting in front of a keyboard.

ShakeThatWeight decided to look into it in a little more detail to find out exactly how many calories the average person burns simply by sitting at their desk, and the answer might surprise you.

Based on the average weight of a 155-pound person (just over 11 stone), the research estimates you’ll burn approximately 102 calories for each hour you sit at your desk.


If you do a normal 9-5, excluding an hour for lunch when you might go for a little walk around, that means you can anticipate burning 714 calories per day just for sitting behind that desk of yours. Which doesn’t sound half bad.

In theory, the heavier you are the more calories you’ll burn, however this is very much dependent on how fast your metabolism is – and that varies from person to person.

ShakeThatWeight’s research also found the average person burns 382 calories by sleeping for 7 hours, 62 calories by showering for 15 minutes, and around 93 calories cooking a relatively quick dinner.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can ply your body with 714 calories worth of sugary snacks because you’re ‘burning it off anyway just by sitting down at your desk’ – calories from nutritious foods like vegetables will keep you fuller for longer, and your body needs to be fed a balanced diet.

So it’s not all fun and games, but at least next time you’re sat at your office job wondering why the eff you’re there, you can reassure yourself that at least you’re burning some of the cheese you ate at Christmas.

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Related Story Catriona Harvey-Jenner Digital Features Editor Cat is Cosmopolitan UK’s features editor covering women’s issues, health and current affairs.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — From the Apple Watch to standing desks, a number of products today attempt to get users to stand more and sit less. But exactly how many more calories do you burn when you stand instead of sitting down, and can this help you lose weight?

A new study set out to answer these questions by analyzing data from nearly 50 previous studies on the topic. The studies included more than 1,100 people in total. All of these earlier studies measured the difference between calories burned while sitting versus standing.

The results show that standing burned an extra 0.15 calories per minute, on average, compared with sitting. Men burned an extra 0.2 calories per minute while standing, compared with sitting, which was twice as much as women, who burned an extra 0.1 calories per minute while standing, compared with sitting. Men burn more calories per minute because they typically have more muscle mass than women, the researchers said.

The findings mean that, for a person who weighs about 140 lbs. (65 kilograms), substituting sitting with standing for 6 hours a day would burn an extra 54 calories per day, the researchers said.

This amount of calories is likely not enough to help people lose weight, but it could help prevent weight gain, said study lead author Dr. Farzane Saeidifard, a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, who presented the findings here on Monday (Nov. 13) at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting.

Standing is “better than sitting, but you need more activity” for weight loss and for overall health, Saeidifard said. On a calorie-burning scale of 0 to 100, where sitting is 0 and activities like swimming and running are 100, standing would be about a 5 to 10, Saeidifard said.

A growing body of research has found that sitting too long is linked with an increased risk of a number of conditions, including breast and colon cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as an increased risk of early death.

In a separate study, Saeidifard and colleagues looked at the effects of substituting sitting with standing on the severity of heart-disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high BMI. The researchers reviewed seven studies involving about 830 people in total. In these studies, some participants received an “intervention,” like a standing desk at work, while others remained sedentary (called the “control groups”.)

That study found that, over the course of about four months, people in the intervention groups stood for 1 hour and 15 minutes longer, on average, than those in the control groups. And those in the standing groups showed a slightly greater reduction in blood glucose levels and body fat levels at the end of the intervention, compared with people in the control groups.

On average, people in the intervention groups reduced their body fat levels by 0.7 lbs. (0.3 kg) more than people in the control groups did during the four-month period.

It’s helpful to know that “just substituting sitting with standing” can lead to some reductions in fat and blood-sugar levels. But again, people still need more activity in their day for weight loss and overall health, Saeidifard said. National guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that people engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.

Overall, the main takeaway of this research is “please sit less,” Saeidifard said. “You can substitute sitting with at least standing,” and preferably with other activities like walking, she said.

Original article on Live Science.

Exactly How Many More Calories Can You Burn Standing vs. Sitting?

