When envisioning the classroom of the future, virtual reality and robotic teachers might come to mind. But while technology is certainly transforming the way we learn and the spaces where learning takes place, a much more subtle trend is slowly taking hold of classrooms worldwide.
Standing desks are all the rage in modern offices, and companies like Microsoft and Google give their employees the option to work standing up instead of sitting down. What is already a big trend in offices is slowly making its way into schools.
As it turns out, standing desks have been around for longer than you'd expect. Many famous authors and politicians chose to work standing up instead of sitting down—Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Winston Churchill were all standing desk proponents.
With more and more schools cutting recess and physical education programs, sitting for seven-plus hours a day is becoming the norm for students across the nation. An increasing number of children diagnosed with ADHD each year are prescribed medicine to combat the restlessness and fidgeting that's beneficial to their development. Armed with recent research, educators are beginning to push for stand up desks in the classroom. The Stand Up Desk Store presents findings about the harmful effects of prolonged sitting on student development and the health, behavioural, and educational benefits of using standing desks for students.
We all know that sitting all day is incredibly bad for our health and can cause heart disease, cancer, and obesity, among other things.
Most studies conducted and articles written on the benefits of standing are aimed at adults in the workplace. But children can also be affected by the health issues associated with excessive sitting.
We, as a society, are becoming more and more sedentary. Glued to phone screens, computer screens, and tv screens, most people neglect the importance of health and exercise. The rise in computers means that most of the population sit behind a desk starting at a computer screen for 8 hours a day, sit in a car on the commute home for 2 hours, then sit in front of a tv screen for 2 more hours. That's a lot of sitting. But kids are the same.
The rise in technology has increased the amount of sitting time for kids. As a result, children today are playing outside much less than they did 20 or 30 years ago, which is causing several problems to their long and short-term health.
Standing for Health
The standing trend isn't just another fad. Too much sitting has been shown to have serious implications for our health. Experts have even gone as far as calling sitting the new smoking.
Some of the health risks associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour in children are obesity, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and reduced cardiorespiratory fitness. But prolonged sitting harms not only the physical well-being of children but also their self-esteem and academic performance. Unfortunately, it is not enough to go to for a walk or hit the gym after school, as short amounts of strenuous exercise can't counteract the negative effects of too much sitting. Check over here.
Both adults and children spend increasing amounts of time every day sitting down. According to studies, school-aged children spend as much as 60-70% of their waking hours sedentary. In the US, students spend an average of 4.5 hours sitting at school and an additional 7 hours sitting in front of a screen. It's been shown that children who spend long amounts of time sitting also carry this behaviour into their teens and adult life, increasing their risk of obesity and other health problems.
Standing Desks for students
Aside from health benefits, many learning perks come with using a standing desk. It may not be the only thing you need to make an A* student, but it can help them build better study habits and absorb more of material through the standing desks on their physical wellness. Also, standing desks encourage better social skills and engagement among the social group within the class. Here are a few benefits of standing desks for students:
Standing Against Childhood Obesity
Evidence suggests that school children spend more time sitting at school than at home, which means there's a lot of potentials to change this behaviour by changing the way classrooms are set up.
A recent study conducted at three schools in Texas investigated the effect standing desks have on students' BMI (body mass index). Across the three schools, 24 classrooms were fitted with standing desks. The standing students and a control group of seated students were monitored during third and fourth grade.
While the students in the control group saw a 2% rise in BMI, the standing students saw a 3% decrease over the same period. Again, the results were consistent across both female and male students and among students of different races.
Students burn an average of 15-25% more calories when standing compared to sitting, and the results are even more impactful among obese kids, who burn 25-35% more calories.
Are Standing Desks for Kids the Solution?
A systematic review of classroom standing desks and sedentary behaviour examined the impact of school-based standing desk interventions on sedentary behaviour and physical activity, health-related outcomes, and academic and behavioural outcomes in school-aged children. It concluded that the evidence supports integrating standing desks into the classroom environment with the potential to reduce sitting time and increase standing time among elementary school children. See here.
Benefits of Standing Desks in Classrooms
Children are the future. If we can't teach them to look after their bodies, we will be a generation with back problems, poor posture, obesity, and heart disease.
For students, using a standing desk in the classroom reveals many of the same benefits shared earlier in this post. But there are a few others, too. These additional benefits include increased focus, better engagement and greater collaboration. In addition, standing desks achieve the same results as wobble stools and ball chairs by channelling a student's pent-up energy to minimise distractions.
Teachers also benefit from standing desks with their great versatility. Mobile standing desks allow for easy maneuvering throughout the classroom during group work and lectures. Some styles can house audiovisual equipment, laptops and lesson plans. They can also be as simple as a desktop riser added to an existing desk.
If you're still not convinced that standing desks are the future of classroom ergonomics, here are just some of the benefits!
Early studies have shown that when children are standing, they are more engaged, and it can even help children with attention difficulties focus – but this also depends on their age and maturity.
Improves classroom behaviour
Children have a lot of energy. A LOT. Why force them to sit down and be still when they can stand and reap the benefits? Standing burns energy, and by being allowed to move and not being tied to a chair, they are more likely to be able to focus better and move around a little – improving classroom behaviour.
Improves musculoskeletal health and posture
Sitting for long periods has been proven to cause neck pain, back pain, poor posture, among other things. However, a pilot study conducted in Australia and New Zealand in 2012 concluded that musculoskeletal discomfort was not evident in children using standing workstations. Another study published in August 2018 concluded that "Students were less likely to report musculoskeletal discomfort in the neck, shoulder, elbows and lower back when using standing desks."
Increases caloric consumption
Childhood obesity is now an epidemic. Children that are overweight or obese has tripled between 1980 and 2002. Standing desks can help kids burn 15-25% more calories when standing, and obese kids burn 25-35% more calories.
