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How to easily burn an extra 25,000 calories – without working out

by Guest Blogger Anita Alvarez

Who wouldn’t want to burn 25,000 calories over the course of a year, without adding one single minute of aerobics, pilates, or weight lifting? I learned the secret: a standing desk—and a pedometer. But I took it up a few notches.

Too much sitting

Choosing an occupation that ties you to a desk also means a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I’ve been a teacher and a freelance writer working from home for over 10 years, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to think about the effects of how immobile I am for the better part of each workday. I can probably attribute that to turning 40 last year. How much I move each day and what I eat seems to matter more as I enter the latter half of my life.

The right combination

Several years ago, my husband and I took the plunge and made the switch to a plant-based diet. After five years, we’re on cruise control; our new eating habits are now old hat.  I’ve always been an exerciser, but it bothered me that so much of my day was, literally, down time, and with a full-time job, husband and two kids, some days it’s hard to squeeze even a twenty minute workout into my schedule.

Finding a solution in a gift

The desk came about as a result of an unassuming birthday gift.  My husband gave me a Fitbit pedometer, which I eagerly clipped on to my person, anticipating high readings as a result of my daily activities combined with working out.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Several hours into the first day of wearing my pedometer, I got up from my desk for a drink of water, and glanced down at the reading. I was shocked. I had only traveled a couple of hundred feet. Worse yet, on the weekends, I discovered I was even less active over the day. Reaching the recommended 10,000 feet now seemed an insurmountable goal.

The results

I put on my multitasking hat. Why waste the better part of my days sitting on my tuchus when I could be walking, and driving up my pedometer score? Without the budget for a treadmill or a fancy desk, I came up with a temporary solution. Using an assortment of books and board games, I jacked up my monitor, keyboard and mouse to the right height for viewing and typing, and away I went.

On average, I start working at 8:30 a.m. every morning, and take a break for lunch by 11:30 a.m. That’s now the designated time frame for standing. (After lunch, I clock my hours mostly sitting.) By standing, I’m not only burning more calories than if I were sitting, but I’m saving my body from the hardship of long sitting sessions.

Kicking it up a few notches

But I don’t just stand. Every 15 minutes or so, I ramp up my “standing workout” by taking slow steps. In place. Yes, It looks dumb. And no, I don’t care. I’m alone!

My work varies from intense typing, where I need to stand absolutely still, to activities where I use the mouse or enter a few key strokes, and slow walking doesn’t interrupt my workflow.

That’s how I’m able to take about 2,000 steps every morning. Those steps equal about one mile, or the equivalent of burning an extra 100 calories—every day. Over the course of one year, the steps add up to 25,000 calories, or the equivalent of taking 50,000 extra steps.

The future

I went with the very primal—and inexpensive—books-and-games schematic to create my standing desk because it gets the job done. It doesn’t look pretty, and some days, it’s a hassle to dismantle the arrangement, and then reassemble the standing station. But I can’t dispute the benefits of taking 50,000 more steps each year, or burning 25,000 more calories.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be willing to spend the money on a treadmill desk or a pricey adjustable desk. But for now, I’m giddy over the calories burned, and my husband is investing a few dollars and some elbow grease to create two movable glass shelves that should prove quite a bit sturdier than the balancing act I have going now.

***Note: To calculate calories burned, I estimated a 5-day work week, burning 500 calories each week while standing/walking, and multiplied that number by 50 weeks.

For more on standing work stations, see I’m not going to take it sitting down any more! 4 tips for a great standing work station.


Anita Alvarez, a  freelance writer and editor, wife, and mom to two daughters,  enjoys the challenge of fitting exercise into her daily life. That’s why you’ll often find her walking in random places, purposefully taking laps around the grocery store, parking far away from entrances, or taking a jaunt around the soccer field while her daughter practices. She’s inspired by people like Lani Muelrath who promote healthy, active lifestyle changes that have a lasting impact. Follow her on Twitter or Plantified.


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