An estimated 41 million children worldwide are deemed overweight or obese (World Health Organisation, 2017)
A study by the World Health Organisation and Imperial College London showed that the number of obese children and adolescents has increased tenfold in the past four decades and should current trends continue then more children will be obese than underweight by 2022. To put this in simple terms in 1975 there were 11 Million obese children now 124 million kids are obese meanwhile another 213 million are overweight but shy of the obesity threshold.
BMI is a measure of a person’s weight and body fat mass for their height, and indicates whether their weight is healthy.
A study undertaken by researcher Monica Wendel, University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences has shown a significant drop in student Body Mass Index for classrooms fitted out with student standing desks for kids.
The study was published by the American Journal of Public Health and included 193 kids at three Primary age schools. Children in the control classrooms used traditional desk seating (The kind one Head teacher referred to as inhumane!) whilst the test subjects used standing desks with the option of rest stools.
At the beginning of the study each students BMI was recorded along with pertinent information on their age, weight, gender, height etc. and after one and two years the same information was collected for comparison.
After adjusting for grade, race, ethnicity and gender Wendel discovered a 5.24% decrease in the standing desk classrooms student body B.M.I. The same results also showed up after only one year.
"School-age children spend most of their waking hours during the week at school. Changing classrooms to stand-biased environments has the potential to affect millions of children by interrupting sedentary behaviour, and this can be done simply, at a low cost, and without disrupting classroom instruction," Wendel said.
Now childhood obesity levels are at a record high so the simple implementation of standing desk classrooms affecting student BMI is an excellent supporting argument for making the move to include them in your learning space. Schools wishing to trial standing desks in their classrooms can start a try before you buy trial here.
New data published in October 2018 showed year 6 child obesity has increased by more than a third in 2007. This was from data captured by the national child measurement programme overseen by Public Health England.
The same data captured has shown;
- The proportion of overweight and obese children in reception year (aged 4 to 5) has remained at 22.4% equal to a staggering 136,586 children
- For year 6 children, it is 34.3% (equal to 197,888 children) compared to 31.6% in 2006 to 2007
Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE described childhood obesity as a Crisis which the government needs to tackle with bold steps.
"This threat to our children’s health has been decades in the making – we’re moving in the right direction but reversing it will not happen overnight."
Whilst both groups clearly benefit from the well-established benefits of physical activity, children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) tend to experience poorer physical health than children without.
Evidence suggests an improvement in mental well-being, concentration and general academia for SEND kids who experience physical activity. Perhaps even more importantly essential life skills such as how to make and keep friends, social cues and sharing and communication are boosted for SEND kids when they undertake physical activity with non-SEND kids.
The benefits are two-fold as Non SEND children benefit from the experience also by developing a sense of compassion, tolerance and sensitivity to social diversity.
Studies have highlighted a need for teachers, coaches and schools to better understand how to include their SEND children in physical activity. Meanwhile local communities are struggling to properly advertise any local opportunities for physical activity that is inclusive for SEND children.
The Daily Mile is one way in which schools are trying to integrate inclusive exercise into their students’ lives but some schools are also including Student Standing Desks into their classrooms as a way to offer an alternative means of movement and physical literacy for their children. Many schools report that whilst these can be excellent resources for non-SEND kids many have seen increased benefit for children with a range of disorders and disabilities including Attention Deficit Disorder.
Jo Rees, Assistant Headteacher, ARK Atwood Primary Academy
So hope is not lost for schools looking to improve their in house physical activity provision. The Youth Sport Trust offer extensive support and resources for schools looking to upskill their staff in being able to support SEND and non-SEND kids in the physical activity and sport. Their website states;
"82% of schools and children's groups reported that the availability of appropriate facilities or equipment was a key barrier to participation by children with disabilities."
"We are a national children's charity passionate about creating a future where every child enjoys the life-changing benefits that come from play and sport."
The BBC has also teamed up with the Premier League to create Super Movers which is designed to encourage primary school children to get more active.