UK researchers sought to find out in a 2013 study. They tracked individual heart rates while sitting and standing. They discovered standing heart rates were 10 beats higher per minute. That increase burns 0.7 more calories per minute. Sounds small, right? Not when you look at it hourly. It’s 42 more calories (60 minutes x 0.7 calories). Here’s where it gets fun: by standing an extra 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, you could burn 630 calories per week and 32,760 calories per year. That’s nine pounds off your waistline just for standing up!

What Other Health Benefits Can You Enjoy By Standing vs. Sitting?

A slimmer waistline isn’t the only benefit of standing more throughout the day. Several studies suggest that people who spend more than half of their waking day on their bottoms have a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. They may even die sooner than their more active counterparts. Standing periodically, however, helps:

  • Reduce neck and back pain
  • Avoid stiff joints and muscles
  • Give your metabolism a boost
  • Improve alertness and focus
  • Encourage movement and healthy activity

How Can a Standing Desk Improve Your Health While You Work?

Surprisingly, most people spend more time at their desks than any other place on the planet. Yet many give little thought to the role their desks play in their health. Thankfully, that’s starting to change. People are trading in their sit-down desks for standing desks because they realize standing desks are good for their mind, body, and mood:

  • Mind: Increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain improving focus and performance.
  • Body: Activates the muscles in your legs, back and neck preventing stiffness and aches.
  • Mood: Offers freedom of movement helping users feel happier and more energetic.

Have you ditched your office chair for a standing desk? Now that sitting too long has been firmly established as dangerous to your health — studies have shown that prolonged sitting can increase our risk of different diseases, including cancer and type 2 diabetes — more and more 9-to-5ers have been spending a little more time off their chairs. It’s nice to know you’re doing something good for yourself during what’s usually our most sedentary hours, but it’s not just your lifespan that can be affected — standing instead of sitting can affect your waistline too. Even if you do nothing else at all, replacing an hour or two of sitting with standing at your desk can help burn a few extra calories over your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn when you’re not doing anything, like when you’re sitting) in addition to helping your health. Just a little switch can help you burn a surprising number of calories — check out how many below.

Hours Calories burned sitting Calories burned standing
1 100 130
2 200 260
3 300 390
4 400 520
5 501 650
6 601 780
7 701 910
8 801 1,040

While standing in front of your computer for an entire day may not be practical (or pain-free!), it helps to see just how many more calories you can burn over time. The next time you take a stand, feel good about doing something for your health in more ways than one.

Calories based on a 130-pound person; calculations from

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How Many Calories You Burn When You Stand at Work

Have you ditched your office chair for a standing desk? Now that sitting too long has been firmly established as dangerous to your health—studies have shown that prolonged sitting can increase our risk of different diseases, including cancer and type 2 diabetes—more and more 9-to-5ers have been spending a little more time off their chairs. It’s nice to know you’re doing something good for yourself during what’s usually our most sedentary hours, but it’s not just your lifespan that can be affected—standing instead of sitting can affect your waistline too. Even if you do nothing else at all, replacing an hour or two of sitting with standing at your desk can help burn a few extra calories over your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn when you’re not doing anything, like when you’re sitting) in addition to helping your health. Just a little switch can help you burn a surprising number of calories—check out how many below.

1 100 130
2 200 260
3 300 390
4 400 520
5 501 650
6 601 780
7 701 910
8 801 1,040

While standing in front of your computer for an entire day may not be practical (or pain-free!), it helps to see just how many more calories you can burn over time. The next time you take a stand, feel good about doing something for your health in more ways than one.

Calories based on a 130-pound person; calculations from

More from PopSugar Fitness:
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If you’re reading this at a desk right now, chances are your job isn’t the most physically active. Desk jobs provide very little in the way of fitness, but in some careers, exercise is part of the deal.

The employment site teamed up with fitness website CalorieLab to find the occupations that burn the most calories as compared to a typical desk job, which burns around 102.5 calories per hour.

