By Roy Benaroch, MD
Sometimes a simple idea can have a big payoff.
A small study published last August looked at using standing-style desks in Texas classrooms to see if children could be encouraged to be more active. In two classrooms, traditional desks were swapped out for desks at a natural standing height, accompanied by higher stools for comfortable seating. Children with these high desks were compared with children who sat at traditional desks in classrooms nearby. Children in both groups wore electronic devices to determine activity levels.
After three months, almost all of the children with high desks were standing most or all of the time, and teachers and students both reported improved behavior and classroom performance. Better yet, students at high desks burned 17% more calories. The effect was even more pronounced among children who were overweight—given high desks, they burned 32% more calories during the school day than overweight children at traditional desks.
This was a small study, involving only 58 students. Still, the results are impressive, especially considering that both the teachers and students liked the new arrangement. These desks improved not only rates of physical activity but also school performance. Though I wouldn’t say high desks would be great for everyone—easily distracted kids, I think, might be more prone to wandering around—this simple, inexpensive, and safe change could have a big impact on weight problems and health.
Standing at work isn’t just for kids. Parents, think about your own desks—could you get your work done mostly standing in front of a high desk instead of sitting all day? Most of us would be healthier with more physical activity, but it can be hard to make it to the gym or have set time for actual exercise every day. Higher desks make it more comfortable to stand, which just might be a safe, painless, and easy way to help you and your kids keep a healthy weight. Give it a try!