We think better on our feet, literally

John Hopton for redOrbit.com – @Johnfinitum

A new study has found that students who work at a standing desk during class enjoy higher academic achievement than those who sit down.

Previous research looked at standing desks as an option for reducing childhood obesity and easing the pressures on the spine of sitting down for too many hours a day. Standing desks in schools could be a way to improve both health and learning.

“Simply put, we think better on our feet than in our seat,” said Mark Benden, associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health and study lead. His findings were reported by Futurity.org and published in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education.

An ergonomic engineer by trade, Benden previously conducted research to prove that standing desks can help reduce obesity. He found students at standing desks burn 15 percent more calories than students at traditional desks (25 percent for obese children).

There was also anecdotal evidence that the desks increased academic engagement, and the new study was the first designed specifically to look at the impact of classroom engagement.

Get off your ath let’s do some math!

After observing almost 300 children in second through fourth grade over the course of a school year, preliminary results showed that on-task engagement was 12 percent higher in classrooms with standing desks. This equates to an extra seven minutes per hour of engaged instruction time.

Engagement was measured by actions like answering a question, raising a hand, or participating in active discussion. Off-task behaviors such as talking out of turn were also measured.

Benden said he was not surprised at the results of the study, given that previous research has shown how physical activity, even at low levels, can potentially have beneficial effects on cognitive ability.

He noted that: “Standing workstations reduce disruptive behavior problems and increase students’ attention or academic behavioral engagement by providing students with a different method for completing academic tasks (like standing) that breaks up the monotony of seated work.”

Adding that: “Considerable research indicates that academic behavioral engagement is the most important contributor to student achievement.”

Standing desks, also known as stand-biased desks, are raised desks that have stools nearby, which let students sit or stand during class at their discretion. Benden’s research resulted in the creation of Stand2Learn, an offshoot company of a faculty-led startup that manufactures a classroom version of the stand-biased desk.

According to Open Culture, Soren Kierkegaard, “the father of existentialism”, did his best writing standing up, as did Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov, and Virginia Woolf. Ernest Hemingway was in the standing desk club too, although his level of drinking – which led fellow author Philip Greene to write the book To Have and Have Another about his drinking adventures – is not currently recommended for the classroom.


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