Check out some of the jobs that turn work into a workout:

Custodial work
Up to 204 calories per hour
Calories burned as a custodian vary depending on the kind of work you’re doing. Lighter work such as cleaning sinks and toilets, and even vacuuming, burns just 102 calories per hour, but moderate-effort work such as cleaning an arena floor can burn twice that amount.

Fire fighting
748 calories per hour
Unsurprisingly, fire fighting is one of the highest calorie-burning jobs on the list. Overall, a fire fighter burns 748 calories per hour, but specific tasks can have different calorie counts; for example, hauling hoses on the ground burns 476 calories, while climbing a ladder in full gear burns 680.

Police officer
Up to 204 calories per hour
Police work can burn a lot of calories, but it depends what you’re doing. An officer making an arrest can burn 204 calories per hour. However, driving a squad car only burns 68 calories and riding in a squad car burns even less, a mere 20 calories. On the other hand, directing traffic burns an average of 102 calories every hour.

Masseur, masseuse
204 calories per hour
Masseurs and masseuses are constantly on their feet and using their upper body strength to give massages, so it’s not surprising that they burn twice the calories of a desk worker every hour.

Up to 476 calories per hour
Calories burned while farming can vary widely depending on the kind of task you’re doing. Forking straw bales or cleaning a barn can burn 476 calories per hour, whereas shoveling grain burns around 306 calories. Also, milking a cow by hand burns 136 calories per hour. Who knew?

Construction work
306 calories per hour
Unsurprisingly, construction work, namely remodeling, is a great calorie-burner.

P.E. teacher
Up to 374 calories per hour
Physical education teachers who participate in activities with their students burn 374 calories per hour, but those who don’t participate in sports play burn just 204 calories.

Bakery employee
Up to 204 calories per hour
Surprisingly, working at a bakery can burn up to 204 calories per hour—if you’re making what CalorieLab considers a “moderate effort.” However, if you’re only making a “light effort,” you’ll burn around 102 calories. Of course, if you like to sample your baked creations, you might be replacing those calories faster than you burn them!

See the full list of calorie-burning jobs here.

Money Crashers

Your desk job might literally be killing you. According to the American Heart Association, sitting for long periods has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Even worse, a 2015 study found that the more time you spend sitting, the greater your risk is for early death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this is true even among physically active people. In other words, a daily dose of exercise doesn’t necessarily cancel out the repercussions of a sedentary job.

This is bad news for most of us since more people than ever – 86% of Americans, according to U.S. News & World Report – now work at desk jobs. The rise in sedentary jobs, which leads to a corresponding increase in serious health conditions, also means higher health care costs.

Here’s what you need to know about how your job might be affecting your health and what you can do about it.

The Costs of a Sedentary Job

The largely sedentary nature of most jobs is a problem for many Americans who are already facing crippling health care expenses. According to the annual Milliman Medical Index Report, the average family of four can expect to pay $12,378 in 2018 in combined premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for the most common employer-sponsored health plan. That’s about $1,000 per month in health care costs – an increase of $1,122 per year, or $100 per month, from 2017. And this trend is likely to continue into 2019 and beyond.

Pro Tip: One alternative option would be to have a high deductible healthcare plan and then use a Health Savings Account from Lively. This can help reduce your monthly expenses.

Although there’s not much you can do about the rising cost of premiums, you can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket expenses by working to stay in good health. That means eating right and exercising regularly.

Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two and a half hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise plus two days a week of strength-training activities. Yet only one in five Americans meets these basic guidelines, according to data from the 2017 National Health Institute Survey.

Could a Highly Active Job Be the Answer?

Clearly, pricey gym memberships and at-home workouts aren’t always the answer; Americans just aren’t finding ways to squeeze fitness into their day. Could a job that comes with built-in fitness benefits be the solution?

To help answer this question, we gathered data on some of the most physically active jobs, measuring their level of fitness benefit by the average amount of calories they burn. These calorie counts are for the average calories burned per hour for a 175-pound person – the combined total average weight for both males and females – using statistics gathered by the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities.

