It’s not uncommon to walk into a classroom and see students fidgeting at their desk, or to overhear parents discussing ways to make sure their children are more physically active throughout the day. These are a couple of reasons why a trend you’re seeing more and more at the workplace, is now being integrated into classrooms too. That trend: standing desks. Using standing desks can turn the classroom into an active learning environment, and help improve the health of students who have been spending hour upon hour in their seats.
Studying the Scary Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the past 30 years, and quadrupled in adolescents. The CDC reports that the results of the 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 14% of U.S. high school students are obese. The survey looked at physical activity (and lack thereof) among students and found:
- 15% did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on any day during the 7 days leading up to the survey.
- 52% did not attend physical education classes in an average week while in school.
- 33% watched television 3 or more hours per day on an average school day.
- 41% used computers 3 or more hours per day on an average school day.
Standing Up to Obesity
Recent studies regarding standing desks and their effects on students have shown they are capable of helping students fight obesity and be more active and successful in the classroom. Mark Benden, an associate professor at Texas A&M researches classroom ergonomics and childhood obesity. His team examined the impact of standing desks on four Texas fourth grade classrooms. In the 2011 CDC funded study, two classes were randomly selected to receive standing desks and stools for the school year, while two other classrooms used standard desks. The students were evaluated for 10 days and arm bands were used to monitor their calories. Results showed the students in the classrooms with standing desks chose to stand for the majority of class and burned 11 calories more per hour than those using the standard desks. This added up to about 300 more calories per week. Overweight students were found to burn 23 more calories an hour than the standard desk users for a total of 575 more calories a week. In addition to the calorie burning aspect the desks provided, the teachers said the standing desks positively affected the behavior of the students and allowed the kids to be more focused on their work.
More studies on the effects of prolonged sitting in classrooms continue to be done. In fact, Central High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin was recently awarded a grant to buy 10 standing desks to research the negative health effects of sitting. The idea for the pilot project was created by a sophomore at the school. The desks will be scattered among various classrooms.
More Activity, Improved Test Scores
Another experiment, this one with high school students, found that standing rather than sitting in class, improved test scores. Dr. James Levine, the director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative (and probably best known as the inventor of the first treadmill desk), conducted an experiment with the help of Apple. The company donated computers and other supplies to classrooms in Rochester, Minnesota that allowed students a new way of learning; rather than kids sitting for class, they were allowed to stand and move by using mobile stations. The research team measured non-exercise activity levels of students through sensors they had placed on their legs and backs. After 2 months, the sensors showed the students doubled their activity level compared to when they were in a traditional classroom.
Not only that, teachers reported that “the students took fewer bathroom breaks, engaged in less frivolous movement, and related better to each other.” Parents also claimed their children were less stressed when they came home from school. One of the most surprising findings, though: the students in the study scored up to 20% higher on state standardized tests than they had before.
Other Standing Desk Benefits for Students
Some experts believe that standing desks may also help students with ADHD learn in the classroom. Stacy Gray, a certified calming practitioner, says “children who need to move to learn should not be looked down upon and made to feel that they are always frustrating and disappointing the adults in their lives.” She says this can damage their self-esteem. So, by being proactive and allowing them to stand and move while doing work, she feels the students will be happier, more focused and learn better.
Standing desks can also encourage collaboration in the classroom. Studies have found that students will be more likely to actively participate in discussions while being allowed to move, and standing can help improve their attention especially in the afternoon when students may be getting antsy.
Standing Desk Options for Students
There are many adjustable height desks to choose from depending on classroom space and needs: electric, crank, pneumatic/gas, standing only and models designed to sit on your existing desktop. Depending on the desk, there are also different shapes, sizes, colors and finishes available too. There are even new products which function as more than a desk. The Mark It Up™ is the first standing desk with a flip-up whiteboard which allows students to easily collaborate and share their work, which is a great addition to any classroom.
Between school, chores and homework, students’ lives are already jam-packed. That’s why standing desks are an easy way to add physical activity into their days.
Do your children use standing desks? Do you know of schools that have integrated standing desks into their classrooms? What benefits have they noticed? Do you believe standing desks can help fight obesity and even lead to higher test scores? Let us know how you feel about standing desks in schools by commenting below!