When you hear the phrase ‘thinking on your feet’, you probably don’t realize how accurate it really is. Standing desk research has shown improved cognition, increasing student engagement, and focus from people who stand versus sitting throughout the day. This makes a strong argument for the adoption of standing desks in the classroom to increase student engagement.
The exact mechanism by which standing desks are increasing student engagement and attention in the classroom isn’t yet clear, though we can see a consistent improvement of about 15%. It could be a purely physiological benefit; studies have consistently shown serious deleterious effects from long-term sitting, such as reduced metabolism.
Freedom to Move
There’s also a strong argument in favor of standing desk benefits that stem from a freedom of movement in students. Many struggle to stay seated for seven or more hours per day, fidgeting and fussing in their seats. Allowing them to stand, move around, and engage their bodies more removes the distraction of that unreleased energy from the equation.
It’s also possible that standings desk benefit students with kinesthetic learning styles, allowing them the freedom of movement necessary to commit ideas to memory more consistently. For those unfamiliar with the concept, kinesthetic learners are students who learn best through acting, doing, touching, and experiencing a concept. This is in contrast with visual learners, who can learn from charts, videos, and written instructions, or auditory learners, who engage well with audible instruction.
Get Rid of Distractions
The partial elimination of certain disruptive behaviors may also play a role in explaining why standing desks show the improvements they do in students. Excess energy in a single student can quickly become a distraction for the entire class. Even worse, such disruption can require direct teacher intervention, cutting directly into educational time. It’s no surprise, therefore, that something which can help relieve the valve to some degree can show a remarkable impact.
Moving on from the ‘why’ of the improvements seen from standing desks, let’s look at what that 15% engagement means in practical terms. For a typical class schedule, this equates to roughly 9 minutes of additional engagement in the classroom. Over the course of a school day, this adds up to nearly an entire hour of focus. Over the course of a school year, you’re looking at 9000 minutes of engagement, an entire 150 hours of additional engagement.
It’s important to look at that number and understand what it’s really saying. It’s not an extra 150 hours of education - it’s an extra 150 hours per year of focused, meaningful education, which is extraordinary!
The myriad of health benefits associated with standing desks and, more importantly, avoiding constant sitting must also be mentioned. Research focused on adult office workers found a distressing spike in all-cause mortality in individuals who sit for multiple hours at a time, even controlling for other factors. In other words, sitting for prolonged periods of time is inherently unhealthy, even for individuals who eat right and get plenty of exercise otherwise.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why some educational experts are already recommending the move to standing desks. There’s very little to lose, and quite a bit to gain.