Keep in mind that the actual amount of calories burned will vary from person to person depending on individual weight and actual level of activity. For example, although police officers can burn a reported 318 calories per hour, that figure is for periods of physical exertion, such as while making an arrest, and not for time spent sitting at a desk filling out paperwork, which would be no different than the average office job. By way of comparison, the Compendium reports that the calorie burn for a desk job is 119 calories per hour.

To compare the fitness benefit versus the potential financial gain or loss from working in these jobs, we’ve also included their average annual salaries. On one hand, your combined savings on out-of-pocket health care costs plus gym memberships could be upwards of $5,000 per year, depending on your individual health care coverage. On the other hand, switching to a more active job could mean a deeper pay cut for you than the potential money saved.

Also keep in mind that some salaries can vary widely. Winning jockeys, for example, can make well over six figures, but the average jockey doesn’t make anywhere near this. Salaries can also vary depending on whether you’re entry-level or in a management position. The figures below are only average salaries, as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jobs That Burn the Most Calories

From the lowest calorie burn per hour to the highest, these are the top jobs to consider if you’re looking to stay physically active.

  1. Dog Walker
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 159
    • Average Annual Salary: $23,160 (search for jobs on
  1. Airline Flight Attendant
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 238
    • Average Annual Salary: $50,500
  1. Electrician
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 262
    • Average Annual Salary: $54,110
  1. Nanny
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 278
    • Average Annual Salary: $22,990 (search for jobs on
  1. Massage Therapist
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 318
    • Average Annual Salary: $39,990
  1. Landscaping or Grounds Maintenance Worker
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 318
    • Average Annual Salary: $28,560
  1. Garbage Collector
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 318
    • Average Annual Salary: $51,581
  1. Police Officer
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 318
    • Average Annual Salary: $62,960
  1. Retail Sales Associate
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 318
    • Average Annual Salary: $23,370
  1. Construction Worker
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 318
    • Average Annual Salary: $33,450
  1. Farmer
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 381
    • Average Annual Salary: $69,620
  1. Steel Mill Worker
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 421
    • Average Annual Salary: $43,200
  1. Bicycle Tour Guide
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 460
    • Average Annual Salary: $28,100
  1. News Photographer
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 476
    • Average Annual Salary: $41,940
  1. Roofer
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 500
    • Average Annual Salary: $38,970
  1. Housekeeper
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 516
    • Average Annual Salary: $24,630
  1. Mover
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 516
    • Average Annual Salary: $25,870
  1. Fitness Instructor
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 516
    • Average Annual Salary: $39,210
  1. Coal Miner
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 525
    • Average Annual Salary: $58,910
  1. Crab Fisher
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 556
    • Average Annual Salary: $50,000
  1. Forester
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 557
    • Average Annual Salary: $38,840
  1. Horse Jockey
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 579
    • Average Annual Salary: $40,000
  1. Firefighter
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 635
    • Average Annual Salary: $49,080
  1. Valet
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 714
    • Average Annual Salary: $23,250
  1. Commercial Diver
    • Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 953
    • Average Annual Salary: $55,270

Factors to Consider Before Switching Careers

As you can see, some of these jobs burn a great deal of calories, and that comes with an undeniable health benefit. But switching from a desk job to an active job might not be the best idea for your personal situation. For example, my husband put on a few pounds when he switched from his highly active electrician job to an IT desk job. However, the IT job paid significantly more.

Some of these more physical occupations come with some definite drawbacks, including:

1. More Stress

Although firefighting ranks high on the list for calorie burn, and the salary isn’t too shabby, the job comes with its share of stress. Firefighters must stay in great shape so they’re prepared to put out fires and save lives while also putting their own lives on the line. Unsurprisingly, firefighting ranks as the No. 2 most stressful job in a 2018 study by CareerCast, No. 1 being a career in the military.

