Healthy Living

Standing vs. Sitting vs. Lying: Which Burns Most Calories?

The debate between what’s healthier -- standing-up, sitting down or lying down -- rages but new clinical evidence has come down on the side of standing-up.

Why? Simply because standing uses up a lot more energy than the other two positions given the same amount of time.

This was one of the major findings of a recent study from the University of Granada (UGR) in Spain, published in the peer-reviewed medical journal, PLOS One. It’s long been held by some scientists that lying, sitting, and standing expends different amounts of energy.

Before the UGR study, however, no one had quantified the energy differences between the three behaviors. The UGR study calculates the human body expends 45 kilocalories more per six-hour period when standing compared to lying down or sitting.

The research team also found little significant difference in energy expenditure between lying and sitting. What the study suggests is that standing uses up more energy and burns calories that would have otherwise ended up in fat storage.

The study also found a clear link between getting more physical activity and a lower risk of premature death. Light activities such as walking or even housework might prove beneficial.

"Therefore, if we take steps to combat a sedentary lifestyle by making small lifestyle changes such as spending more time standing, this could reduce the risk of developing diseases such as obesity or type 2 diabetes,” according to Francisco Amaro-Gahete, lead author of the study.

The study saw researchers measure energy expended during time spent sitting, lying and standing up in 55 healthy adults. The average age of the participants was 21.7 and 69 percent of them were female.

The team used indirect calorimetry to measure energy expenditure in each of the three positions.

A noninvasive method, indirect calorimetry is one of the most accurate and sensitive ways of measuring a person's energy use. It measures energy expenditure from the amount of oxygen the body uses and the amount of carbon dioxide it releases.

The study found the participants fell into two types of energy users: energy savers and energy spenders.

Energy spenders use more energy when they switch from lying or sitting to standing. They burn around 10 percent more energy when they switch to standing from lying or sitting, Amaro-Gahete added.

On the other hand, energy savers consume very little energy in their activities. The result is the difference between sitting and lying or standing is practically nil for these people.

Researchers are still trying to figure out why some people are energy savers while others are energy spenders. Researchers said the answer to this question might help explain why some people have a lot of difficulty losing weight while others do so with ease.

Researchers suggest people with sedentary occupations, such as office workers, should spend more time standing up.

Woman sitting down in cafe Researchers at the University of Warwick find we must walk seven miles, or stand for seven to eight hours, to undo the effects of sitting all day. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Kittie, Public Domain

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