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.
Low Literacy Due To Overuse of Screen Time?...Health Secretary Prescribes An App For That.
The independent reported today that the majority of parents would struggle to help a 7 year old with their homework according to a new study.
The study by Oxford Home Schooling found that only a third of parents felt confident assisting their kids with school projects. The study provided 1000 parents typical year 3 homework and found only 1 in 16 of the participants could answer each of the Maths, English and Science questions correctly.
You can head over to the Independents article to do the test yourself.
The study also determined men are more likely to feel confident helping out with homework. 39 percent of Dads compared to only 28 percent of mums said they were confident to help.
More than one in 10 parents acknowledged they use Siri or Alexa virtual assistants to help answer homework questions. More than 75% of parents admit to often using the internet to answer homework questions.
“The results of the survey are quite surprising, but they will probably resonate with many parents across the country," said Dr Nick Smith, principal at Oxford Home Schooling.
"For some, a large amount of time will have passed since they themselves were in the education system and so they will be unfamiliar with the current curriculum.
“Our research has found that over a third of primary school parents think their children are stressed because of work, so it is important that they strive to help out where they can, using assistants, like Google, if needed.”
Meanwhile despite televised warnings of kids getting too much screen time the education secretary Damien Hinds believes parents should be getting their kids to use educational apps to reduce the literacy gap between children at school entry age.
He talked in terms of the development gap being a "profound issue" and will let the areas most affected by the readiness variance have free prescriptions to educational apps for kids as young as two years old.
He said the so called sesame street can be harnessed to bridge the skill gap. He also puts the responsibility on distracted parents who are too engaged with their own devices to talk to their kids and help them out.
Both these articles are painting a picture of a society which has a two sided relationship with technology. The majority of parents are relying on the internet and devices to help kids do their homework. kids copy what they see at home and in turn spend too much time using devices and doing less and less of more proactive activity’s such as reading and motor skill improving creative play. The kids suffer as a result of their own and their parents overuse of tech whilst the health secretary prescribes more screen time to solve the issue no doubt creating kids who grow up reliant of technology to solve their problems and so a perpetual loop seems impossible to avoid.
With Apples steady integration into the school room via digital text books and homework apps, it seems that parents are going to undertaking an uphill struggle to push back against the machines we are increasingly relying on to help us raise our kids.
One way we can make sure our kids are getting some extra exercise is by providing them with standing desks. Schools can trial standing desks on a “try-before-you-buy” basis here. Parents can grab a suitably sized Eiger Standing desk here to encourage more physical literacy at home to make their own stand against the developing screen time addiction crisis turning our kids obese and illiterate.
I Want a Standing Desk Publishes a Fortnightly Blog about health and education. Bookmark us now or follow us on Twitter / Facebook to keep up to speed with our latest.
Should 2 Year Olds Be Measured To Red Flag Childhood Obesity?
The Mail online seems to think so. Following conversations with Manchester Uni researchers who have determined that you may be able to see early warning signs of childhood and possible future adult obesity from as early as two years old.
Research has shown us that if children are overweight at primary age they are more likely to be overweight adults. As part of the National Child Measurement Programme, children are weighed and measured at school in reception and year 6. The information is used by the NHS to plan and provide better health services for children.
New independent research undertaken at the University of Manchester and published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventive Medicine Reports explains there is a connection with early growth patterns and the likelihood of later life obesity. Following an interview with the researchers the Mail Online has produced an article stating that children should be weighed from age 2 in order to try and predict those with possible future obesity risk. The researchers stating that only collecting the data twice during schooling allows for at risk children to be missed.
The researchers harnessed results from over 1000 other studies from all around the world and collated the results to extrapolate their findings. The sheer breadth of the subject studies means it's difficult to specific how applicable the results are just for the UK school kids however the study does seem to illustrate clearly that early growth patterns can be used as a clear red flag for later life obesity and this information should potentially be built into our early assessment and preventative NHS model being touted by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
( We wrote about this here NHS To Embrace Preventative Innovations to Prevent Illness and here Prevention is better than Cure - New Report Published by NHS )
“Right now, the obesity epidemic is probably the worst it’s ever been,” says Daniel Ganjian, MD, paediatric obesity specialist.
Public Health England has produced slides to illustrate the childhood obesity data updated in June 2017.
Research has shown that integrating standing desks into classrooms reduce the students BMI in just a year. With the childhood obesity crisis hitting record breaking highs, is it time to start asking your school what they are doing to combat the issue? If your a conscientious head teacher / teacher and want to start making moves to improving physical literacy in your classroom by including standing desk stations you can utilise your sports premium to access funds.
Schools wishing to try before you buy can trial standing desks for students by visiting this short form and getting in touch.
To calculate your child’s BMI there are online apps and resources available such as this one.
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."
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.
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
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.