When it comes to weight loss, one significant advantage most of us can leverage is one of the largest muscle groups in the human body residing underneath us — our legs. The pure act of standing on our two feet all day, or even just part of the day, can accelerate our ability to burn calories significantly.
Although each person’s lean muscle and body weight influence the overall numbers, standing for an additional 4 hours per day can burn as much as 50 calories more per hour. An additional 200 calories burned from a 2,000 calorie diet might not seem like that much, but when factored into a year, it can equate to a weight loss of up to 20 pounds.
In order for this to happen, however, a person would need to maintain the correct caloric intake for a healthy body weight and stand regularly for a timed period.
Naturally, standing for excessive periods of time can also lead to low back and leg fatigue. But it trumps sitting, which results in increased compression of the lower spine and increases tension in the chest, shoulders and neck.
One of the most bizarre paradoxes of the human body is that while the force of gravity can wreak absolute havoc on our joints, back and connective tissue, it is also the force we must harness to build muscle, minimize body fat, burn calories and protect our joints by buffering the loads and stresses occurring as a result of inadequate strengthening.
The musculature of the legs, glutes and back — which are activated when we stand — also contribute to an event referred to as Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT.
NEAT is a fancy term to describe all the great physiologic events, primarily the amount of heat created when standing. The muscles involved to maintain an upright posture must contract to achieve and maintain this position. By doing this, we are also more prone to pace, walk while we talk on the phone or to a group and make more trips to the “copy machine” which in this instance, can be any location within the work environment where productivity can occur. The key point is that standing becomes an inducement to move more frequently.
The sitting vs. standing model, when applied to a 130 pound woman, would show her burning approximately 60 calories per hour while seated, or 480 calories per day. When that same woman goes home for dinner that evening, the chances are that her caloric intake at dinner in all probability will exceed 480 calories, resulting in a net gain of calories for the day.
While standing should be tolerated as long as possible in the work environment, the key takeaway is that success in our weight-loss efforts frequently begin with finding as many reasons as possible to get up and move.
Now, I’m not encouraging you to eat off of 4-foot tables this Thanksgiving, but any chance you can create to stand more and move more throughout your day can kick-start your body’s calorie-burning engine, allowing you to welcome the holidays with room to spare at your waistline and add muscle tone to your body in the process.