How standing up in the office can help you lose weight

Posted on 9th January 2013

A New Year and a new term see an exercise scientist from the University of Chester standing in the shoes of author Ernest Hemingway and political leaders Sir Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson in a bid to prevent sedentary behaviour and burn ‘easy calories’.

Dr John Buckley at his old oak standing desk.
Dr John Buckley at his old oak standing desk.
It’s little changes in behaviour such as this, or standing at your desk, that can add up to make quite a big difference to your health.
Dr John Buckley

Dr John Buckley, from the Department of Clinical Sciences and Nutrition, has salvaged one of the University’s old oak lecterns to use as a standing desk, similar to one famously used by Nobel Prize winner Hemingway when he was writing.

Applying his knowledge of human physiology, Dr Buckley calculates that by working at this desk for three hours of his day will burn an extra 144 calories per day, compared to sitting at his desk and with no change to his job or leisure time activities.

In a year this will equate to more than 30,000 calories or eight pounds of human fat.

Dr Buckley, Reader of Applied Exercise Science in Health and lead Lecturer for the University’s MSc in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation, said: “This is the perfect way for any office-bound worker to achieve the typical New Year’s resolution of wanting to lose half a stone without changing anything else – how easy is that?”

Having found the desk, which still contained the chalk dust from its last owner and is thought to date back to the 1940s, Dr Buckley shared his New Year’s resolution with a former colleague Professor Stuart Biddle, who informed him that Hemingway used to work in a similar fashion.

Dr Buckley and Professor Biddle have been colleagues for more than 15 years in working on promoting physical activity for health through the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences.
Dr Buckley said: “I had no idea Hemingway did this when I decided to use the standing desk, but apparently he worked this way from the very beginning, so hopefully I’m in good company.”

Other famous standing desk enthusiasts include Thomas Jefferson, Sir Winston Churchill and Donald Rumsfeld.

Dr Buckley’s work as a national leader in physical activity and exercise science has included being part of a special advisory group to England’s Chief Medical Officer. At a key meeting he attended in Whitehall, issues of the workplace design, transport and the built environment (not sport) were designated as key culprits in the cause of obesity.

He added: “In the past 50 years, sports and exercise participation have remained at least the same, so it is sedentary behaviours such as sitting at a desk and nutrition which are the key factors causing the typical annual increase in most people’s waistlines.”

Dr Buckley, whose office is based in a seven-storey building on the University’s Main Campus in Chester, always tries to make the effort take the stairs to his office and encourages others to do the same wherever and whenever they can as well.

He added: “It’s little changes in behaviour such as this, or standing at your desk, that can add up to make quite a big difference to your health.”