By J. A. Young
Every teacher knows them—the fidgety, can’t-sit-still kids, the kids with energy to spare. As many parents would argue, all of them have energy to spare. Is this energy being wasted while children are forced for hours throughout each school day to sit still? Can this energy be rechanneled in a direction that enhances learning? Enter the standing desk—a simple design whereby people stand up to work. Many educators have discovered that it helps their most “energized” students remain focused on school work. Yet the design of this novel desk appears to have many other benefits as well.
One of the first benefits of standing desks is about giving the body something to do so the mind can concentrate on educational tasks. Many students feel trapped in their desks and those with energy to spare wind up fidgeting and scrunched into their seats. Often, they find it difficult to accomplish assignments in their seats when they’re preoccupied with “stretching out.” The standing desks, for those students who are in need of them, allow the body to have that stretch and freedom to move, at least in place, so that the mental focus can do what it needs to do.
People often say that exercise makes them feel more alert and gives them more energy. Could it be that sitting at a desk makes people feel more lethargic? Standing at attention may actually be a great support for “paying attention.” While standing desks are still new to the classroom, the idea that they can promote better focus has many schools looking to offer them—at least as an option for interested students.
Standing around burns more calories than sitting around. Advocates for curbing the increase in childhood obesity have a new friend in the standing desk. The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a pilot study involving first graders that “showed that using a standing desk significantly increased caloric expenditure in first graders” (articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-07/health/chi-standing-desks-the-classroom-of-the-future-20120807_1_desks-standings-classroom).
While standing up at desks burns more calories than sitting at them, it may also be good for children’s health in other ways. For decades now, healthcare providers have warned about the dangers of sedentary lifestyles. Workers who sit all day long at desks have increased health risks for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. According to a recent report in Forbes, excess sitting has also been linked to increased risk for colon cancer and breast cancer (forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2013/02/09/why-sitting-increases-your-risk-of-dying-sooner/). Standing all day, therefore, can help diminish these increased risks.
Many standing desks come with stools as well as swinging foot rests. Students then have a choice when it comes to posturing their body as they do schoolwork. This kind of freedom, while unusual, supports what a Mayo Clinic physician refers to as the “activity-permissive” classroom, according to a New York Times article (nytimes.com/2009/02/25/us/25desks.html). Having the freedom to choose what feels right for their bodies is certainly different, but as educational practices evolve, this scenario is standing to gain support among innovative educators.
Many educators support the standing desk idea as do many employers. Standing desks are still in their infancy when it comes to education, but more research will certainly be forthcoming as this exciting trend spreads.
Are you using a standing desk? we want to hear your story! Please comment below.