STANDING DESKS RESEARCH

Dr. Mark E. Benden

Department Head/ Assoc. Professor/ Certified Professional Ergonomist/ Director of the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M University

Dr. Benden’s research began to highlight the ergonomic advantages of standing and movement in the office environment as early as 2001, long before standing desks became popular. As a commissioned Officer in the Unites States Army Reserves, and in a civilian Ergonomic Engineering career culminating as an Executive VP for an Ergonomic Product manufacturer, Dr. Benden has seen firsthand the impact of his research.

He is currently serving as the Director of the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M where his groundbreaking research continues. VARIDESK Education draws insights from his published research to provide educational solutions that fit children and adults of all sizes. His work with biometrics and biomechanical precision behind the scenes combined with research and years of industry experience is why these innovative solutions feel so natural.

Stand-Biased Versus Seated Classrooms and Childhood Obesity: A Randomized Experiment in Texas

Monica L Wendel · Mark E Benden · Hongwei Zhao · Christina Jeffrey
Article · Aug 2016 · American Journal of Public Health

 
Abstract
Objectives: To measure changes in body mass index (BMI) percentiles among third- and fourth-grade students in stand-biased classrooms and traditional seated classrooms in 3 Texas elementary schools. Methods: Research staff recorded the height and weight of 380 students in 24 classrooms across the 3 schools at the beginning (2011-2012) and end (2012-2013) of the 2-year study. Results: After adjustment for grade, race/ethnicity, and gender, there was a statistically significant decrease in BMI percentile in the group that used stand-biased desks for 2 consecutive years relative to the group that used standard desks during both years. Mean BMI increased by 0.1 and 0.4 kilograms per meter squared in the treatment and control groups, respectively. The between-group difference in BMI percentile change was 5.24 (SE = 2.50; P = .037). No other covariates had a statistically significant impact on BMI percentile changes. Conclusions: Changing a classroom to a stand-biased environment had a significant effect on students' BMI percentile, indicating the need to redesign traditional classroom environments. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print August 23, 2016: e1-e6. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303323).

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Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention

Gregory Garrett · Mark Benden · Ranjana Mehta · [...] · Hongwei Zhao
Full-text Article · May 2016

 
Abstract
Background: Many office employees are spending up to 90% of their workday seated, and employers are considering stand-capable desks as a way to increase physical activity throughout the day. When deciding on adoption of stand-capable workstations, a major concern for employers is that the benefits, over time, may not offset the initial cost of implementation. Methods: This study compared objective measures of productivity over time between a group of stand-capable desk users and a seated control group in a call center. Comparison analysis was completed for continuous six-month secondary data for 167 employees, across two job categories. Results: Users of stand-capable desks were ∼45% more productive on a daily basis compared to their seated counterparts. Further, productivity of the stand-capable desk users significantly increased over time, from ∼23% in the first month to ∼53% over the next six months. Finally, this productivity increase was similar for employees across both job categories. Conclusions: These findings suggest important benefits of employing stand-capable desks in the work force to increase productivity. Prospective studies that include employee health status, perceptions of (dis)comfort and preference over time, along with productivity metrics, are needed to test the effectiveness of stand-capable desks on employee health and performance.

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Use of Stand-Biased Desks to Reduce Sedentary Time in High School Students: A Pilot Study

Adam Pickens · Mark Benden · Drew Schneider · Hongwei Zhao Article · Jun 2016

 
Abstract
Background : The purpose of this pilot study was to identify differences between sitting and standing time in high school students’ pre and post stand-biased desk intervention. Methods : ActivPal3™ activity monitors were affixed to 25 Bryan Collegiate High School students’ to monitor their standing time and activity levels. Data were collected at the beginning of the school year (fall) in traditional seated desks and in the spring in stand-biased desks. After attrition, 18 of the original 25 students were included in the final analysis. The physical activity data (steps) as well as standing and sitting time data provided by the monitors was used for within subject intervention analyses. Results : Descriptive statistics and a two-sided t-test were used to analyse differences between pre and post intervention sitting and standing times. Analysis indicated a significant reduction of sitting time post stand-biased desk intervention (p<0.0001) and a significant increase in standing time, post stand-biased desk intervention (p<0.0001). Analysis also revealed a non-statistically significant (p < 0.0619) average increase of 2,286 steps per school day when comparing mean steps pre-intervention (6,612) and post-intervention (8,898). Conclusions : Standing desks have the potential to reduce sedentary behavior and increase light to moderate physical activity for high school students during the school day.

