Are Standing Desks Coming to a School Near You?
With the sheer number of reports coming out touting the health consequences caused by too much sitting, a number of adults have begun the process of switching to a convertible or standing desk in order to minimize the repercussions caused by sitting.
Due to the momentum behind the standing desk movement, and the number of positive indicators that this could be a relatively simple solution to overall health for America’s adults, we’re starting to see the topic being broached in schools nationwide. Texas, for example, ran a pilot program to explore the feasibility of standing desks in schools, and the study seems to have delivered overwhelmingly positive results in favor of switching from the standard desks that have been around since - well - forever.
The study took place in three elementary schools in Texas and featured a total of 480 students. The report detailed findings that kids seemed to be better behaved, show improved attention spans, and burned up to 15-percent more calories as classmates who sat most of their day. Each standing desk had a stool nearby in case the need for a break arose, and each student wore a sensor on their arm for five consecutive school days that recorded the total number of steps and calorie expenditure of each student.
The results showed a significant increase in overall activity level as well as higher caloric expenditure. This additional movement also led to heightened concentration, and better behavior, according to follow-up interviews with the 25 teachers involved in the initial test.
These types of tests are still in an early stage, but the same district extended the test to include experiments from first through 12th grade. According to Mark Benden, a Texas A&M associate professor:
“We have now run classroom level experiments for 1st grade through 12th,” he says via email. “Younger kids actually [stand more] and are generally more mobile, with less stool use than the older kids. [We think] part of this is because of years of ‘sit-down, sit-still’ edicts from educators that developed sedentary habits.”
Further testing is obviously needed, but initial results are promising. In a nation that shows declining test scores and proficiency levels in core subjects such as math, reading, and science; any boost given to academic performance is certainly worth exploring.
While we’re not sure when - or if - large scale testing will take place, you can’t deny the success of recent experiments on relatively small student samples.
The results of these experiments align with current research that suggests students may process information differently than adults, and that movement amongst younger students - while once frowned upon or deemed as an impediment to learning - might actually accelerate cognitive ability. While recess, physical education and movement-related activities are certainly helpful to the development of young minds, it seems that additional caloric expenditure from standing desks might just increase the capacity of the young mind even more.
Where do we go from here? Only time will tell, but early results are definitely promising