There is also a great site called Parasport which can help you to find sports or activity based clubs in your area. https://parasport.org.uk/
If you want to talk to us about including standing desks in your classroom then just drop us a message into the chat on the website or visit this trial page to sign up for a try before you buy on student standing desks.
A new report by Natural England has revealed a 13th of our young population don’t venture outside to play. Nearly 5,400 children were surveyed and only 17% had visited a beach. We have written about the ever growing popularity of beach schools who actively combat this figure but it’s clear that physical literacy and going outside is becoming obsolete in the face of increasing sedentary behaviour and screen time which has been linked to increased rates of depression in young people.
Active students perform better according to research.
This news hits amidst the backdrop of quickly escalating childhood obesity numbers and notable 5 year reductions in our children’s expected lifespans.
Unsurprisingly 67% of children believe “being in nature makes me happy”
It has also come to light from the report that whilst these figures are depressingly low they are higher than the amount of outdoor time spent by our nation’s adults. Economic factors also effect the results with 10% less poorer family’s getting outdoor time compared to more affluent families.
UK Active this week published a news report detailing that university students who engage in physical activity experience improved mental health and feel they are more employable and perform better. Physically active children were monitored and they experience a 16% improvement in productivity against inactive children. So the stats all point to better physical health aiding better mental health and clear cut improvement in academic results.
Not surprising really when you consider that the same part of the brain which manages movement also manages executive function and learning. There has been a bidirectional study in adults which shows a robust connection between activity and improved executive function.
In longitudinal multilevel models low levels of physical activity led to subsequent declines in executive function.
Now let put this in basic English;
- Adults who are active demonstrate sharper thinking. When you stop moving your thought processes slow down.
- University students who exercise believe they are more employable, happier and perform better.
- Children at school level are less productive and becoming depressed due to an increase in screen time and decrease in exercise and outdoor time.
Schools can combat the tide of sedentary culture in their classrooms and give their students an edge by building physical literacy into the classroom and integrating standing desks to normalise movement for our young people. Other standing schools are reaping the benefit of students with flexible seating. Their pupils are proven to participate more and become more productive in the process.
Physically literate children become active adults, perhaps the more active ones will get those 5 years back from their expected lifespans and retain their sharp thinking. This writer believes it’s our duty of care to help them achieve this.
Brad Johnson, Author of Learning on Your Feet: Incorporating Physical Activity into the K-8 Classroom has produced an article in Principle, published by the National Association of Elementary School Principles describing the practise of sitting in schools as "Inhumane"
Johnson makes links to rising rates of obesity, ADHD and diabetes as a result of the old fashioned sitting culture in modern day schooling.
He has the stats to back up his claims and says that if these figures were related to an infectious disease that we'd be declaring an epidemic however as this is resultant from education it’s simply the status quo.
Obesity rates in children have doubled since the 1980's
Type 2 Diabetes is up 30% in children between 2000-2009
There are now 5.7 million children diagnosed with ADHD and the use of pyscho-stimulants such as Ritalin is up by 700%
Johnson reflects on a longitudinal study by Howard Gardner which found that a group of children who all tested at a genius level up to age 4 only ten percent continued to test at such levels by age 20. Johnson attributes this to the public education systems imposed uniformity and sedentary behaviours.
Johnson offers tips on helping kids to burn off their excess energy and focus on learning - these include regular breaks for stretching and standing, two minute exercise breaks for sit-ups to refocus and dancing and games designed to work off pent up energy.
Johnson states that there are many connections between the brain and movement and our ability to learn, one of which is that the same part of the brain that controls movement controls also learning so Johnson believes that sitting actively hinders the learning process.
Basically exercise and movement stimulates the executive function part of the brain which aids cognition, organisation, focus, emotional regulation and multi-tasking all essential elements of a well-rounded learner.
"The part of the brain that processes movement also processes learning. So when students are sitting still, the learning process is actually hindered rather than enhanced.” - Johnson
Johnson’s article is available here.
...and his book is available here.