As my own anecdotal experience tells me (as a big advocate for taking our children hiking in the local woodlands.) Research has now been able to demonstrate a scientific link between being out and about in nature and feeling good.
A study released on Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Psychology researchers studied the direct link between a group of kids “connectedness to nature” and their sustainable behaviours and happiness.
The study asked 300 children to fill in a questionnaire about how they perceive nature from how they feel when they see wild animals to the joy of smelling flowers and hearing birdsong. The children who measured as having good connection to nature also showed some other interesting results.
Connected to nature is defined by the researchers as;
"Thinking and feeling emotionally connected with all the elements of the natural environment, with feeling happier as a consequence."
The kids who scored higher on nature connection also were more likely to engage in altruism, help people, care for the environment, recycle, save water and perhaps more interestingly they were more likely to state they believed in equality between race, sex and financial standing.
The same children scored higher on the happiness scale.
As a parent who recently paid for his son to attend a weekly gardening club whose toddler also goes to forest school. I’m, feeling pretty validated. I know getting your hands dirty and understanding your environment is a big part of what made my childhood fun. But above happiness it seems according to the researchers they believe we owe it to the planet to ensure that the future custodians of our environment learn to love it and develop their other altruistic tendencies in the process.
"They are future consumers of products, entrepreneurs, decision-makers, workers, and depending on the environmental education received, their connection with nature, environmental awareness and environmental values are the future of the environment, too," said Dr. Laura Barrera-Hernández, author of the study.
With the ever growing trend of forest and beach schools gaining momentum it makes sense to give children the benefit of the outdoors when their online role models are influencing them to sit down and watch video games, streamers and YouTube for hours on end.
Allowing kids to exist outdoors whatever the weather is culturally embedded in the Finnish education system we recently wrote about where kids get regular exercise and outdoor time during the school day to encourage their development and morale.
So why would we suggest going outside when we are retailing standing desks? Well two reasons.
The first being that using our classroom friendly Eiger standing desks means groups of kids can easily be taken outside if it’s a nice day as the desks are extremely portable and can be disassembled, moved and re-assembled in a matter of minutes. Many of our clients are schools who do this regularly to give their kids some much needed outdoor time.
We wrote recently how one in eight kids don’t even play outside.
A 2015 study also showed adults benefit from being outside and report less negative thoughts and general increase in mental health. So the same applies to office workers who might want to take their laptop to the local park with our outdoor Eiger carry bags this outdoor office can be achieved in a matter of minutes.
Secondly standing desks are part of our prescription for a holistic approach to good physical wellbeing and overall mental health. They are not a cure-all. They can be and should be used as part of a healthy lifestyle shift. Using a standing desk all day and not moving when doing so is fundamentally not much better than sitting extensively.
Using a standing desk to encourage movement is the optimal way to benefit from having one. So taking regular movement breaks to get a glass of water of walking to the loo a little farther away are all great habits to get into when standing at work or school to increase the micro movements needed to burn calories and release physical tensions.
The need for mobility is one of the reasons we have leaned towards portable designs in our desks. Stationary desk users are less likely to more and improve their physical literacy.
So what’s the main take away here?
• Whether child or adult, there’s now a scientifically proven benefit to getting outside into nature.
• Kids who engage with nature basically become better, nicer and happier people.
• Standing desks can be a great way to get your classroom outside and still learning.
• Standing desks are part of the solution and should be used in conjunction with cultural and behavioural changes that see you using your body more and being more mindful to truly get the most out of the standing desk movement.
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.
The Telegraph are campaigning to create a 'duty of care' campaign which suggests that government enforce a rule-set for social media and gaming / internet companies to ensure the web is a safe place for our children in the face of the booming tech landscape they are growing up within.
They reported on Thursday that all four medical officers in the UK have made recommendations that screen time be monitored and reduced following a study that links screen time with depression in young people. The study has failed to prove a causal link however it shows a doubling in depressive symptoms for heavy social media users.
Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies has warned social media companies to reduce addictive technology or face new laws to ensure they do so with costly fines for failing to meet the targets. Davies spoke as she made the first official announcement of proposed guidelines for parents to ensure their children don't overuse tech in a harmful way. She suggests tracking features within devices should be used by parents to ensure there are limits set on screen time.
Dame Sally said: “Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care. They must make more effort to keep their users safe from harm, particularly children and young people.”
Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary has met with leaders from Facebook, Instagram and Google to urge them to remove harmful images which might glorify self-harm or bullying.
“We are masters of our own fate as a nation and we can and must legislate to make sure this amazing technology is used for good if social media companies won’t work with us,” wrote Hancock.
Guidance suggests limiting children’s screen time to 2 hours, screen free mealtimes and bedtimes. The last point being reinforced by the fact that the light from screens stops the production of the hormone melatonin, which is vital for getting to sleep.
The advice suggests these 7 pointers;
- Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
- Talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents and carers should never assume that children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone - when in doubt, don’t upload.
- Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by, their school’s policy on screen time.
- Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen. It’s good to get up and move about a bit.
- Advise children to put their screens away while crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention.
- Talk with your children about using screens and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed - make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
- Screen-free meal times are a good idea - you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.
What's Our Take On This?
It seems obvious to me as a parent that we shouldn't let our children spend their lives with their heads inside phone iPad and computer screens however it’s a habit we can all easily allow our family’s to slip into. The digital babysitter has rescued my sanity on more than one occasion and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
But the facts about depressive symptoms genuinely worry me as a parent. The telegraph wrote quite a moving account of a young girl who took her own life and the last thing she did was log into Instagram. Whatever was the last straw for her was on social media and this alone is enough to make me start to consider the content my kids are engaging with (and for how long) and more importantly to get off their bottoms and move more instead of sitting down and playing video games or with phones and devices.
There’s no getting away from the fact that we are rarely moving when we are on social media which might be a contributing factor to the high depressive symptoms with heavy social media users as their bodies aren’t getting the natural positive chemicals associated with exercise and sunlight such as serotonin, oxygen and vitamin D known as 'the sunshine vitamin'. I’ve said it before and I'll say it again. We are designed to move. Standing desks whilst they will rarely get us outside they do allow us to get busy with what we want to orientate on but also encourage us to move and stay physical...and the thing about moving is it's habit forming. Get used to moving and you wont want to sit down which will lead to a more active, happier lifestyle overall.
The guidelines above suggest regular breaks from sitting but many people say it feels more natural to get up and get moving than slouching all day which only makes us feel tired and lethargic.
Our standing desks are designed to work for all age groups and can be with you through your life with different desks in our range being for different age groups. We have Eiger Pro Desks for adults and Classroom Standing Desks such as the Eiger Student for kids as young as primary school age.
If you want to talk to us about the best solution for your school or home then get in touch through the site or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter but don't stay on there for too long ...obviously.
The Last Word
The new guidelines seem like a a long overdue measure. Tech companies proactively hire addiction consultants to make their games and experiences more addictive and our children are growing up with phones glued to their hands and are now being officially diagnosed as addicts. The personal gadget landscape could well have damaging long term affects and its important that we combat this now. Its essential that corporate's are held accountable for the long term affects of their nefarious tactics and that our government finally demonstrate they consider our children's mental health a priority.
You may also want to read: Health Report Links Children's Screen-Time To 12 Major Cancers
Laura Donnelly of the Telegraph has reported on a study by The American Cancer Society which shows a sharp upturn in obesity related cancer instances in younger people. The study used data from half the population of the USA over a 9 year period to conclude that whilst cancer is seen as a disease of the elderly that obesity related cancers have increased dramatically in the focus group of 25 to 29 whilst other cancers either declined or remained the same.
British experts have warned that this might reflect a similar threat the UK population as our obesity rates are growing much faster than in the states. The UK's obesity rates have risen a startling 92% since 1991.
"For example, while annual rates of bowel cancer fell by 3.65 per cent in those aged 80 to 84, and by 2.96 per cent, in those aged 60 to 64, they rose by 2.41 per cent in those aged 25 to 29, and by 2.38 per cent in those aged 30 to 34." wrote Laura Donnelly.
The overarching concerns are that these disturbing increase in cancer rates due to obesity could completely negate our advancements in the NHS's ability to combat cancer. Experts who undertook the study have warned that screening for obesity is their recommended solve for this which would be very much inline the NHS new take on preventative healthcare.
Lead author Dr Hyuna Sung said “More than half of adults who were 20 to 49 years old between 2010 to 2012 reported poor dietary habits, such as eating little fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and shellfish at the same time as eating too much salt, fast food, and sugary drinks”
Recent reports have shown that 2.3 million kids are inactive and that physical literacy in the classroom is imperative to ensure the next generation grows up in touch with their own health needs and used to moving.
70 million young children will be overweight or obese by 2025 if current trends continue according to the Childhood Obesity Foundation.
Flexible seating is imperative to schools adopting a culture of activity and increasing their pupil’s movement levels. Student Standing Desk Trials for classrooms are available here.
On Topic: Childhood obesity rates soaring
Next week is Children's Mental Health Week and the theme of the year is to be Healthy: Inside and Out. Looking after bodies and minds is a message very much in keeping with the benefits UK schools report back to us they experience with classroom standing desks.
Pupils actively look forward to classes with flexible seating options and can move more freely and express themselves confidently. Active pupils are reportedly more productive and more likely to engage the lesson. Good mental health we believe is essential to fostering an environment suitable for learning and allowing our children to be well rounded and happy. READ THE FULL STORY HERE
SUMMARY: MacDonalds are being delivered to schools despite the anti-obesity ban amid the backdrop of a Birmingham Child Type 2 Diabetes epidemic undermining headmasters efforts to inject healthy culture into schools. READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
Physical literacy is the ability, balance, confidence, desire and exploratory nature to live an active, healthy life. Student Standing desks can be used to integrate physical literacy at minimal effort.