Sitting comfortably versus lying down: Is there really a difference in energy expenditure?

Published:November 25, 2013DOI:


      Background & aims

      Energy expenditure (EE) during sitting is widely assumed to be higher than that while lying down, but supporting evidence is equivocal. Despite this, resting EE in the sitting position is often used as a proxy for basal metabolic rate. Here we investigate whether EE differs in the comfortable seated position compared to supine (lying) position.


      EE and respiratory quotient (RQ) were measured (by ventilated hood indirect calorimetry) in 19 healthy subjects (9 men, 10 women) after an overnight fast. Supine measurements were made using a comfortable clinical tilting table and sitting measurements made using an adjustable, ergonomic car seat adapted for the hood system. After about 30 min of rest in either position, metabolic monitoring was conducted until stabilization of EE for at least 15 min in each posture.


      EE in the sitting position was not significantly different compared to supine (<2% difference). By contrast, heart rate was higher by 7 beats/min (p < 0.05). RQ was slightly but significantly decreased during sitting compared to lying (p < 0.05), with no change in breathing rate.


      This study suggests that the ventilated hood calorimetry system for assessment of REE after an overnight fast in a comfortable sitting position can be used as a good proxy of the basal metabolic rate. It also underscores the applicability of the ventilated hood system to measurements of resting EE in the sitting posture which, compared to supine posture, may be more acceptable/convenient to the subject/patient participating in postprandial metabolic studies lasting several hours.


      Non-standard abbreviations:

      EE (energy expenditure), REE (resting energy expenditure), BMR (basal metabolic rate), RQ (respiratory quotient), HR (heart rate), BR (breathing rate)
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