As we approach the final week of school and finals, there will be countless hours dedicated to studying. We will sit in our special study spots and stare at either a computer screen, a set of notecards, a notebook or various books. Our activity is limited as we sit for hours. How does this sitting actually impact our studying? And how does sitting impact our brain? According to Dr. James Levine from the Mayo Clinic of Arizona State University sitting is a risk factor for our health. When we sit for an hour we lose about two hours of our life…that is a significant impact on our health (Bergland, 2015). So the question is: if sitting is a major health risk, what is this sedentary position doing to our brain? It is certainly not helping us in a positive way.
When we are in this sedentary position for long hours many different things contribute to our health. The first area in our body it affects is our brain. When we are physically active, our muscles move and therefore fresh blood and oxygen is pumped through our bodies and delivered to the brain. When this happens, the blow flow triggers many chemicals that our brain releases. Among these are mood chemicals that make us more positive, upbeat, creative and happy. When we sit for a long period of time, these processes slow down which ultimately slows down the rate that our brain is functioning at. This can be experienced as “fogginess” by many people and this state often affects how clearly people think. Other body parts are affected as well like the neck, shoulders and back. The neck is strained when a person cranes his or her neck forward to look at a computer or down while reading a book or paper on a desk. The shoulders slouch with the neck creating a slumped motion, and the discs of the back are squashed unevenly. There is other damage that sitting long periods of time causes; heart disease, an over productive pancreas and colon cancer. We could have muscle degeneration and leg disorders involving poor circulation in the legs (Berkowitz & Patterson, 2014). So what is one way that allows us to still study or work but isn’t as taxing on our health?
In a study recently conducted in 2015 by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School, researchers looked at the effects of standing desks verses sitting desks. They had participants do a series of behavioral tasks that included classroom engagement such as answering questions, raising a hand and participating in discussion. Other behavioral observations included speaking out of turn or disrupting the class. Results of the study showed that there was a 12 percent greater increase in behavioral tasks when students were using standing desk versus sitting. There is evidence that standing desks would be better for students which is ultimately important for learning and active engagement (Dornhecker et al, 2015).
It would be beneficial if we could all have standing desks in the classroom as we learn. However, would the desks be distracting or tiring for people? Questions still remain regarding the effectiveness but it is a step forward for our health and a way to keep blood flowing to our brains. If possible during finals week, go outside briefly and walk around for increased blood flow or attempt to alternate standing and sitting while studying!
Bergland, C. (2015, April 26). Sitting Can Drain Brain Power and Stifle Creativity: A standing desk can improve cognitive engagement and creative thinking. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/sitting-can-drain-brain-power-and-stifle-creativity
Berkowitz, B., Clark, P. (2014, Jan 20). The health hazards of sitting. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/national/the-health-hazards-of-sitting/750/
Dornhecker, M., Blake, J. J., Benden, M., Zhao, H., & Wendel, M. (2015). The effect of stand-biased desks on academic engagement: an exploratory study. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-10.