Stress is also linked to a number of health conditions, including a 1.4 times higher risk of stroke. The stress of a job like firefighting can also have health repercussions on members of a firefighter’s family.

2. Higher Risk of Injury (or Even Death)

According to Alan Hedge, a human factors and ergonomics researcher at Cornell University, jobs that require physical exertion – especially lifting and twisting – can lead to injuries. The most common of these are back injuries, which can easily lead to disability, forcing workers into an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle anyway.

Some of the jobs on this list are also dangerous, with crab fishing topping the chart. Although it’s significantly safer now than when it was first popularized on the TV show “Deadliest Catch,” it still ranks No. 1 on the most dangerous jobs in America, according to CNN. Logging, or forestry, comes in at No. 2.

3. Lower Pay

According to the 2015 National Health Institute Survey, many adults reported frequently standing at work, but most of their jobs were of the lower-paying variety, such as those in food service, farming, construction, and cleaning and maintenance.

Jobs with the least amount of standing included those in the legal, financial, and computer fields. These are also typically the best-paying jobs. So, depending on your current situation, it may not make economic sense for you to switch jobs, even with the money you’d save on health care and gym memberships. If you currently work at a desk job, ask yourself if it makes more sense for your health and money to switch to a more active job or to stay put.

How to Make Your Desk Job Healthier

If getting a more active job doesn’t work for your situation, don’t despair. To reap significant health benefits and a longer lifespan, you don’t have to do much to make your job healthier; just regularly interrupt prolonged periods of sitting with physical activity. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, those who sat for longer than 90 minutes at a stretch had a 200% greater risk of early death, but those who sat for stretches of less than 30 minutes had a 55% lower risk of death.

Here are some suggestions for how to break up your workday with movement.

1. Take Frequent Movement Breaks

If you sit at a desk for a living, make sure to take breaks every 30 minutes, even if it’s just to get up and stretch. Keith Diaz, the lead author of the Annals of Internal Medicine study, recommends standing up and moving or walking for five minutes every 30 minutes.

Your movement doesn’t have to be intense. Even leisurely movement can have a profound impact on your overall health. A 2017 study from the Karolinska Institute found that replacing even 30 minutes of sitting with low-intensity, everyday activity, such as household chores, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 24%.

2. Rethink Using a Standing Desk

Standing desks have become a popular workplace trend in the effort to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. However, according to Alan Taylor, a physiotherapy expert at Nottingham University, the trend may have more to do with commercial sales than any real health benefit – and at a cost of $200 to $2,000 per standing desk, it’s no wonder.

Further, according to a 2017 study, standing desks may actually be harmful. The study found that standing next to your desk creates physical discomfort and decreased mental function, both of which could lead to other health – not to mention productivity – problems. A 2018 study conducted over a 12-year period found that standing for prolonged periods was actually worse than sitting, increasing the risk of heart disease twofold.

This may be because, according to Hedge, “The heart has to work a lot harder, the body has to work a lot harder, because you’re battling gravity when you are standing up.” He reports that standing has been linked to health issues like varicose veins, fatigue, and feet and back issues.

So forget about the standing desk and just take those movement breaks every 30 minutes.

3. Have Walking Meetings

Taylor recommends taking frequent walk breaks throughout the day, an idea supported by a 2015 study conducted by the University of Missouri, which advises a 10-minute walk break after six hours of continuous sitting. If it’s an option, try walking with your colleagues for meetings instead of using a conference room.

4. Sneak a Workout Routine Into Your Day

Instead of simple movement breaks, you can easily account for the recommended 30 minutes a day of physical activity by sneaking in small rounds of exercise, which break up bouts of sitting and give you the recommended dose of daily fitness.

The activity can be as simple as doing a few jumping jacks to get your heart rate up or doing any number of the 10-minute workout routines you can find with a quick Internet search. The American Heart Association stated in 2008 that physical activity should be a minimum of 10 minutes long to reap the full benefits, but new government guidelines released in November of 2018 state that any activity, of any duration, is better than none.

