We’ve written about standing desks before, including a high tech version that raised and lowered electronically and communicate with a FitBit. It turns out that Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health has a special interest in standing desks and the differences they can make in health and comfort. Recent studies at Texas A&M by its chief standing desk proponent, associate professor Mark Benden, PhD, C.P.E., have also shown that the use of standing desks can lead to increased employee productivity and, with teenagers in schools, lead to improved cognition.
To measure productivity researchers examined the differences in the number of successful calls per hour by two groups of call center employees. One group sat at conventional desks and the other group had stand-capable workstations, which could be raised or lowered by the employee during the day as she or he wished. It turned out the sit-stand group was 46 percent more successful than the sitting only group. In a related study Bender found that workers with stand-capable desks sat for 1.6 hours less per day than those with regular desks.
In measuring cognitive skills, Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, worked with high school freshman at the beginning and end of the school year. Dr. Mehta measured neurocognitive benefits using four computerized tests to assess cognitive skills directly related to the development of academic skills that help students manage their time effectively, memorize facts, understand what they read, solve multi-step problems and organize their thoughts in writing. A portable brain-imaging device using functional near infrared spectroscopy examined changes in frontal brain function via biosensors placed on the student’s foreheads during testing. The skills used in the test are mostly associated with frontal brain regions and the scans showed significant amounts of such activity among the students using standing desks. “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.”
Neither of these studies is presented as rock solid in terms of rigorous controls, but both indicate benefits of standing desks for adults and children. Regarding the latter, Dr. Benden said, “There has been lots of anecdotal evidence from teachers that students focused and behaved better while using standing desks. 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.”