Should kids be allowed to stand, hover, bounce while working at school?

A recent New York Times story discusses how bad sitting all day at a desk can be for people and the trend toward active work stations, such as a desk that raises and lowers and desks on top of slowly-moving tread mill, to combat this problem. So I’m wondering if active workstations are better for adults wouldn’t they be better for children too.

From The New York Times:

“But a closer look at the accumulating research on sitting reveals something more intriguing, and disturbing: the health hazards of sitting for long stretches are significant even for people who are quite active when they’re not sitting down. That point was reiterated recently in two studies, published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine and in Diabetologia, a journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. “

“Suppose you stick to a five-times-a-week gym regimen, as I do, and have put in a lifetime of hard cardio exercise, and have a resting heart rate that’s a significant fraction below the norm. That doesn’t inoculate you, apparently, from the perils of sitting. “

“The research comes more from observing the health results of people’s behavior than from discovering the biological and genetic triggers that may be associated with extended sitting. Still, scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting, they add, slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

The article discusses the growth of workstations that raise and lower so you could stand to work. It also looks at workstations that fit over the top of treadmills so people can walk very slowly while they work. The photo in the article shows a woman working on a recumbent bike.

From The New York Times (It is a fascinating article, please read the whole thing):

“The company offered its first models of height-adjustable desks in 2004. In the last five years, sales of its lines of adjustable desks and the treadmill desk have surged fivefold, to more than $40 million. Its models for stand-up work range from about $1,600 to more than $4,000 for a desk that includes an actual treadmill. Corporate customers include Chevron, Intel, Allstate, Boeing, Apple and Google.”

So if adults get to stand up and move around as they sense they need it to work more effectively and studies are finding that sitting is bad for humans, then why do we ask our school children to sit for hours on end?

One first grade teacher I know would let kids who needed to stand or wiggle be in the back and on the edges of the room so they could do that without disturbing others. Another gifted teacher we had in Gwinnett was great about letting kids work in their own styles. So and so needed to be under a desk to study, then go for it.  Another child would finish and liked to peruse books while she was thinking, so the teacher put her by the bookshelves instead of away from it. The child could peruse and think and get back to business. I think she was really enlightened.

The gifted teacher at our current school says she will let kids sit on a yoga ball in class. It helps them get out energy and develops postural control and helps keep kids awake. Occupational therapists recommend it.  She also will hand out squish balls to help with excess energy.

I have a friend who is offended by this. She says kids need to learn to sit. She says her own daughter likes to stand to study but she tells her to sit. I told her to let her stand.

I truly believe everyone has different work styles and ways to remember things and you have to help your kids figure out what helps them learn and think best.

Do you think adults and kids just need to sit at their desks? Do you think adults and kids could benefit from alternative workstations? Do you think kids should be allowed to stand or walk the room at appropriate times (not during a test or lecture) if they needed to? What about yoga balls to sit on in a classroom or a recumbent bike? I bet that would be a popular treat to get to sit on the bike in the classroom!

36 comments Add your comment


December 5th, 2012
5:49 am

For me, it’s all about the appropriateness of the situation. I agree with your friend that children need to learn that there is a time when they have to sit and sit still quietly.

But that time doesn’t have to be all the time in the classroom.


December 5th, 2012
5:59 am

My son was allowed to stand at his table or desk to do his work. He has a rare bone disease along with juvenile osteoarthritis and it helped him. He did have a 504 plan that also allowed him to take “breaks” to walk down the hall and around the classroom when his legs hurt after sitting for just a few minutes. I don’t mind it when I have a child in my classroom who wants to stand as long as they are not distracting other children.


December 5th, 2012
7:24 am

I have a friend who is offended by this. She says kids need to learn to sit. She says her own daughter likes to stand to study but she tells her to sit. I told her to let her stand.

Good for you. Hopefully you did it in front of the kid so she’ll get the message not every adult in the world is a strange control freak like her mom.


December 5th, 2012
7:39 am

How about bringing back the Physical Education, PE, class. Growing up I had this class almost every day of my school career. We have put our kids in a very bad position in not requiring them to be active on a daily basis. We have essentially taught them to be sedentary. We have to be willing to do what it takes if we do want the kids to live healthy lives in the future.


December 5th, 2012
8:03 am

YUP Recess and PE….’nuff said.

