Almost all corporate workers spend their working week at a desk. Whether standing or sitting, computer work has become the norm. Australian guidelines outline that 7 hours or more of sedentary behaviour daily puts you in a high-risk bracket for poor health outcomes.
Today, we’ll look at the outcomes of sitting or standing whilst you work, plus the general guidelines you can implement to optimise your health and well-being in the workplace.
We’ll share tips for maximising an ultimate healthy workday. Take notes!
(Related: Best Under-Desk Treadmills In Australia).
Standing vs Sitting.
Taking a holistic view is essential when looking at your daily energy expenditure.
Tracking calories is far too simplified to reflect a person’s circumstances, and it isn’t an accurate measurement of overall health.
Instead, ask yourself:
- What does a typical day look like?
- How many steps do you average per day?
- Do you take the stairs or a lift?
- Do you drive, walk, or cycle to commute?
- How is your sleep tracking?
- How do you feel overall? Energised or exhausted?
With this in mind, let’s look at the basics below.
Calories are defined as the fuel we retain from food, often known as ‘kilocalories’.
An essential part of a healthy lifestyle is understanding energy balance; how much energy you use during the day compared to the point you consume.
There are many nuances regarding calories, often polluted by ions of conflicting information perpetuated by the diet industry. Many believe it’s as simple as ‘calories in, calories out’, but that is not the case.
The reality is that a balanced, plant-rich diet low in saturated fats and low in refined sugar is the best guideline for long-term health. This is true for different populations worldwide.
The takeaway? Unfortunately, not all calories are created equal. They are an utterly outdated measurement of overall health.
Regardless of calories, if your diet is compromised of fast food or meals devoid of nutrients, you cannot be healthier than someone who eats a nutritious diet.
The Small Moments.
Regarding calories expended in the workplace, the difference between sitting and standing isn’t as significant as many think. However, you should not take that as an excuse to continue sitting all day.
The guideline currently stands that:
- Standing burns approximately 186 calories per hour.
- Sitting burns approximately 139 per hour.
However, small actions add up.
Choosing to stand each day (or even for part of the day) can equal an additional 2000+ calories burnt every week, which would be enough to push you into a calorie deficit and lose fat, if that is your goal.
The benefits of standing go beyond fat loss, though. Imagine being fitter, stronger, more mobile, and living in a pain-free body. The benefits of standing are indisputable.
Health Impacts Of Standing.
If you choose to stand all day, be sure to take breaks to walk or stretch, much like you would if sitting.
Also, consider the following:
- Computer ergonomics: Ensure that your monitor is at eye level and your arms are in the correct position. Book regular eye tests and take breaks from your technology.
- Posture: Avoid leaning on your desk while standing; otherwise, you risk developing sciatica, carpel tunnel syndrome, or overall discomfort. Read our guide here to optimise your desk height for posture.
- Footwear: Invest in quality shoes to support your standing and prevent varicose veins, particularly if your work floor is concrete or tiled. Explore options here.
- Your choice of office chair: Even if you enjoy standing during your workday, you will need to sit down for periods of time. Ensure you own an ergonomic office chair with at least 5 points of adjustment.
Health Impacts Of Sitting.
Sitting for long periods is associated with far worse outcomes and higher risks of poor health.
- Increased blood pressure.
- High blood sugar.
- Excess body fat and dangerous visceral fat.
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels.
- Metabolic syndrome.
- Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass.)
- In some cases, heart and kidney disease.
You can prevent much of this with an active lifestyle and an awareness of the risks associated with sitting.
Experts agree that the best option is to combine sitting and standing throughout your workday.
Another option is:
- Complete all your admin-heavy tasks like writing or typing whilst sitting.
- Take all calls or meetings whilst standing.
You could also:
- Work while sitting for 30 minutes.
- Stand for 25 minutes.
- Walk, stretch, or do desk-side exercises for 5 minutes (our favourites are below).
Ways To Burn More Calories.
Let’s take a wider view on this for improving our health in the workplace.
You can incorporate various methods (each unique to your body and enjoyment) to burn extra calories at work and support your overall health and fitness.
Walking is so underrated for overall health and well-being. A daily walk can increase your energy expenditure, resulting in a calorie deficit and, over time, weight loss.
Walking at a moderate pace can burn over 320 calories per hour (more than double that of standing each hour).
According to Harvard Health, walking also:
- Increases blood flow.
- Eases joint pain and assists mobility.
- Prevents cardiovascular issues.
- Boosts immune system function.
- It has an excellent impact on your mental well-being, stress, and anxiety (especially phone-free, mindful strolling).
We recommend utilising your lunch break to walk. Alternatively, park further away and enjoy the 10-minute walk to and from the office as a great way to prepare or wind down for the day.
Stretching is a must-have during all stages of life. Without it, we can develop a restricted range of motion and, eventually, chronic injuries.
The good news is that it can also help to boost how many calories you burn in a day.
- Improves joint health: This lubricates joints and increases the range of motion.
- Increases blood flow: Stretching delivers oxygen and nutrients to muscles, plus removes metabolic waste like carbon dioxide, ammonia, and uric acid.
- Reduce injuries: By stretching, muscles are less likely to give way in compromising positions.
- Improve strength: All athletes include mobility training to support their overall strength.
- Support mental health: Finding 5 minutes daily for quiet, uninterrupted time to stretch can be meditative or a calming practice you look forward to.
Our favourite stretches for the workplace are:
- Quadricep stretches; bring your foot back to your bottom.
- Lunges or walking lunges.
- Back stretches; lean back or forward towards your sit-stand desk.
- Hamstring stretch by doing toe touches.
You should develop a routine of stretches that feels best for you, and remember, consistency is key! We’ve compiled our favourites here.
While standing over sitting can burn extra calories, the best way to boost your energy expenditure is to incorporate exercises at your desk.
- Squats: Every hour, be sure to do ten squats. As a compound movement, squats are great for overall strength too.
- Desk push-ups: Ensure your desk is stable enough first. These are a great alternative to traditional push-ups and place less impact on the wrists.
- Step-ups: Buy a small platform under your desk or find a stair outside. You can do 1-2 minutes of step-ups every hour to increase your burned calories.
- Calf-raises: These require zero equipment. Simply raise your heels slowly until you’re standing on the tips of your toes. You can also do this one leg at a time for added strength.
If you’re trying to boost how many calories you burn daily, it comes down to tiny moments throughout the day. You can improve your diet and lifestyle in many ways, eventually adding up.
Another deciding factor for health is ensuring you optimise your metabolism. While you may be fit and healthy overall, your metabolic rate determines how quickly you burn calories.
To support healthy metabolism:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day and aim for 2 litres. Buy a colourful water bottle to remind you. We love Frank Green.
- Incorporating multiple small, healthy snacks can reduce hunger and burn fat.
- Consume protein-rich foods to satiate you and prevent your metabolism from crashing.
- Incorporate oolong or yerba-mate tea to boost your metabolism.
- Sleep can not be understated. Evidence proves that rest is crucial for a healthy body. In fact, chronic sleep deprivation significantly impedes metabolism.
Burning Calories At Standing Desks.
Standing desks can be a great addition to your workplace and should be offered in all corporate environments.
They assist with additional calories burnt throughout the day and can help you lose weight, but they are not the be-all and end-all!
Your health and well-being ultimately come down to you. Consider all the small ways you can implement throughout the day to improve your health. Can you incorporate more standing, walk to and from work, choose whole foods and nutrient-dense meals, opt for water over juices and coffee, and prioritise sleep?
Finding ways to increase your energy expenditure through various movements is the best thing you can do to support your health outcomes in the long run. Pun intended!