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Standing Up for Learning: A Pilot Investigation on the Neurocognitive Benefits of Stand-Biased School Desks

Ranjana K. Mehta · Ashley E. Shortz · Mark E. Benden
Full-text Article · Dec 2015 · International journal of environmental research and public health

 
Abstract
Standing desks have proven to be effective and viable solutions to combat sedentary behavior among children during the school day in studies around the world. However, little is known regarding the potential of such interventions on cognitive outcomes in children over time. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the neurocognitive benefits, i.e., improvements in executive functioning and working memory, of stand-biased desks and explore any associated changes in frontal brain function. 34 freshman high school students were recruited for neurocognitive testing at two time points during the school year: (1) in the fall semester and (2) in the spring semester (after 27.57 (1.63) weeks of continued exposure). Executive function and working memory was evaluated using a computerized neurocognitive test battery, and brain activation patterns of the prefrontal cortex were obtained using functional near infrared spectroscopy. Continued utilization of the stand-biased desks was associated with significant improvements in executive function and working memory capabilities. Changes in corresponding brain activation patterns were also observed. These findings provide the first preliminary evidence on the neurocognitive benefits of standing desks, which to date have focused largely on energy expenditure. Findings obtained here can drive future research with larger samples and multiple schools, with comparison groups that may in turn implicate the importance of stand-biased desks, as simple environmental changes in classrooms, on enhancing children’s cognitive functioning that drive their cognitive development and impact educational outcomes.

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Standing Classrooms: Research and Lessons Learned from Around the World

Erica Hinckson · Jo Salmon · Mark Benden · [...] · Nicola D. Ridgers
Full-text Article · Dec 2015 · Sports Medicine

 
Abstract
Children spend between 50 and 70 % of their time sitting while at school. Independent of physical activity levels, prolonged sitting is associated with poor health outcomes in adulthood. While there is mixed evidence of health associations among children and adolescents, public health guidelines in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada now recommend young people should break up long periods of sitting as frequently as possible. A potentially effective approach for reducing and breaking up sitting throughout the day is changing the classroom environment. This paper presents an overview of a relatively new area of research designed to reduce youth sitting time while at school by changing the classroom environment (n = 13 studies). Environmental changes included placement of height-adjustable or stand-biased standing desks/workstations with stools, chairs, exercise balls, bean bags or mats in the classroom. These 13 published studies suggest that irrespective of the approach, youth sitting time was reduced by between ~44 and 60 min/day and standing time was increased by between 18 and 55 min/day during classroom time at school. Other benefits include increased energy expenditure and the potential for improved management of students' behaviour in the classroom. However, few large trials have been conducted, and there remains little evidence regarding the impact on children's learning and academic achievement. Nevertheless, with an increasing demand placed on schools and teachers regarding students' learning outcomes, strategies that integrate moving throughout the school day and that potentially enhance the learning experience and future health outcomes for young people warrant further exploration.

