When you’re confined to a chair all day, losing weight can prove challenging. Just because you’re sitting down doesn’t mean you can’t trim body fat, however. By picking up some healthy habits, you can significantly increase calorie burning even while stuck behind a desk. Exercise still matters for good health, though, so try to work out most days of the week in addition to your seated weight-loss plan.
How Weight Loss Works
Sitting or standing, you only lose weight one way: by consuming fewer calories than you burn. For every 3,500-calorie deficit you create, you’ll burn about 1 pound of body fat; therefore, a deficit of 500 calories per day — when subtracted from your basal metabolic rate — leads to 1 pound of weight loss per week. For reference, most moderately active women burn 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day, and most moderately active men burn 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day. With a sedentary lifestyle, you burn about 200 fewer daily calories.
Because you burn relatively few calories while sitting, it’s important to consume lighter foods to stay fit. Choose those with low caloric density, meaning they have plenty of volume to fill your stomach but are low in calories. Examples include fresh or steamed fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as whole-wheat breads and air-popped popcorn and lean proteins such as water-packed tuna and reduced-fat cheese. Avoid munching mindlessly while staring at the computer or television screen; it’s easy to overeat when you aren’t paying attention, so take breaks and focus on your food.
To further reduce calories, keep a glass of water on your desk or coffee table instead of sugary sodas and juices. Drinking water before meals may even help you eat less, according to a study presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in 2010. Researchers followed dieters over 12 weeks and found that those who drank 2 cups of water before every meal lost 5 pounds more than those who did not.
Wiggle and Jiggle
While you can’t run laps in your chair, you can engage in nonexercise-activity thermogenesis to increase calorie burning. Small actions such as shaking your legs, wiggling your pen or tapping your fingers on the desk can add up to hundreds of calories per day. Mini stair-steppers are another seated-exercise option; these slide easily under your desk and allow you to pump the pedals with your feet to mimic a partial stepping motion. In a study published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" in 2007, participants burned an average of 289 extra calories using these devices.