Being sedentary is not a good idea for an office-goer, student or anyone. This lifestyle is a known cause of many health problems. Yet students in classrooms have to sit at desks for hours. Decreasing physical education and recess time has made it a more serious concern. This is one of the primary causes of several disturbing trends that have emerged in the past few years. The first one is obesity. Moreover, more children are being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In 2017-18, 20% of the Australian children and adolescents were obese.
In 1995, 19% of Australian adults were obese. In 2017-18, the percentage was increased to 31. 1 in 4 children being obese makes these stats an alarming number. If these numbers were related to an infection, most likely, it would have been declared an epidemic. However, as spending hours at traditional student desks is a part of the education and school system, this is usual for us.
However, there is a reason why children are off-task, bored, disruptive or disengaged. They just sit at school desks and listen to lectures with very little physical activity involved. This begins from kindergarten and they spend most of their academic lives at their desks. Students quietly sitting at their desks makes it an ideal classroom. However, subjecting them to a seated position for that amount of time can be harmful.
The Brain-body Connection
In addition to health problems, sedentary education also hinders their creativity and intelligence throughout their formative years. Children before the age of 4 are in a constant state of playing and learning. Once they enter school, they are subjected to control, rules, uniformity and being seated at their desks. There is an imbalance of learning and physical movement. This balance is extremely important.
First of all, physical activities allow children to learn easily and more by improving brain elasticity. Secondly, exposure to the natural environment creates a calming effect. Thirdly, physical activity boosts the production of endorphins. These are neurotransmitters that make them feel relaxed. Finally, the processing of movement and learning is done by the same part of the brain. So, when they are seated in school desks for hours, they are deprived of these benefits of being active. Standing, walking, marching, stretching and other physical activities support brain reorganization and nerve growth.
When there is no physical activity involved, students often feel drowsy. So, there should be a two or three minutes long session of stretching after each class. Students in middle-level classes can do push-ups at the back of the class.
Changing body positions alters blood chemistry, helps develop the vestibular system and develops core muscles. Core strength and balance exercises enhance the brain’s ability to process new learning. This helps in the development of the brain’s executive function part.
This function includes organization, cognition, emotional regulation, focus and multitasking abilities. This also improves the academic progress of the student.
Parents think that technology can help their children learn better, which is true if children are making the right use of their devices. The misuse of technology can decline their academic performance. Even when they use their devices to learn, they don’t move. In fact, technology has a significant contribution to the sedentary lifestyle.
Most teachers say that classroom management is tougher than teaching. They are trained in different behaviour management methods. Relationships, expectations and consistency are the key aspects of behaviour management. However, this behaviour management is linked with the actions of students, not with the actions of teachers. Students constantly tap a foot or pencil. This does not mean that they are not interested in the lecture or they don’t take rules and expectations seriously. This shows that they are very energetic. However, they may not have the core strength to sit up.
Addressing these problems is not only good for the health of children, but this also improves their academic performance. This is possible by involving some kind of physical activity in the classroom. In addition to stretching and push-ups, they also need furniture that supports physical activity.
They need adjustable-height student desks. Students can change the height of the desk according to their comfort and alternate between sitting and standing.