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The Effect of Stand-biased Desks on Academic Engagement: An Exploratory Study

Marianela Dornhecker · Jamilia J. Blake · Mark Benden · [...] ·Monica Wendel
Full-text Article · Apr 2015 · International Journal of Health Promotion and Education

 
Abstract
Background: Schools have been suggested as a viable avenue to combat childhood obesity. School administrators are sometimes faced with the conflicting demands of improving the health of their students and maintaining academic performance. Dynamic furniture such as stand-biased desks may be one way to address both academic and health demands placed on schools to prevent childhood obesity. Method: Classrooms with stand-biased desks were compared to classrooms using traditional seated desks in 2(nd),3(rd), and 4(th) grades. The academic engagement of 282 participants was observed in the fall and spring during one academic year. The engagement of the treatment classrooms was compared to the engagement of the control classrooms. Results: Both groups showed general increases in their academic engagement over time. Stand-biased desks do not seem to result in adverse effects on academic engagement when used in elementary classrooms. Conclusion: The data suggests promising results for the use of stand-biased desks in elementary school classrooms. The results suggest that stand-biased desks can be introduced in the classroom to combat childhood obesity through increasing energy expenditure without affecting academic engagement.

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The Evaluation of the Impact of a Stand-Biased Desk on Energy Expenditure and Physical Activity for Elementary School Students

Mark E Benden · Hongwei Zhao · Christina E Jeffrey · [...] · Jamilia J Blake
Full-text Article · Sep 2014 · International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

 
Abstract
Due to the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, the association between classroom furniture and energy expenditure as well as physical activity was examined using a standing-desk intervention in three central-Texas elementary schools. Of the 480 students in the 24 classrooms randomly assigned to either a seated or stand-biased desk equipped classroom, 374 agreed to participate in a week-long data collection during the fall and spring semesters. Each participant's data was collected using Sensewear® armbands and was comprised of measures of energy expenditure (EE) and step count. A hierarchical linear mixed effects model showed that children in seated desk classrooms had significantly lower (EE) and fewer steps during the standardized lecture time than children in stand-biased classrooms after adjusting for grade, race, and gender. The use of a standing desk showed a significant higher mean energy expenditure by 0.16 kcal/min (p < 0.0001) in the fall semester, and a higher EE by 0.08 kcal/min (p = 0.0092) in the spring semester.

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Evaluating a school based childhood obesity intervention for posture and comfort

Mark Benden · Adam Pickens · Eva Shipp · [...] · Drew Schneider
Full-text Article · Jan 2013 · Health

 
Abstract
Background: Research shows that students who are more active throughout the day have fewer reports of body part discomfort and greater energy expenditure needed to combat childhood obesity. Many factors may contribute to the overall health of the child, including the postures that are required to complete assigned tasks at their school workstations. Decreasing sedentary behaviors in children through the use of standing desks at school has been shown to increase calorie expenditure and may be a viable approach to the energy imbalance typical of modern children. The objective of this research was to quantify and analyze sub-optimal postures and self-reported discomfort of students during the use of traditional seated and standbiased desks to determine whether any unintended consequences of the intervention were present. Methods: A postural analysis based on the Portable Ergonomic Observation (PEO) method was used to assess the posture of 42 elementary school students as they worked at their assigned workstation (either standing or seated). Two classrooms contained stand-biased workstations (15 students) and two classrooms had traditional seated workstations (27 students). Each student was assessed three times at 10 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes of observations each. The percent of time spent in preferred versus non-preferred postures was then computed. Student body part discomfort surveys were used to assess the discomfort of students between the two groups. The relationship between type of workstation and percent time in non-preferred postures and body discomfort was examined using Wilcoxon ranksum tests and Fisher’s exact tests, respectively. The significance level was p ≤ 0.05 for all of the two-sided tests. Results: No significant difference was found between the two groups and time spent in non-preferred postures and body discomfort, children using stand-biased workstations reported less discomfort overall. Standbiased desks presented no additional ergonomic issues, while providing increased caloric expenditure. Conclusions: A study containing a larger sample and older children that includes postural observation throughout the school day is needed for future research.

