Study Space – Take a Stand

This article is adapted from the original, first published July 15, 2011, in issue 1926.

The sky is sunny and the temperature’s warm?and your new box of course materials has just arrived. So why aren’t you feeling more motivated?

Although many students continue their course work during the summer, the vibe is often more relaxed. Hot weather, cold drinks, and visits, vacations, and day trips eat into your routines, and why wouldn’t they? Whether You’re working, studying, or both, thinking about spending hours hunched over a desk is pretty depressing when the outdoors?be it beach, fishing pier, mountains, or forest?is beckoning.

Consider starting the new school year off right by pulling yourself up out of your summer slump?literally?and trying out a standing desk.

Standing desks, which are designed to be at an appropriate height for working while standing, have become a bit of a fad in the business world. But they have a long history, not to mention more than a few famous devotees. Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Sir Winston Churchill all used standing desks, and their example is followed by politicians, leaders, and visionaries.

A commonly cited reason is the health benefits. The dangers of a sedentary life are well established, and standing allows you to maintain a higher metabolism, burn calories, improve your posture, and engage your core. But there’s an even bigger reason to try taking a stand: it may give your productivity a boost.

Studies have shown that regularly changing your work environment is a boon to productivity (and helps keep boredom at bay). But won’t standing actually create a more distraction-prone environment?

Actually, That’s not borne out in practice. Sitting hunched forward in the chair, eyes ahead, It’s easy to space out a bit, lose focus, or over-fixate on issues that aren’t going anywhere. And if You’re already easily distracted, sitting contributes to boredom because it doesn’t engage you physically or mentally.

Standing, on the other hand, gives you something small to focus on physically, leaving your brain free to zero in exclusively on your book or screen. You no longer feel the unspoken need to seek out something else to do.

Interestingly, educators who work with children with ADHD or similar learning challenges have found that when these kids work standing, they’re able to stay on track better than when seated. As this U.S. News & World Report article notes, ?standing [enhances] focus and attention??something especially challenging for kids with ADHD or ADD. Some schools are even implementing desks with attached treadmills or stationary bicycles to give an additional outlet for their energy.

It’s not only kids with learning challenges whose concentration is improved by using a standing desk. One innovative school in Minnesota has implemented ?activity-permissive? learning, which means that kids can choose whether to sit, stand, or do a little of each. The students are being studied by a team from the University of Minnesota, but in the meantime teachers believe the setting will allow the kids to ?focus better on their work rather than focusing on how to keep still.?

The same follows for adults. As one formerly seated blogger notes, while seated ?my posture was terrible, my attention span was narrowing rapidly, and I was constantly battling fatigue.? But after moving to a standing desk, it was easier to focus longer and better, and problems seemed less frustrating.

In fact, using a standing desk may even enhance creativity, since light physical activity increases our problem-solving skills .

Can’t afford an executive-style standing desk? The web is full of innovative ideas for a temporary set-up, from modular furniture to shelving to books stacked on a counter. To start off the semester right, try experimenting with a standing desk. It might end up being your best year yet.