Are we killing our students?

The title of this post is not a joke. There is increasingly good evidence that sitting too much is very bad for your health. Take a moment to read these two posts:

The take home point being that “sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little” and while both are bad, we can greatly improve our health by not sitting so much when we work. I myself switched to a standing desk some time ago (for writing – I still sit with my iPad when I’m reading), and former Lifehacker editor Gina Trapani has a good post about her own switch to a standing desk.

But what got me thinking about students was this line from Travis Saunders’s Scientific American post:

a recent study reports that roughly 70% of class time, including physical education class, is completely sedentary (while slightly better than class time, children were also sedentary for the majority of lunch and recess).

Since I became a teacher I spend most of my class time standing, but sometimes I have to sit while students do their presentations and I feel sorry for my students because the chairs my school bought for the classrooms are torture devices. I do give my students frequent breaks (at least one every hour), but if you add up all the classes they take they are spending a good portion of their day just sitting. A lot of teachers reshape their classroom, moving chairs into a circle to make it more democratic, but how many teachers require their students to stand during class?

In many Taiwanese classrooms (and I imagine elsewhere as well), being forced to stand during class is considered a type of punishment. But it seems to me that the collective health of our students (and even faculty at conferences and meetings) could be greatly improved if we weren’t so quick to pull up a seat. I don’t know how we might go about instituting such changes (how would students take notes if they don’t have standing desks?), but it seems worthwhile experimenting with alternative classrooms where students can sit or stand as they please, even switching between the two during class.

2 thoughts on “Are we killing our students?

  1. Part of me wants to say, “every occupation has its downsides, why shouldn’t mental labor have its own physical occupational hazards?”

    But if giving students standing desks (like the lectern lecturers often get) could make a world of difference, why not?

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