Standing desks for students have become something of a recent trend, particularly in the US and Europe. Standing desks are adjustable desks that permits standing or sitting, while working or studying. The concept is not new. Many famous personalities are known to have worked while standing, but it has gained recent popularity due to associated health benefits.
Health risks of prolonged sitting for school or college kids
We all know that students today spend almost at much time sitting at their desks as many office workers. And with the de-emphasis on physical education and reduced recess time at many schools, students have even less opportunities to get a good workout.
When kids get home, they also often spend most of their time on their couch flipping through their smartphones as well. This type of sedentary lifestyle for our children has almost become a public health crisis.
Various studies suggest that there are health risks of sitting too much, even for our young ones. Here are some of them:
- Obesity. Sitting results in accumulation of more body fat especially around the waist. Therefore prolonged sitting contributes to obesity in school children.
- Increased cholesterol levels. Longer sitting leads to higher cholesterol levels.
- High blood sugar levels. Kids sitting continuously for a longer time will develop higher blood sugar levels, compared to those who are able to be more active. This is significant for children who have already developed diabetes.
- Reduced overall energy level. Sitting for longer hours reduces one’s overall energy level, and could make children feels less energetic or result in disruptive behaviour.
- Increased risk of heart disease and cancer. In the long run, sitting for too long could increase risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer in adulthood.
Having standing desks for students in classrooms could help alleviate some of these health risks, by keeping them active for some of their time in the classroom.
Standing desks can help reduce the risk of obesity in students
In particular, amongst the health benefits that using standing desks have, one stands out for children – reducing the risk of obesity in children.
In the USA, it’s been estimated that the number of overweight and obese children stands at or above 30%. The risk of these children becoming obese adults (with resulting health issues and shorter life expectancy) is significantly higher than children or normal weight.
Opportunities for exercise for most school children have also faded in recent years, and in any case, takes up just a small proportion of students’ time in the school day. It’s clear that something has to be done about this.
A 2011 study of first-grade students in Texas found that those using standing desks burned 17% more calories than those who sat. Significantly, this effect was even more pronounced for children who were obese or overweight. They burned 32% more calories than those who were seated.
Other research have also showed that other than caloric expenditure using standing desks, the same children also increased their activity levels and number of steps taken outside the classroom. The amount of sitting time fell by up to 9.8% or 66 minutes per day in some cases.
With such clear health benefits, it becomes imperative that public health officers start to examine the possibility of having standing desks for at least a percentage of students in every school classroom.
Standing desks for students can lead to more engagement
Many doctors and paediatricians agree that children are not naturally meant to sit and be confined to one place for a long time. As most parents know, forcing kids to sit for a prolonged time tends to make them either lethargic and lose focus, or become disruptive.
A few schools in the USA have switched to stand-up desks for students to assess the change in student behavior. They concluded that standing desks for students allowed more freedom of movement and the children felt more comfortable at standing school desks. They could focus better on their studies and felt less lethargic.
Teachers also concluded that with standing desks in classrooms, disruptive behavior amongst students was reduced substantially. In fact, researchers in the University of Texas showed that students learnt better standing up. They showed higher levels of engagement than students who were seated. The engagement rates were a substantial improvement – 12% increased on-task engagement, which equated to an extra 7 minutes of engaged time per hour.
Standing desks for children with ADHD
ADHD in children have been linked to lack of physical activity. While much of the research in this area is ongoing, there is anecdotal evidence that having a standing desk allows for non-disruptive fidgeting, which helps ADHD children concentrate better in the classroom.
From the advantages of standing school desks listed above, it is not difficult to conclude that standing desks in the classroom for students helps improve the overall health and well being of children of all ages.