Standing Desks

Research: Standing Desks Shape Weight Gain in Students

New research suggests that standing desks in classrooms can help students with weight control. A two-year study of students in 24 classrooms at three schools found a "statistically significant" decrease in body mass index among the students in the group that used the special desks vs. those who used standard desks over that same period.

"Stand-Biased Versus Seated Classrooms and Childhood Obesity: A Randomized Experiment in Texas" was published in the August 23, 2016 edition of the American Journal of Public Health. The project was led by Mark Benden, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and a specialist in the topic. He's also co-founder of a company that designs and sells the desks, which he refers to as "stand-biased" desks, because students may work at them by standing or sitting on a stool and using a built-in footrest.

Previous research found that standing desks help students stay on task better and can contribute to neurocognitive improvement in executive function and working memory. This is the first time, Benden noted, that research has shown an impact related to weight control. According to the project, the use of standing desks in classrooms can slow the increase of BMI by an average of 5.24 percentile points.

At each of the participating schools, four classrooms were outfitted with the standing desks; four other classrooms at each school acted as control and used traditional desks. The researchers followed the same students from the beginning of grade three to the end of grade four.

Those students with the standing desks for both years averaged a 3 percent drop in BMI; those in traditional desks showed the 2 percent increase typically associated with getting older. Even those who spent just a year in classrooms with stand-biased desks had lower mean BMIs than those in traditional seating. In addition, there were no major differences between boys and girls or among students of different races.

"Classrooms with stand-biased desks are part of what we call an 'activity permissive learning environment,' which means that teachers don't tell children to 'sit down,' or 'sit still' during class," said Benden in a university statement about the research. "Instead, these types of desks encourage the students to move instead of being forced to sit in poorly fitting, hard plastic chairs for six or seven hours of their day."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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