I already have a standing desk at work.
I don’t always stand at it. I won’t lie to you. There are times where I’m too tired or too lazy or too sucked into my work to stay standing. However, there is always a portion of every day where I choose to stand, whether that be by choice or by coincidence. Sometimes I stand for an hour a day, sometimes I’m standing for more than half of the day, but the option to stand is one that I utilize day in and day out.
My office isn’t the only one to find use in this new trend. Many offices around the country that have opted for an open-office environment have provided standing desks to employees. The logic is sound – standing up is healthier than sitting down, so we should let our employees stand up more in order to increase overall health. It’s a logic that has proved true, both by personal anecdotes and by research.
So it’s been established that standing desks are healthier for the American work force. But what about our kids? In a nation that boasts childhood obesity rates at or around 17 percent for the past decade, where 14 percent of children ages 2 to 5 were obese and 31.3 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, shouldn’t we help them stay healthier too?
It’s no secret that our kids are overweight. The reasons are varied – cheaper, less healthy, readily available food coupled with a severe misunderstanding of a true healthy diet by many Americans helps. I’m sure the internet age of staring at screens for everything from education to entertainment is part of the problem. A biased opinion of my own would be that the PC culture that has prevailed in the past five to ten years has led to a world where children are told less often to run, join a sport, or play outside (I may be 26 years old but I can be the old man yelling at clouds about the way things used to be along with the best of them). But I’ll let statistics prove that physical activity is down, nutrition is down, and a large section of American kids are out of shape.
So what’s the solution? Well, lots of them. Mandatory physical activity at schools. Better, nutritional offerings at cafeterias. Better education for kids and parents about what a truly healthy diet consists of, and what foods, ingredients, etc. are packing on pounds. And, perhaps, something as simple as a standing desk.
New research from Texas A&M suggests that standing desks could be a useful tool in the fight against childhood obesity. According to Bloomberg:
For two years, three unnamed Texas schools tested how standing desks might effect students’ BMI over time. Tracking around 400 kids, the researchers gave about half standing desks, while the rest had to work the old-fashioned way. The raised workspaces came with stools and bars underneath for the kids to rest their feet. All children wore research-grade activity trackers. After two years, the standers had overall lower BMI than the sitters. Researchers measured more than a 5 percent change in BMI between the two groups over time…
… [The data] showed a statistically significant difference between the two groups. Classrooms that use what the report calls “stand-bias” desks lead to healthier outcomes for kids. Following the study, the Texas schools not only kept the standing desks but asked for more.
It isn’t about making kids stand all day without fidgeting like we’re training them for the Spartan army. In fact, research has shown that standing all day can have negative impacts, just like sitting all day can. These tests allowed children to sit or stand as they pleased. Some propped themselves up against the desks, some moved the stools away and stood there, some perched on the stools while standing, but all of that moving around lead to actual results. Calories were burned and behavioral classroom engagement improved as well.
What this research shows is that students won’t hold their breath and stomp their feet when given standing desks (so the PC crowd can calm down before they even get started). Like adults, like myself, students will stand for part of the day, sit for part of the day, and improve health throughout the year. Making standing desks a standard at schools could help combat the obesity we’ve worried about for years.
Kids are smart, but they don’t understand everything about the world. We can’t expect them to know that putting all of these calories into them will make them gain weight. We can’t expect them to control themselves when carbs and sweets and sugars are surrounding them all day. We can’t expect them to go to the gym after school and hit the elliptical while they watch Netflix shows on their iPhones the way that we do.
We have to help them fight obesity. We have to find ways in which we can introduce healthier options into their day-to-day lives. To a certain degree we have to trick them, the way we trick them into being good people by telling them Santa Claus won’t give them presents if they’re bad.
Standing desks are far from the solution, but they could be a start.