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February 22, 2020 Saturday 10:56:44 AM IST

Study takes a stand against prolonged sitting in classrooms

Teacher Insights

In many workplaces, standing desks and walking meetings are addressing the health dangers of sitting too long each day, but for universities, the natural question is how to make such adjustments for classrooms.

The question appealed to emerita dance professor Angelia Leung from the UCLA Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance. Sitting too long was never an issue for Leung's students. But for most college students, desk time is more common than dance time. In an unusual collaboration between the arts and sciences, Leung partnered with Burt Cowgill, an assistant adjunct professor with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, to find ways to help students stand up. The team's research hit upon solutions that students and faculty can agree on. However, all the solutions, the researchers said, would work best if joined with an effort to raise awareness about the health risks of extended sitting, aimed at shifting cultural expectations and norms about classroom etiquette.

Studies have linked prolonged sitting with health concerns such as heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes, and obesity. Research shows that breaking up long periods of sitting with movement at least once an hour reduces those risks, while regular exercise at other times of day does not. Despite those risks, the UCLA research found that more than half of students interviewed considered it socially unacceptable to stand up and stretch in the middle of class, and nearly two-thirds felt the same about doing so during smaller discussion sections.

Some of the recommendations are simple: Take hourly breaks to stand and stretch during long classes; include more small-group activities that require moving to switch desks, and create more open classrooms with space to walk without squeezing past fellow students and room to install standing desk areas.


To overcome social stigma, the researchers emphasized that professors and instructors will have to take the lead in offering group breaks at specific times rather than suggesting students can get up any time they wish. They also recommended that professors encourage students to get up and move during their breaks; and suggested that university administrators establish policies that call for building more open classrooms and adding features such as adjustable desks.


(Content Courtesy: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200206132339.htm)



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