Standing Desks, Students and Focus in the Classroom

The rise of the standing desk may appear to be a response to the modern, eat-at-your-desk, hunched-over worker chained to her computer, but history paints a different picture: Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson all stood while they worked. Donald Rumsfeld had a standing desk, and so did Charles Dickens. Workplaces are moving toward more standing desks, but schools have been slower to catch on for a variety of reasons, including cost, convenience, and perhaps the assumption that “sit down and pay attention” is the best way to learn.

Mark Benden, Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Texas A&M Health Science Center, is looking to change all that. Too much sitting is bad for our health, he said, and students are now facing a host of challenges that may stem in part from too much time in a chair, including obesity and attention disorders. So five years ago, Benden and his team began studying what happened to students when they got out of their traditional seats and moved to standing desks.

“When schools tell children to sit still and be quiet, you’ve almost wounded them. They want to be wiggling and fidgeting and moving.”
Their findings, published in a new piece in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come from a group of 374 elementary school students in College Station, Texas. Students divided into a (traditional desk) control group and a standing desk group were equipped with biometric monitors – what Benden described as “research-level Fitbits” – attached to their arms, which tracked several measurements, like heart rate and intensity of movement, and then calculated their caloric burn. The desks were designed and built locally at Stand2Learn, an A&M faculty-led startup of which Benden maintains part ownership.

By InnSpace Admin|February 13th, 2018