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Using Stand/Sit Workstations in Classrooms: Lessons Learned From a Pilot Study in Texas

Jamilia J Blake · Mark E Benden · Monica L Wendel
Full-text Article · Sep 2012 · Journal of public health management and practice: JPHMP

 
Abstract
Childhood obesity has grown into a national epidemic since the 1980s. Many school-based intervention efforts that target childhood obesity involve curriculum and programming that demands instructional time, which disincentivizes school participation. Stand-biased classrooms are an environmental intervention that promotes standing rather than sitting by utilizing standing height desks that allow students to stand during normal classroom activities. The quasi-experimental pilot study was conducted in 5 first-grade classrooms in a Texas elementary school, with 2 control classrooms, 2 treatment classrooms, and 1 classroom that was a control in the fall and treatment in the spring (to allow for within-group comparisons). This intervention has been shown effective in significantly increasing caloric expenditure. In addition, the present study reveals potential behavioral effects from standing. This article presents lessons learned from the pilot study that may prove useful for others implementing similar interventions and calls for additional research on the academic benefits of standing for students.

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Within-Subjects analysis of the effects of a stand-biased classroom intervention on energy expenditure

Mark Benden · Monica Wendel · Christina E Jeffrey · [...] · Megan Morales
Full-text Article · Jan 2012 · Journal of Exercise Physiology Online

 
Abstract
Recent approaches to combating the childhood obesity epidemic emphasize the health consequences of prolonged physical inactivity and sedentary behaviors that occur throughout the school day. The purpose of this study was to determine if Energy Expenditure (EE) is significantly increased in children who use standing height desks throughout the school day versus using traditional school desks. Nine children between the ages of 6 and 8 completed two consecutive five-month trials at a local elementary school. For the first trial, the participants’ classroom (19 total children), used traditional sit-down desks for the duration of the fall semester. Over the holiday break, the entire classroom was converted to stand-biased desks. To measure differences in EE, each participant wore a BodyBugg activity monitor (BodyMedia, Inc) during the school day for one week in the fall and one week in the spring. Along with EE, the activity monitors also observed how many steps each participant took throughout the day. Descriptive statistics and a linear mixed effect model were used to determine EE differences within subjects between sitting and standing behaviors. Mean steps from the fall and spring semesters were also compared within subjects. The analysis indicated a statistically significant difference (p < .0001) in EE when the children used stand-biased desks versus traditional sit-down desks.

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Dynamic Classroom Environments Utilizing Stand-biased Desks to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Mark Benden · Monica L. Wendel · Megan Morales
Conference Paper · Nov 2011

 
Abstract
Obesity is of growing concern in the U.S., both in terms of health as well as productivity. Sedentary behaviors are increasing and are known to contribute to weight gain. Reducing sedentary behaviors can increase physical activity for reducing and preventing obesity. Standing is one way to reduce sedentary behavior and has been shown to increase calorie burn, proper posture, and blood circulation. Given the positive results of standing to work at the computer in adults, researchers at Texas A&M HSC sought to achieve the same effect with children in the classroom. Three studies were conducted using stand-biased desks with children in public school classrooms. The initial lab study validated the use of the SenseWear Armband to measure caloric expenditure in children, as well as establishing the sensitivity of the armband. The lab study revealed a 15% increase in mean calorie expenditure for standing versus sitting behavior within individual children. The second study examined the effect of standing on caloric expenditure in treatment versus control classrooms. The results showed increased caloric expenditure in the standing classrooms, with a heightened effect in children who were overweight or obese. The final part of this pilot study followed the first grade standing cohort to second grade. The findings of these studies provide evidence that policies to promote standing in school and work environments may be an effective method to combat obesity.

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Pilot study of dynamic classrooms environments to reduce childhood obesity

Mark Benden · Monica L. Wendel · Jerome Congleton · [...] · Megan Morales
Conference Paper · Oct 2011

 
Abstract
Obesity is of growing concern in the U.S., both in terms of health as well as productivity. Sedentary behaviors are increasing and are known to contribute to weight gain. Reducing sedentary behaviors can increase physical activity for reducing and preventing obesity. Standing is one way to reduce sedentary behavior and has been shown to increase calorie burn, proper posture, and blood circulation. Given the positive results of standing to work at the computer in adults, researchers at Texas A&M HSC sought to achieve the same effect with children in the classroom. Three studies were conducted using stand-biased desks with children in public school classrooms. The initial lab study validated the use of the SenseWear Armband to measure caloric expenditure in children, as well as establishing the sensitivity of the armband. The lab study revealed a 15% increase in mean calorie expenditure for standing versus sitting behavior within individual children. The second study examined the effect of standing on caloric expenditure in treatment versus control classrooms. The results showed increased caloric expenditure in the standing classrooms, with a heightened effect in children who were overweight or obese. The final part of this pilot study followed the first grade standing cohort to second grade. The final part of this pilot study is the research I will be presenting on following the first graders into second grade. The findings of these studies provide evidence that policies to promote standing in school and work environments may be an effective method to combat obesity.

