Health & Well Being

Stand Up for Your Health

The allure of standing desks has been growing as people become more and more aware of the dangerous side effects that an increasingly sedentary modern lifestyle can have. Magazines, blogs, and flashy infographics all warn: “Sitting is the new smoking!” Some have taken action by stacking boxes under their laptops and pacing during phone calls, but one Memorial teacher has taken the initiative and is working to help her students combat this health danger as well. We met up with Ms. Yahr, who teaches Algebra I Honors and AP Calculus AB, to find out more about why she chose to incorporate standing desks into her classroom.

What inspired you to get the stand up desks in your classroom?

So, I think the first time I learned about them was on 60 Minutes and I was just watching and they had a story and in preceding weeks I saw them on different news channels, just about how much it has health benefits, so it seemed like a good thing to try.

How did you obtain the standing desks, were they expensive or hard to get?

So, I applied to the grants we have available through the school, through the Student Foundation. First they said that they couldn’t do it, but then Mr. Affeldt thought it sounded like a good idea so he encouraged me to keep thinking about it. And then, I’m not exactly sure what happened, but the grant people discovered they had more money so they came and told me that I could have the money.

Do you think all classrooms should have standing desks? Would that be realistic?

No, it would be way too expensive and then kids would be standing all day, and that would be way too much.

That’s true. How have your students responded to the desks?

Some like them and some really don’t like them. I have stools and they like them when they can have the stools with them, but that sort of defeats the whole purpose, so I’ve put most of the stools away. But once the students are actually working hard on something, I don’t think they even notice that they’re standing anymore.

Do you feel that they’re more focused during class because of them?

That’s supposed to be one of the goals, but I think right now they’re still so new that it’s more of a distraction than a helpful thing. But I’m hoping as the year proceeds and next year when the students are used to them the whole time it’ll be something that helps them focus.

 

Most of the information circulating can make it seem as if standing desks are the obvious way to go. But as with anything, there are multiple sides to consider. You see, the issue isn’t that American’s are sitting all day, it’s that they aren’t moving around enough.

To begin with, let’s assess our current situation. According to US News, “the average American sits for about eight hours a day”. The World Health Organization lists “insufficient physical activity” as one of the 10 leading risk factors for death worldwide. When we’re sitting, our fat burning and blood flow slows down, and our blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels rise. The pancreas is forced to work more, your brain becomes sluggish, and your muscles degenerate. It’s a scary list of symptoms for a such a seemingly innocent way to relax.

So what if we stand all day? Well, that’s not really a solution. Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environment Analysis at Cornell University says, “If what you’re doing is replacing sitting with standing, you’re not actually doing your body any favors. In fact, you’re introducing a whole variety of new risk factors.” Too much strain is put on your feet, legs, and back, your spine is compressed, and your heart has to fight against gravity.

Alternating between different postures is where we find the perfect balance. The true danger is in being still, and constantly changing the way our muscles have to work is the only way to prevent all of these negative effects. Ms. Yahr touched upon this when she said that having students spend the entire day standing would be way too much. Having standing desks in just this one class creates some balance. You walk to your class, stand for about half an hour, turn in a sheet of paper, sharpen your pencils, stand for fifteen more minutes, walk to your next class, then sit down.

This is great for that hour of the day. A bit more standing is better than nothing, of course. But what else can we do to prevent these scary effects? Here are some easy ideas:

 

Take stretching breaks

When you sit, blood flows relatively slower to the different parts of your body, resulting in poor circulation. Taking a quick stretching break is very beneficial, because it helps increase blood flow to different parts of the body. Set a timer on your phone during long study sessions, and make time to get up and stretch out your arms and legs! Your body and mind will thank you.

Stand while using your phone

When you’re mindlessly scrolling through your phone, it’s super easy to simply stand up and pace around.

Put your computer on a box

A sturdy box, perhaps weighed down with something, can be an affordable alternative to an expensive standing desk. When you’re working on your computer and don’t need lots of workspace, push aside your chair, pull out your box, and stand!

Sit on a stool rather than a chair with a back

Sitting on a stool or perhaps even an exercise ball forces you to use your abdominal muscles to remain upright.

Walk during TV commercials

Don’t waste your time watching commercials you’ve already seen a million times! Use that time to get up and walk around!

Fidget

Although fidgeting can be annoying to those sitting around you, do it! Movement is very important, and helps increase blood flow to different parts of the body which sitting can slow down. According to the Huffington Post, “Researchers found that sitting for long periods of time (defined as 7 hours or more) was associated with a 30 percent rise in mortality risk only for those who fidgeted at a low frequency.” So tap your feet, swing your legs, lean back to stretch, and switch positions frequently. Just move!

Take the stairs

When faced with the decision of the elevator/escalator or the stairs, take the stairs! Just do it.

Remember to stand tall and not fall. JK, just stand as much as possible 🙂

 

Beatričė Naujalytė and Shruti Sathish

Categories: Health & Well Being

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