Standing opens the airways and allows for better breathing and blood flow. This, in-turn, allows more blood and oxygen to flow around the body. Click for more info.
Encourages better health impacting habits
Considering the health benefits that come with using a standing desk, integrating them into schoolwork may help students build better health-impacting habits that they can carry throughout life.
According to a study titled "The effects of standing desks within the school classroom: A systematic review" published in ScienceDirect:
"In these studies, sit-to-stand desk use was associated with several health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, back and neck pain, increases in HDL cholesterol, and improved mood states. As employed within the workplace, making environmental changes to the classroom could effectively reduce children's sitting time. Such interventions could provide the opportunity to reduce total sedentary time and the ability to break up prolonged bouts of sitting, both of which have been shown to be beneficial to health in children. Classroom-based interventions may also help target health inequalities by being accessible to all children."
This simply means that if young students start practising better health habits now, they can enjoy the long-term benefits of prolonged practice through their adulthood. And integrating standing desks within the classroom can help encourage healthy living habits by sitting less, stretching and being generally more active.
Promotes Student Engagement
Standing desks can also promote student engagement. In school, it's not only important to be book smart. Social skills and interactions with other students and teachers can build confidence and general life skills, which can be invaluable for their development. In addition, standing can create a more casual environment and allow students to express themselves more freely with enhanced creativity.
Also, standing desks are easy to move around, so for projects that involve group work, these desks can be easily moved around so the group members can be closed in the vicinity of each other.
Prolonged sitting can easily suck out energy from students as it can make the tone dull and tiresome after a long period of time. Allowing students to stand up from time to time will help liven up the mood and pump the energy back into their minds. Sometimes, it takes some environmental intervention to motivate students to engage more. It would be easier for them to engage with more energy and sharper senses, and they will hopefully experience lifelong benefits.
As good for you as standing is, standing on hard floors or for too long without breaks isn't good for your body either. Adding a mat is the best way to ensure a comfortable standing experience. An anti-fatigue mat provides an ergonomic benefit for your feet as they provide cushioning, reduce pressure points on your feet, and they can mould to your feet to provide maximum comfort. Further, an anti-fatigue mat stimulates very subtle micro-movements in your muscles to keep you balanced. This muscle engagement keeps the blood flowing through your lower limbs, increasing circulation, which reduces fatigue.
It is also recommended to vary between sitting, standing, and moving as much as possible and that you never stand uninterrupted for more than 1 hour at a time. A very recent study published on 8th August 2018 on the effects of standing desks in schools concluded that "Standing desks significantly increased classroom standing time and decreased musculoskeletal discomfort reports but had no overall effect on daily physical activity levels. Therefore, schools should consider moving towards classrooms enabling a variety of postures to improve the long-term health of children potentially."
Standing Desks for Teachers
Students aren't the only ones that can benefit from standing desks, and teachers also need to be working in a healthy environment which encourages productivity and creativity. Teachers often need to undergo a continuous learning process as well so they can teach quality material that is kept up with the times. It's not easy to learn and teach every day!
Teachers can also benefit from using standing desks to maintain healthy habits, despite the busy lifestyles they lead. Similar to corporate employees who benefit from utilising standing desks, teachers can also get some calorie burn into their day without leaving their workstations when using a standing desk. Here are some benefits teachers can enjoy from using standing desks for their work:
Better class management
Some classrooms already provide podiums or standing desks for teachers and professors to use while conducting a class. It may not seem that beneficial, but being able to stand in front of a classroom can actually help class facilitators manage the class better. In addition, being able to benefit from the energy boost of standing can heighten the teacher's alertness and ability to address the class' needs better.
Aside from that, if both students and teachers are provided standing desks for use in a class, then the learning process can be a more efficient experience for both parties. In addition, if students can appreciate the classroom experience more, the class would be easier to manage for the teacher.
One of the key classroom elements teachers encourage is to empower collaboration between students. Especially with younger kids, it may be difficult to make them work together, considering how easily distracted and energetic kids are at this age. Standing desks can help to expend energy and can improve concentration.
Also, the simple act of standing can keep them focused on the task they need to do as a team. Sitting and working can give off an isolated feeling, which we don't want to encourage. Standing can give children breathing room to interact, and with guidance from a teacher, they can collaborate better. This is a very important skill that educators hold in high regard since it is something that a person carries through all stages of life. This is why empowering them to collaborate and work together should always be a priority.
Frequently Asked Questions About Standing Desk
They shared that people should not stand at their desks continuously for two hours without fatigue-reducing interventions, including an anti-fatigue mat, sit-stand workstations, and more. In addition, multiple studies showed enough evidence to prove that standing all day is bad for your health.
Standing desks are expensive because the materials they are made of are costly and have electric motors for height adjustability, which take more time and effort to build. Also, these desks are known for their ergonomic benefits for health and productivity that also affect the actual desk cost.
Standing desks are also linked to higher productivity rates by as much as 45%. Users may also have better heart rates, improved energy levels, and a better mood overall than those who only sit. Switching from sitting to standing while working at your desk is an easy change to make.
A growing body of research suggests that many of the benefits claimed by standing desk evangelists are overblown. Simply put, there's no substitute for good, old fashioned movement, and our bodies are not designed to stand for prolonged periods of time.
According to the research published in circulation, sitting down at a desk burns roughly 20 calories per fifteen minutes, while standing at a desk burns about 22 calories per fifteen minutes.
Standing up releases the pressure on your neck and back and promotes a healthier posture. Standing for just over an hour a day reduces neck and back pain by about 54%. However, some people still complain of back pain at work while using a standing desk. Again, this goes back to ergonomics.