Swapping classroom chairs for standing desks may help kids slim down, study suggests

Camille Bienvenu
Wed, 07 Sep 2016
Swapping classroom chairs for standing desks may help kids slim down, study suggests
American researchers in Texas have found that introducing standing desks in classrooms could help young children maintain a healthy body weight by reducing the sedentary living associated with sitting for long periods of time.

As opposed to desks in standard seated classrooms, these desks are set at a height that allows students to alternate between sitting on a stool or standing while working. This not only avoids too much sitting, but also allows micro breaks for postural relief.

Standing desks, which have grown popular in office spaces over the last few years, could interrupt sedentary behaviour patterns while kids are in school for six or more hours during classroom instruction time every day.

Previous research has linked sedentary time to poor academic achievement and low self-esteem in children, in addition to stressing the lower back.

This study, which was published online in the American Journal of Public Health, investigated the impact of different sitting arrangements on the health of third- and fourth-graders in three Texas-based elementary schools.

The research team followed 380 students and 24 teachers who were randomly assigned to have standing desks in their classrooms, or regular desks.

The researchers found that kids spent more time on their feet, contributing to a modest weight loss, when the standing desks were used instead of traditional classroom desks.

About 80 per cent of the kids started out at a normal weight and the researchers did not exclude results for those overweight.

Overall, compared to students who used regular desks for two years, students benefiting from standing desks in their classrooms for the same time period saw their body mass index (BMI) decrease by 5 per cent, on average.

Commenting on the results, Mark Benden of the Texas A&M School of Public Health Ergonomics Center in College Station, suggested that reducing sitting time could decrease the inactivity linked to a range of problems, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

These results are relevant to UK elementary institutions as US sedentary trends - affecting weight gain - strongly correlate to those seen on home turf.

However, contrary to the UK, most US elementary schools lost the regular break time and physical education time ensured in a typical UK school day.

Nonetheless, standing desks may bring a difference to UK classrooms at early ages that doesn't take away from the rest of classroom time and will encourage physical activity in the learning process.
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