5. Take Advantage of Company Fitness Facilities & Wellness Programs

If your workplace offers them, take advantage of on-site fitness facilities. At an average cost of $48 dollars per month for a gym membership, on-site facilities could save you cash and help with your fitness goals. For a list of the top 15 companies with the coolest onsite gyms, check out Glassdoor’s 2018 list.

Wellness programs have suffered a bad rap lately for possibly not leading to any real results, according to The New York Time. Nevertheless, they continue to strike a note with both employers and employees. From organic lunches to in-office massages, “wellness” efforts are generating a lot of buzz in today’s workplaces, and it certainly can’t hurt to take advantage of anything your company might offer in the way of health services. If you’re looking to join a company that prioritizes wellness, take a look at Glassdoor’s 2018 list of companies with top wellness programs.

Final Word

It’s true what they say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The more you work to keep yourself healthy, the less you’ll have to shell out in the long run in increased medical expenses. Though a typical gym membership costs $600 a year, that’s nothing compared with the financial cost, and physical and emotional toll, of heart disease – which, according to the CDC Foundation, kills one in three Americans and accounts for most of the $320 billion dollars per year of health care and lost productivity costs in this country. It’s also largely preventable.

So, whether you decide to switch to a more active job or add more movement to the daily routine of your desk job, it definitely pays to make your health a priority. Although there are injuries and illnesses you can never entirely account for, if you work to stay healthy and active, you could help alleviate some of your future health care costs – which, according to Forbes, are likely to make up half of your retirement spending.

One final note when it comes to your money: Many Americans underestimate their retirement needs, and one major cause is underestimating how long they’ll actually live. If you’re engaged in an effort to lengthen your lifespan, don’t forget to account for that in your retirement planning.

What are some tips and tricks you use to stay healthy and active at work?

How to calculate the number of calories you burn doing anything, from running to sex

/El Nariz

  • Every activity has a value called a “MET value” which calculates the energy required for that activity.
  • Multiplying MET value by weight in kilograms tells you calories burned per hour.
  • You can look up research-backed MET values on the Compendium of Physical Activities website.

Throughout the day, everything we do burns calories.

Some things — like sitting — keep us at our resting rate. Vigorous activity can burn more than ten times as much energy.

And while calorie-counting isn’t necessarily the best way to lose weight, it can be useful or just plain fun to know whether that post-work soccer game is enough to burn off the donuts your co-worker brought in this morning.

Fortunately, there’s a science-backed way to calculate how many calories you burn doing almost anything. Sure, there are apps out there that will help you calculate how many calories you burn on your run or your bike ride, but this goes deeper than that.

Want to know how many calories you burn backpacking, milking a cow (manually), cleaning a church, or engaging in an hour of vigorous sex? There’s data that will help you calculate that — along with calories burned while engaging in all kinds of different sports.

Researchers have assessed the amount of energy required to engage in all kinds of activities over the years. In order to make it easier for other scientists to conduct large scale studies, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Arizona State University have compiled updated versions of that data on a website, the Compendium of Physical Activities. And anyone can go to that website, look up an activity, and calculate how many calories they’ll burn doing something. It just takes some simple math.

Here’s how it works:

/Uber Images

This calculation relies on a key value known as a MET, which stands for metabolic equivalent. One “MET” is “roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly,” according to the Compendium, and can be considered 1 kcal/kg/hour. Since sitting quietly is one MET, a 70 kg person would burn 70 calories (kcal) if they sat quietly for an hour.

If an activity’s MET value was two, that same person would burn 140 calories in an hour.

On the Compendium’s website, you can look up a huge number of activities. We’ve included calorie counts for some of the most popular activities in another article, but if you want to make the calculation for yourself, here’s how it works.

First, calculate your weight in kilograms — 1 kg is 2.2 lbs, but you can always type “X pounds to kg” into Google, with X being your weight, to get a number.

Second, look up your activity on the Compendium. There’s a dropdown menu on the site labeled “Activity Categories.” Under that menu, you’ll see a long list of categories, starting with bicycling and finishing with volunteer activities. If you open up a category, you can see the activities that fall under it.

