More time spent standing in school reduces BMI

December 1, 2016

Children who spent 2 consecutive years in classrooms outfitted with desks at which they worked standing (or while sitting on a stool) had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than their peers in classrooms with traditional standard desks, a recent study reported.

Children who spent 2 consecutive years in classrooms outfitted with desks at which they worked standing (or while sitting on a stool) had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than their peers in classrooms with traditional standard desks, a recent study reported.

The experiment was conducted among 380 students in 24 classrooms across 3 schools in Texas. The 193 students for whom researchers had complete data by the end of the 2-year study fell into 4 distinct groups: those who remained both years in classrooms with so-called stand-biased desks (treatment condition); those who remained both years in classrooms with traditional desks (control condition); those who switched from treatment to control condition from 1 year to the next; and those who switched from control to treatment condition from 1 year to the next. At the start of the study, investigators recorded participants’ height and weight, along with other data, to calculate BMIs and recalculated BMIs at its conclusion.

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At the end of the 2-year study period, the group that used stand-biased desks for 2 consecutive years had a significantly decreased BMI percentile compared with the group that used standard desks during both years; the estimated difference in BMI percentile change between the groups was 5.24. The 2 groups that had stand-biased desks for 1 year also showed reductions-but small ones--in BMI percentile changes compared with the group that used traditional desks during both years. Gender and race/ethnicity did not affect these findings (Wendel ML, et al. Am J Public Health. 2016;106[10]:1849-1854).

My take

It seems to me that standing desks might also offer and advantage to the child who needs to move around to remain attentive and focused in school. I wonder what changes the teachers of the students in this study noted, especially in their students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. -Michael G Burke, MD

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. Dr Burke, section editor for Journal Club, is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Agnes Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. The editors have nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.