High school students think better when standing, research shows

students legs under standing desks

Image: Texas A&M University

Do students think best when on their feet? A new study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health indicates they do.

Findings published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health provide the first evidence of neurocognitive benefits of stand-height desks in classrooms, where students are given the choice to stand or sit based on their preferences.

Ranjana Mehta, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, researched freshman high school students with who used standing desks. Testing was performed at the beginning and again at the end of their freshman year.

Through using an experimental design, Mehta explored the neurocognitive benefits using four computerized tests to assess executive functions. Executive functions are cognitive skills we all use to analyze tasks, break them into steps and keep them in mind until we get them done. These skills are directly related to the development of many academic skills that allow students to manage their time effectively, memorize facts, understand what they read, solve multi-step problems and organize their thoughts in writing. Because these functions are largely regulated in the frontal brain regions, a portable brain-imaging device was used to examine associated changes in the frontal brain function by placing biosensors on students’ foreheads during testing.

“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.”

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