If you open up sports (category 15) you can then select an activity. There are many listings for some activities — there’s a difference between boxing in a ring and boxing by hitting a punching bag, for example. Look for the MET value from the 2011 Compendium, as it’s the most up to date. If the MET value is blue, there are published studies supporting that value. If it’s red, it’s an estimate.

Here’s your equation: MET value multiplied by weight in kilograms tells you calories burned per hour (MET*weight in kg=calories/hour). If you only want to know how many calories you burned in a half hour, divide that number by two. If you want to know about 15 minutes, divide that number by four.

So if a 175-pound person like myself were to play competitive soccer (MET value of 10) for one hour, the equation for calories burned would be: 79.38 kg*10=793.8 calories/hour.

There are a few caveats. Everyone’s resting metabolic rate differs slightly — some people of the same weight naturally burn more or fewer calories, depending on a number of factors, and these differences can be significant. As the Compendium website explains, this sort of calculation doesn’t take into account differences caused by body mass, body fat, age, sex, efficiency of movement, and conditions like high altitude that may have an impact on the energy required for an activity. Also, these calculations are calculated based only on time spent in movement — so if half of my “competitive soccer” game was really just standing around, I’d have to divide that number in half and then add in the amount of calories I burned standing around to know how much energy I actually used in that hour.

That said, this is the easiest way to get a science-backed estimate of calories burned in an activity. And when you look through activities, there are all kinds of fun things that make the list — it’s worth taking some time to explore.

Calorie burner: How much better is standing up than sitting?

Studies have claimed major health benefits for standing for much of the day as opposed to sitting. The difference is marked, explains Michael Mosley.

Guess how many hours a day you spend sitting? Fewer than eight? More than 10? A recent survey found that many of us spend up to 12 hours a day sitting on our bottoms looking at computers or watching television. If you throw in the seven hours we spend sleeping then that adds up to a remarkable 19 hours a day being sedentary.

Sitting down as much as this is clearly bad for us and some studies suggest that those who sit all day live around two years less than those who are more active. Most of us are guilty of excess sitting. We sit at work, in the car and at home, moving only to shift from one seat to another.

Even if you exercise on a regular basis that may not be enough. There is mounting evidence that exercise will not undo the damage done by prolonged sitting. Our technology has made us the most sedentary humans in history.

So why is sitting so damaging? One thing it does is change the way our bodies deal with sugar. When you eat, your body breaks down the food into glucose, which is then transported in the blood to other cells.

Glucose is an essential fuel but persistently high levels increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to help get your glucose levels back down to normal, but how efficiently your body does that is affected by how physically active you are

We wanted to see what would happen if we took a group of people who normally spend their day sitting in an office and ask them to spend a few hours a day on their feet instead.

Standing while you are working may seem rather odd, but it is a practice with a long tradition. Winston Churchill wrote while working at a special standing desk, as did Ernest Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin.

So with Dr John Buckley and a team of researchers from the University of Chester we conducted a simple experiment. We asked 10 people who work at an estate agents to stand for at least three hours a day for a week.

Our lucky volunteers had mixed feelings about how they would get on.

“It’ll be different, but looking forward to it, yes…”

“I think my feet might hurt – I’ll have to wear sensible shoes…”

“The small of my back, it’s going to hurt…”

“I’m worried that I’m not going to be able to stand up for all that time…”

We asked all the volunteers to wear an accelerometer – a movement monitor – to record just how much moving about they were doing. They also wore heart rate monitors and had glucose monitors that measured their blood sugar levels constantly, day and night.

Image caption The equivalent of 10 marathons a year?

The evidence that standing up is good for you goes back to at least the 1950s when a study was done comparing bus conductors (who stand) with bus drivers (who don’t). This study, published in the Lancet, showed that the bus conductors had around half the risk of developing heart disease of the bus drivers.

