Does Standing Burn Calories?

Sophia Wesley
Sophia Wesley
8 Min Read

Medically reviewed by Karina Tolentino, RD

Your body burns calories both at rest and with activity. The more you engage your muscles—even while simply standing—the more calories you burn. While the number of calories you burn standing vs. sitting is small, adding more activity to your day can yield significant health benefits.

To achieve weight loss, you must expend more calories than you take in through food. In addition to losing weight and fat, it’s well established that moving and exercising can reduce health risks.

This article looks at why too much sitting down is not good for your overall health and how standing and, better yet, moving can reduce those risks.

Calories Burned Standing vs. Sitting

Your body burns calories even at rest to maintain vital functions like breathing, heartbeat, blood circulation, digestion, and basic cellular metabolism. Engaging muscles increases your energy needs, burning more calories.

In standing vs. sitting, you are engaging your postural muscles, which is a factor in why standing burns a few more calories per hour than sitting. This is in addition to the calories you expend in rising from sitting to standing. Your calorie expenditure through movement depends on your age, weight, sex, and height.

For example:

  • If you weigh 130 pounds, you’ll burn 98 calories sitting and 130 by standing per hour, an increase of 32 calories.
  • If you weigh 150 pounds and you are sitting and working at a desk, you’ll burn about 113 calories per hour. If you stand, you’ll burn 150 calories each hour, an increase of 37 calories.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds, you’ll burn 150 calories by sitting and 200 calories by standing per hour, an increase of 50 calories.

On a daily basis, if you stand more of the time than you sit, that small difference can add up to a significant amount of calories burned over time.

According to a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, standing six hours a day rather than sitting can lead to a weight loss of more than 5 pounds in a year. That’s a lot of standing, and your calorie intake needs to remain the same.

Standing Desks

If you have a desk job, you might consider using a standing desk or one that raises and lowers to change from sitting to standing during the workday.

Burning Calories Through Exercise

The more active you are, the more calories you burn. If you casually walk the dog, you’ll be burning almost twice as many calories per minute as being inactive, either sitting or standing.

One standard measure of calorie expenditure is the metabolic equivalent of task (MET). MET is a measure of oxygen consumption that equals 1 calorie per kilogram of body weight per hour. When you are at rest, you expend 1 MET. Sitting is rated at about 1.3 MET. Standing motionless is about 1.8 MET.

More vigorous activities that engage your muscles raise your heart and breathing rate. This increases the calorie burn much more compared to standing or sitting.

Taking your dog for a brisk walk instead of a stroll increases your calorie expenditure from about 3 METs to 4.8 METs. The increase in MET from a relaxed walk to a brisk walk will expend about 40% more calories.

How much exercise is enough? For the average adult, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense physical exercise (such as 30 minutes five times a week) and doing some muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

The Bottom Line on Losing Weight

If you want to lose weight, you need to expend more calories than you take in. This is called a calorie deficit. For a weight loss of 1 pound, you need to burn 500 more calories per day than you consume for one week.

Dieting with excessive calorie restriction is a less healthy way to lose pounds than increasing exercise and adopting a moderate diet that ensures you are meeting your nutritional needs. Exercise will also benefit your heart, lungs, muscles, and bones.

Health Risks of Being Sedentary

A sedentary lifestyle, which means you sit a great deal of the time, is a risk factor for many common and serious health conditions. These include:

  • Metabolic syndrome: A group of conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol that raise your risk for stroke, type 2 diabetes, or heart attack
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cancer

You are also at higher risk for osteoarthritis (wear-and-tear arthritis caused by use and with age), osteoporosis (progressive bone loss), depression, and cognitive impairment (difficulty with memory, thinking, and problem-solving).

The CDC also notes that there are few lifestyle choices you can make that will improve your health as much as an exercise program. Your bones and muscles become stronger, your heart and lung health improve, you can drop some excess weight, and it can even improve your mood and cognition.

Before beginning any exercise regime if you have been sedentary or have health conditions, check with your healthcare provider before you start.

Increasing Your Daily Activity and Reducing Being Sedentary

If exercise seems to difficult or unpleasant to contemplate, you can still break up the time spent sitting. Simply walking around the house, at work, or during class breaks at school burns more calories than standing or sitting.

Walking up a flight of stairs doubles calories burned over walking on a flat surface. Cleaning up around the kitchen will get you 3.3 METs over lying on the sofa watching TV at 1 MET.

Tracking devices and smartwatches can alert you if you haven’t moved in a certain amount of time and remind you to meet goals to stand, move, and exercise periodically. If time slips away from you while you’re working or lounging, they can be a good reminder to burn a few more calories with some activity.

These devices can allow you to set an activity goal to meet each day, such as steps per day, active minutes, or calories burned through activity. Having a goal may motivate you to find ways to be more active throughout the day.


The health benefits of simply standing over sitting can help burn calories. Add 30 minutes daily of moderate to intense exercise five times a week, and you’ll reach the recommended guidelines, especially if you add in muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

Your heart, lungs, muscles, and even your brain will be better for taking even small steps to go from sedentary to active.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.

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