12 Compelling Reasons We Should Rethink School Desks

Students young and old frequently complain about the quality of the desks and chairs provided on campus, yet it remains one of the more overlooked issues. A pity, because poor ergonomics and comfort can actually lead to poor health, and poor health leads to missed classes and heightened medical expenditures once career time rolls around. Maybe it’s about time educators, schools, and districts reconsidered their approach towards how they set up classrooms. The positive outcomes might very well prove surprising.

  1. Sitting increases the risk of a heart attack:

    Small children probably don’t suffer from the same risk of heart attacks as their parents, but healthy habits stick better when introduced early. A 13-year study by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center discovered that, of the 17,000 adults researched, 54% spent the majority of the day sitting. And wound up with an increased chance of suffering a heart attack as a result. Standing desks currently experience a surge of popularity these days as a means of keeping employees healthy. Nothing says this health trend must remain bound to the office.

  2. Standing burns more calories:

    Another major reason standing desks accrue so much love is the fact that it requires more calories than the more passive sitting. This means not only a reduced risk of heart disease, but diabetes, certain cancers, and other lifestyle-related medical conditions as well. Converting schools into bastions of standing desk action might not prove the most effective idea (especially since it does promote varicose veins), but encouraging something other than sitting for at least part of the day could easily promote overall health and wellness in the classroom and beyond.

  3. Sitting slows metabolism:

    Even regular exercise might not prove an adequate counterbalance to 23 or more hours of sedentary activity a week, as long periods of sitting lower the body’s metabolic rate. It also leads to muscular atrophy, a roadblock to proper workouts. If standing desks in schools isn’t a feasible option, consider incorporating more time for stretching, exercising, and walking around to offset some of the negative effects. This small habit could very well resonate in some big ways later on in life.

  4. Sitting increases the risk of obesity:

    From an aesthetic perspective, there is absolutely no shame with being overweight or obese. But one’s health stands as another matter entirely. With sitting lowering metabolism and heightening the chances of suffering from diabetes and heart disease, it makes sense that weight gain might play a role. A sedentary lifestyle combined with America’s less-than-ideal diet only adds to the issue and might mean a public health crisis down the road if left unaddressed.

  5. Standing encourages better posture:

    The desks so often utilized in classrooms and offices likely won’t garner much praise over how kindly they treat the spinal column. In fact, sitting adds between 40% to 90% stress to the back. Add another tick in the “pros” list for standing desks: they definitely guard against slouching and fidgeting. Alternately, more ergonomic sitting desks providing enough comfort and support to the lumbar system could work to help students stay focused and healthy.

  6. Decreasing the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome:

    Teach students some simple hand and wrist exercises to keep them from falling victim to the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome. With computers factoring more and more into classroom settings, keyboards placed at improper angles raise the risk of the condition. This can be rectified by purchasing more ergonomic devices and setting them up in a manner reducing the chances of physical strain and sprain. And, of course, making sure the kids (and adults) know the proper workouts that go along with prolonged typing.

  7. Yoga balls in lieu of chairs build muscle:

    Fully replacing desk chairs with yoga balls might prove kinda sorta disastrous, especially for clumsier students, but bringing a few into the classroom and encouraging their usage might hold a few benefits. Allowing them to switch out for brief periods of time means offsetting some of the negative effects bundled with sitting for extended stretches. For one thing, it promotes healthier posture, builds muscle, and heightens balance, unlike the usual sitting habits.

  8. Greater adjustability to account for height differences:

    Investing a little more in adjustable desks and chairs could be all it takes to foster greater health in the student body. The current “one-size-fits-all” (ha!) option compromises the comfort and lumbar support of the particularly short and the particularly tall, meaning slouching and other pains prove the norm on campuses everywhere. In fact, evidence exists regarding an increase in overall academic performance correlating with heightened comfort. So that little switch may even mean raising grades in the long term!

  9. The traditional setup isn’t conducive to a tech-enabled classroom:

    An easy fix! Traditional classroom arrangements obviously don’t account for the rampant influx of technology, increasing the risk of eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Different setups mean greater connectivity and better communication between students, which should hopefully bolster overall academic performance. Try exploring the various strategies other teachers have utilized to see which one works best for your particular environment.

  10. Standing increases energy:

    Nope, the standing desk contingency doesn’t plan on stopping with the benefits of not sitting all day, every day. Even though such an arrangement burns more calories, users claim to feel far more energetic once their work sessions conclude. It makes sense, though. Sitting for extended stretches of time might prove restful, but in excess (like during the typical school or work day) actually nurses sluggishness and poor health.

  11. Allow for desk exercises:

    Understandably, budgets might not allow for the most health-and-safety-friendly desks and chairs around. Should they find themselves in an environment not terribly conducive to student comfort, a few exercises throughout the day can provide some modicum of assistance. Teaching these and offering up a few minutes to adjust (maybe even re-adjust) is the least the education system can do if inadequate desks must stand as the reality for a while longer.

  12. Sitting too much means you die sooner:

    Up to 40% faster within the span of 15 years, in fact. On average, Americans sit 9.3 hours daily, with the risk jumping up around the six hour point. The healthiest lifestyles involve less than three hours of sitting a day, combined with regular exercise — which, sadly, ceases to prove effective after the aforementioned six hours.

Posted on 09/17/12 | by Staff Writers | in Education | No Comments »

Leave a Reply