Since then prolonged sitting has not only been linked to problems with blood glucose control, but also a sharp reduction in the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down blood fats and makes them available as a fuel to the muscles. This reduction in enzyme activity leads to raised levels of triglycerides and fats in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease.

We had good reason to believe that standing would make a difference to our volunteers, but we were also a little anxious as to how they would get on. This was the first time an experiment like this had been conducted in the UK. Would our volunteers stick to it?

They did. One woman with arthritis even found that standing actually improved her symptoms.

The Chester researchers took measurements on days when the volunteers stood, and when they sat around. When they looked at the data there were some striking differences. As we had hoped, blood glucose levels fell back to normal levels after a meal far more quickly on the days when the volunteers stood than when they sat.

There was also evidence, from the heart rate monitors that they were wearing, that by standing they were burning more calories.

“If we look at the heart rates,” John Buckley explains, “we can see they are quite a lot higher actually – on average around 10 beats per minute higher and that makes a difference of about 0.7 of a calorie per minute.”

Now that doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to about 50 calories an hour. If you stand for three hours a day for five days that’s around 750 calories burnt. Over the course of a year it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or around 8lb of fat.

“If you want to put that into activity levels,” Dr Buckley says, “then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year. Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work.”

Dr Buckley thinks that although going out and doing exercise offers many proven benefits, our bodies also need the constant, almost imperceptible increase in muscle activity that standing provides. Simple movement helps us to keep our all-important blood sugar under control.

We can’t all stand up at work but the researchers believe that even small adjustments, like standing while talking on the phone, going over to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email, or simply taking the stairs, will help.

I have, of course, written this article while standing.

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With standing desks becoming more and more popular among health conscious workers I thought it might be a nice idea to see what standing does to your calorie burn. I’ve seen some strong claims about the high calorie burn of standing, so I was interested to see some data. This post gives a quick snapshot of the best data I could find.

Calories Burned Standing vs Sitting

When you see a standing desk advertised it’s common to see a claim about how many calories more per hour you can burn simply by standing while you work. This seems natural enough, but I’ve never been that sure about some of these numbers.

A typical approach for estimating this extra calorie burn is to use the Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) from the Compendium of Physical Activities. For example I can see the that the MET code for sitting is 1.5 (code 11580) and for standing its 2.0 (code 09071).

This means a 100kg person would use 150 kcal/hour sitting and 200 kcal/hour standing. The 50 calorie per hour difference sounds small, but do that for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week and you’ve expended an extra 2,000 calories.

At least they would have if this calculation was accurate . . .

The following chart uses some real lab data to estimate how much energy we use per hour during some familiar activities. It includes watching TV (sitting), standing and walking at various speeds. Because it is based on actual data and varied body weights it is a much more realistic view on calories burned standing than using MET codes.

It’s actually really surprising how little extra energy standing uses compared to sitting.

Look at the middle and we can see that when a 75kg (165lbs) is sitting watching TV they are typically using 100 calories per hour. Sitting typing uses just 9 calories more, while standing still is surprising efficient at just 119 kcal/h. In contrast the calories burned walking at just 0.4 mph are 170 kcal/hour. And at 1mph, a speed commonly seen on treadmill desks, the figure is 200 kcal/hour.

The Extra Burn from Standing

I’ve found people sometimes struggle to see just how small this difference is using this graph, so here is the same data focusing purely on the additional calories that are burnt from not sitting.

You can see how much the focus on ‘added calories’ changes the presentation of this data. Basically, if your goal is to burn more calories then your need to start moving those legs!!

Humans are absurdly efficient at standing still, adding just 10 kcal/hour to sitting energy burn. But for every hour someone walks slowly (1 mph) at a treadmill desk they are adding 100 kcal/hour to their expenditure. Done consistently that could really add up to a lot of calories.

Key Takeaway

How do calories burned standing vs sitting compare?

Standing up adds as little as 10 kcal/hour to your calorie burn!

To really burn more calories you need to move those legs!!

Calories burned while standing

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