We do go on about our standing desks. MNN world headquarters is full of them. And while all of us standinistas might feel sharper and smarter, a systematic review of standing and treadmill desks in the workplace “showed mixed results for improving psychological well-being with little impact on work performance.” Perhaps we are just too old; a newer study led by Ranjana K. Mehta at Texas A&M has come to a different conclusion, finding real cognitive improvements in high school students who used standing desks.
Mehta tested a group of high school students in the fall semester using four computerized tests and a portable brain imaging device to study brain activation patterns. After they used standing desks for 27 weeks, she tested them again. She is quoted in a news release:
“Test results indicated that continued use of standing desks was associated with significant improvements in executive function and working memory capabilities,” Mehta said. “Changes in corresponding brain activation patterns were also observed.”
“There has been lots of anecdotal evidence from teachers that students focused and behaved better while using standing desks,” added Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE, co-researcher and director of the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center. “This is the first examination of students’ cognitive responses to the standing desks, which to date have focused largely on sedentary time as it relates to childhood obesity.”
Benden previously studied students with standing desks to see if they could assist in fighting childhood obesity, (they did, with students burning 15 percent more calories; read TreeHugger's coverage about that aspect) but also found that students were more engaged and involved.
“Standing workstations reduce disruptive behaviour problems and increase students’ attention or academic behavioural engagement by providing students with a different method for completing academic tasks (like standing) that breaks up the monotony of seated work,” Benden said. “Considerable research indicates that academic behavioural engagement is the most important contributor to student achievement. Simply put, we think better on our feet than in our seat.”
Benden, an engineer, even started a company, Stand2Learn, which makes adjustable standing desks for schools. No doubt it will do well; the results of the two studies are really impressive, showing that giving students standing desks “can effectively increase energy expenditure and physical activity as well as ensure (and enhance) cognitive development and educational outcomes.”
And Professor Benden, trademark that line “we think better on our feet than in our seat.” It’s a keeper.