WORK-LIFE BALANCE / MAY. 03, 2015
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Why We Think Better On Our Feet

Thinking on Feet
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There has seldom been an age where being active while we work has been more heavily promoted. I’ve written a numerous times about the various health risks of our normally sedentary habits at work, and these concerns have led to a wide range of interventions to try and encourage us to be healthier, whether it’s treadmill desks or lunchtime walking clubs.

See Also: 3 Awesome Standing Desk Solutions

Of course, the benefits aren’t limited to moving about, as even standing has been shown to improve our performance at work, whether at our desks or during meetings. A recent study, which was published in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education highlights the benefits of using standing desks at work.

The Texas based researchers found that participants were much more attentive when using a standing desk than their seated peers. The gain was a significant 12 percent, or roughly 7 minutes every hour.

How Standing Desks Boost Engagement

The study monitored participants over the course of an entire year, and measured their level of engagement through the recording of behaviours such as participating in discussions and asking questions, whilst also monitoring anti-productive behaviours.

Half of the group were kitted out with standing desks, which allowed the participants to either stand or sit throughout the day as they saw fit.  The research was initially prompted by a desire to reduce some of the health risks associated with prolonged sitting, including spinal stress and obesity. The findings from these initial studies, however, prompted the creation of a standalone company to manufacture standing desks.

Those studies highlighted how standing desks can significantly help to reduce obesity, with users of them tending to burn around 15 percent more calories than people using more traditional desks. Indeed, this gain rose to 25 percent for obese people. Those early studies highlighted some anecdotal benefits of the desks in terms of the attention and engagement of users, which is something the researchers wanted to explore fully in this latest study.

Given the extensive experience in this area, the findings of the study were not a surprise to the authors, as previous studies have highlighted the cognitive benefits of even moderate activity levels.

"Standing workstations reduce disruptive behavior problems and increase students’ attention or academic behavioral engagement by providing students with a different method for completing academic tasks (like standing) that breaks up the monotony of seated work," the authors say.

"Considerable research indicates that academic behavioral engagement is the most important contributor to student achievement. Simply put, we think better on our feet than in our seat," they continue.

Perhaps not surprisngly, the paper concludes by recommending that standing desks be installed in all office and classroom environments in a bid to improve both the health of the workforce but also their performance and engagement levels. Of course, it would be nice if they purchased the desks from the authors start-up.

Despite the apparent conflict of interest, the paper does join a throng of studies highlighting the benefits of standing whilst at work, so is in good company.

See Also: The Health Risks of Sitting At Work

Would your own employer consider providing you with a standing desk? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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