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Surprising Science

Standing in Class Yielded Amazing Results for This Group of Students

Pilot study finds standing desks may have improved student test scores.

Is there any real benefit to standing desks? An exploratory study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health puts forth evidence that this standing desk trend may have legs.

Researchers saw students’ test scores improve by 7 to 14 percentafter using standing desks for two semesters (about 27.5 weeks). Tests given at the beginning and end of the school year measured the students’ cognitive abilities, such as working memory and reasoning. The researchers also used a portable device to take brain images, called a functional near infrared spectroscopy, of 14 of the 27 high school students at the beginning and end of the year as well. The images showed an increase in brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with reasoning.

“These findings provide the first preliminary evidence on the neurocognitive benefits of standing desks, which to date have focused largely on energy expenditure,” the authors wrote.

It should be noted that this was a pilot study. There was no control group to determine whether outside factors could have contributed to this boost in cognitive functioning. However, the researchers reason that “cognitive improvements with age” or “school-related educational activities over time,” would not be able to influence these students in such a short amount of time. They say, “Studies have demonstrated that executive function and working memory capabilities, such as those tested in this study, have shown to mature around age 12.”

The intent of this study was to “make an important first contribution to the existing knowledge base regarding the relationships between physical activity, basic cognition, and brain function in adolescents.”

However, the office and schools haven’t changed much since the dawn of deskwork. Technology has helped us to design solutions to work and access information, but the desk space where we work and learn for eight hours of the day hasn’t changed much. Standing desks are on the rise, but they haven’t gained wide adoption. Some people have said adopting a standing desk has helped them avoid the 3 PM slump.

Sitting is killing us, but treadmill desks aren’t practical. Standing desks are a non-invasive solution to the sitting problem. If your office hasn’t gotten up to speed with the science, there are products out there you can buy yourself, such as the Storkstand, but they’re often expensive. So, if you want to try out a standing desk (without making your wallet cry) the Oristand costs only $25.


Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit:

Cover: Oristand

In Article: Texas A&M University


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