There’s ample research to suggest that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health, so more and more professionals are switching to standing desks. A new study suggests that there may also be benefits for giving school children the option to stand during class.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most recently available data found 17 percent of school age children in the U.S. are obese. A new paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examines how standing desks might be part of the solution.
Researchers from Texas A&M University outfitted classrooms with standing-height desks and stools, which give students the opportunity to stand or sit. They then measured the actively levels of these students using an arm band that kept track of steps and energy expenditure during class. These results were compared to students sitting at conventional desks. The research was conducted at three central-Texas elementary schools, and 374 students from different grades participated in the study.
Students who used the standing desks were found to burn 15 percent more calories than those using traditional desks. Younger students were found to be more willing to stand than older ones.
Researcher Mark Benden told Fast Company that teachers also reported that students concentrated better when using standing desks. However this variable wasn’t measured by the study—but came from follow-up interviews.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the childhood obesity crisis, for which there are multiple causes. The authors note that while the study included students of diverse racial backgrounds, the sample may not represent other communities or older students such as high schoolers.
However, there may be health benefits for all students who use a standing desk. Recent research from Karolinska University in Sweden found that fewer hours sitting can benefit our chromosomes. Other research has shown standing instead of sitting reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and overall mortality.
Is it time we start equipping classrooms with standing desks?