Effects of Stand-up Desks Proving to Fight Obesity Locally

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A new method of learning inside the classroom has been proven to fight childhood obesity. Now researchers at Texas A&M are testing the method on adults in the workplace. It involves students and teachers standing at their desks, and it has caught the interest of the Centers for Disease Control.

It's not your typical classroom learning environment. Instead of sitting all day long.... at South Wood Valley Elementary, teachers are encouraging students to stand.

“You usually you just lean back in your desk, but these desks makes your spine stronger because you sit up straight,” said South Wood Valley second grader Ashlie Silvey.

The stand-up desks, which sit from two-three feet off the ground for second and third grade classes, allow students to alternate between standing and sitting.

“They have community tubs on each desk area so it teaches them to work as a team and they have fewer things to place their hand in and get distracted so their focus is learning,” said second grade teacher Mrs. Thessa Burbules.

“At first several parents were worried about their children’s stamina and their backs hurting, but over time, their focus has gone up and now their 100% supportive,” said Burbules.

Students in Mrs. Burbules' classroom say they prefer standing over sitting any day of the week.

“You have a choice,” explained Silvey. If you want to sit down you can rest your feet on this bar and on the last desk you just had to hang your feet and I like this desk better because I can move around.”

The study began through a partnership between College Station ISD and the Texas A&M Health Science Center, as part of a new approach to addressing childhood obesity. Today, the study is still going strong; so strong in fact, the concept has migrated from the classroom into the corporate world.

“We've seen the same results: increase in calorie expenditure, improved alertness, positive response in people using the desks,” explained Texas A&M Associate Professor Dr. Mark Benden. “They feel more comfortable, more healthy and more productive and ultimately for employers if they feel that way then that's a big win.”

“I’ve been using the stand-up desk since 2009,” explained Monica Wendel of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health. “When you stand more often than not, it strengthens all of those muscles so that you do have better posture so even when you sit you're holding yourself up better.”

So far it's a win-win whether you're inside or out of the classroom.

“What we want to do is have people not develop unhealthy situations in the first place,” added Benden. “We want to avoid weight gain. We're not necessarily interested in having this be a weight-loss program, more of a way to avoid weight gain.”

The study showed students burn 20-percent more calories a day by using stand-up desks. The Texas A&M Health Science Center is waiting to hear back from the Centers for Disease Control on a $1-million grant to focus on adults in the workplace.

“Most Americans put on one-to-three pounds per year during their working career so if we can help avoid that or minimize that would be a big win,” said Benden.