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The Ability of the SenseWear Armband to Assess a Change in Energy Expenditure in Children While Sitting and Standing

Mark Benden · Lexie Mancuso · Hongwei Zhao · Adam Pickens
Full-text Article · Jun 2011

 
Abstract
Increasing physical activity levels of children in school has become a primary method of combating the growing trend of childhood obesity. As part of a large field trial that is currently seeking to evaluate the impact of the stand-biased desk on children's energy expenditure in school, this study first evaluated the degree to which the SenseWear® Armband measures a change in energy expenditure in children while sitting and standing at a desk in a controlled laboratory environment. If the device is found sensitive enough to detect differences in the laboratory, the research team plans to use it in the larger school study. This study was conducted with 21 children between 7 and 10 yrs of age. The children wore the SenseWear® Armband while sitting at a traditional desk and while standing at a height-adjusted standing desk with footrest for 30 min each. The mean energy expenditure for sitting was 0.63 kcal·min-1, ranging from 0.39-1.08. The mean energy expenditure for standing was 0.71 kcal·min-1 (range = 0.40 to 1.10). Paired comparisons indicated that the average energy expenditure was significantly higher when the subjects were standing versus sitting (P<0.0001). Therefore, we concluded that the SenseWear® Armband is sensitive enough to detect changes in energy expenditure in children 7 to 10 yrs of age while sitting and standing. The use of the SenseWear® Armband to assess slight changes in energy expenditure in children is both practical and sensitive.

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The Impact of Stand-Biased Desks in Classrooms on Calorie Expenditure in Children

Mark E Benden · Jamilia J Blake · Monica L Wendel · John C Huber
Full-text Article · Mar 2011 · American Journal of Public Health

 
Abstract
Childhood obesity is a public health concern with significant health and economic impacts. We conducted a prospective experimental study in 4 classrooms in central Texas to determine the effect of desks that encourage standing rather than sitting on caloric expenditure in children. Students were monitored with calorie expenditure-measuring arm-bands worn for 10 days in the fall and spring. The treatment group experienced significant increases in calorie expenditure over the control group, a finding that has implications for policy and practice.

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Modifying Classroom Environments to Reduce Childhood Obesity: Implications for Practice and Policy

Monica L. Wendel · Mark Benden · Parker Jones · Jamilia Blake
Conference Paper · Nov 2010

 
Abstract
Despite considerable resources and extensive efforts to reverse the trends in childhood obesity, America's children are continuing to gain excess weight at younger and younger ages. Given all that has been tried and the continuing problem, experts and funders are supporting an emphasis on environmental and policy changes to address childhood obesity. Research in adults has shown that intermittent standing of two to three hours per day when one would normally be sitting burns enough calories to lose (or prevent gain of) up to 20 pound in one year just from standing. The dynamic classroom project pilot tested in five first grade classes in Texas seeks to understand how these results might translate if children use stand/sit desks in the classroom. Students in each of the five participating classrooms have been measured in terms of height, weight, body fat, and BMI. In addition, the students wear a device measuring caloric expenditure at regular intervals throughout the school year. Preliminary analysis indicates that children in the treatment classrooms are standing more often as they acclimate to the stand/sit desk, burning more calories than their seated peers, and showing less increase in BMI over the course of the school year even accounting for normal growth. If the stand/sit desks prove effective in preventing (or slowing) the progression of overweight/obesity in children, this will hold significant policy implications for schools in Texas and nationwide.

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