Standing desks may become more commonplace in classrooms in the next few years, with studies showing they help students pay attention while also fighting childhood obesity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded a study this year in January on standing desks, offering Bryan Collegiate High School in Bryan, Texas the choice to replace traditional desks with standing desks. Thirteen classrooms accepted.
Principal Christina Richardson noticed the difference the standing desks made.
“The kids who would normally be slouched down, half-asleep or fidgeting in their chair were now standing up and paying attention,” she said.
Mark Benden, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M University, started the study in 2011. He found that desks that encourage students to stand rather than sit help burn a significantly higher amount of calories during the day.
Benden studied classrooms in central Texas, using arm bands to measure caloric expenditure in students over the course of ten days. The students in standing desks burned more calories than those in traditional desks. On average, students who stood burned 11 more calories per hour than those who remained sitting. For students higher than the 85th percentile for weight—classified as overweight or obese—they burned 32 more calories than when sitting.
Not only do standing desks seem to be good for the health of students, but teachers have noticed that students pay more attention, are more alert, and behave better with the introduction of the desks.
Adult office workers also notice the difference in productivity. At the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performance Arts Center, 25 percent of the center’s staff switched to standing desks in May. Employees stated that decreasing the amount of time sitting helped with headaches, back pain, and increased energy levels.
Employees at Business Insider put standing desks to the test in 2013. They tracked their work and found that standing led up to a 10 percent increase in productivity. Workers were able to better concentrate, something that Business Insider believes is due to the fact that standing up provides a sense of urgency to get things done. When tasks are effectively completed standing up, employees allowed themselves to sit for a while.
Likewise, children pay more attention when they aren’t sitting for prolonged periods of time.
Monica Wendel, a co-author of the standing desks study, told the Chicago Tribune that although the standing desks offered stools for students to sit on, the majority preferred standing.
“What we found was that most students WANT to be standing, to be moving. They don’t want to sit still—it’s against their nature. We are the ones who teach them to be sedentary.”
Students seem to like the desks as well. Fourth-grader Emma Kalcounos told My News 13 in Orlando, Fla., that she felt more involved in class with a standing desk.
“When you’re sitting down, you feel tired because you’re sitting and you’re not, like up and like, paying attention,” she said. " But when I’m standing, I feel like I’m paying attention and I’m not tired.”
While standing desks are still expensive compared to traditional desks, Benden expects the price to drop as more companies enter the standing-desk market.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.