Standing at work can help improve blood flow and reduce the risk of heart disease, but don't expect it to help with weight loss, a new study concludes.
The experiment, dubbed "Energy Expenditure During Acute Periods of Sitting, Standing, and Walking," was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
Researchers split participants into four groups. One group spent 15 minutes sitting at a desk and typing on a computer, then another 15 minutes standing. Another group sat motionless at their desks and watched TV for 15 minutes, then spent the next 15 minutes walking at an easy pace on a treadmill.
The third group stood for 15 minutes and sat for 15 minutes, in that order, and the fourth group spent 15 minutes on the treadmill and sat for another quarter hour.
The results? People who stood at their desks burned more calories than their counterparts who sat, but the difference was negligible, and the difference is unlikely to help sedentary office workers lose weight, the University of Pittsburgh researchers found.
It's the second major study in recent months aimed at assessing the benefits of standing at work, which has become a trend thanks to dire warnings about the health dangers of sedentary office jobs.
In May, researchers at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center monitored 167 employees in a Texas call center, split into groups between employees who stood during their shifts and employees who sat. The standing employees were more productive than their colleagues, according to The Washington Post, generating 23 percent more "successful" calls.
But that was only during the first month. After six months of standing, those employees were 50 percent more productive than their counterparts, the study found.
“When my doctoral student first came to me [with the numbers], I said, ‘You’ve made a mistake. This just isn’t possible,'" said Mark Benden, director of the university’s ergonomics center and one of the study's authors.
But that study similarly didn't find weight loss benefits. Like the University of Pittsburgh team, the Texas A&M researchers said there were measurable health benefits to standing, but weight loss probably wasn't one of them.
Seth Creasy, lead author of the University of Pittsburgh study, told The New York Times that "standing up may not be enough" for employees who want to manage or lose weight.
Office drones would get more benefit from getting up and walking around at regular intervals, he said.
“Brief periods of walking," he said, "can add up to make a big difference."