They take these away, then can’t understand why Johnny won’t sit still. Then they say, oh he’s hyperactive, let’s get him on Ritalin……thus begins a life long addiction to pills….

mystery poster

December 5th, 2012
8:07 am

I heard an NPR story about companies (LL Bean comes to mind) that give their employees several 10 minute workout breaks during the workday. It actually increases productivity. For me, if I’m stuck at work I’ll go for a walk at lunch, sweeps out the ol’ brain cobwebs. I like the yoga ball idea, maybe I’ll bring one in to work.

I can see how it could be disruptive to allow 30 kids at once to be bouncing and wiggling, after all, there are still kids who prefer quiet to study. However, the issue absolutely needs to be addressed.

Bring back PE and recess!!

mother of 2

December 5th, 2012
8:22 am

I think that children are in school to learn. However they learn best is individual and should be allowed as long as it doesn’t negatively impact another student’s learning. They have plenty of opportunities to sit still – when a teacher is speaking, or a visitor is presenting something to the class, when they are at church, and at home for various reasons. I think the key is to make sure that children aren’t disruptive or offensive to others while they are actively learning. I also think that children learn to be more open minded about others if they are allowed to read, stand, walk around while actively learning. They develop an understanding of different learning styles at an earlier age.


December 5th, 2012
8:28 am

Please tell me the health danger from sitting too long doesn’t apply to professional couch potatoes. We get up once in a while for a brewski and what not… You’re talking about sitting, not lounging, right? Many baby boomers have been on the couch since the Beatles broke up. What? You can’t do that? Get back. I feel fine. I’m a loser? Girl! I’m down, but ill be back.


December 5th, 2012
8:28 am

I have no problem with allowing students to stand and work sometimes. They shouldn’t be sitting all day in the lower grades. Teachers should be doing activities that require them to move. My son has ADHD. I recall a conversation in 3rd grade when his teacher told me that he needed to “sit with his back to the chair and keep his hands on his desk”. My response was, “Good luck with that!”. She eventually gave up and allowed him to move when necessary. He was difficult for him to sit and do his work, but he would get his work done. That was the important part.

At my school kids receive PE twice a week. At my son’s school (different school system) it was the same. My issue is PE. At one time, my school system decided that kids didn’t need recess and literally removed playgrounds from schools. It was awful. Nobody listened to the teachers. Fastforward 12 years and playgrounds have made a comeback. Kids need to run and play, socialize and exercise. It’s good for their brains. Who can pay attention when they’re antsy and need to move.


December 5th, 2012
9:03 am

I work from home so I have the flexibility to move around. I hated being stuck in a cubicle when I had to work in the office! I work in our kitchen at the bar so I constantly switch between sitting and standing. I also have a wireless headset and almost always push a dust mop while on conference calls (I actually pay better attention on those calls when I’m NOT sitting in front of my computer).

My son has ADD and it wasn’t until 4th grade that he had a teacher who really figured him out. He became the messenger boy (can you take this to the office? can you go give this to the librarian? etc.) and and when there weren’t errands to run, he was told to do a quick run around the outside of the school. Then the teacher started sit-up contests when the whole class needed a quick break. I thought it was great. It was a small private school though so the teacher obviously had some latitude. Unfortunately once kids get to middle school, there is no recess and unless they have PE that rotation, forget it.


December 5th, 2012
9:07 am

I move with little children most days of the week. I am all about getting their wiggles out. Respect for your neighbors must also come into play. Ever sit near someone who perhaps tapped their pencil or coughed for hours on end?

I know that I could not teach a class where each child was allowed to move freely ** all day long**. We still had recess and PE, when I taught M-F, in the classroom. I never had a rigid class but we did talk about how everything we do affects our neighbors. ( Example: we could not have peanut butter as we had allergies in the class.) I share my activities with teachers, so the kids can wiggle together and also learn at the same time. I work with teachers of young children.

Are the parents who advocate free wiggling, the same parents who take their children on long airplane trips and see nothing wrong with them running up and down the aisles? Are they the same parents who let their children join them at a fine dining restaurant at 9;00 p.m. on a Friday night?

There is a place for sitting still and listening and I sometimes find this to be a lost skill. As adults, we sometimes have to sit through something that is not interesting and takes a while. How do we learn to do that, if we have never done it as a child? Perhaps this is the problem with the parents who walk out DURING GRADUATION when their child’s name has been called, as they are ready to go. No, I did not want to sit it either but I was trying to display manners and recognize that each student there was a success.

who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men

December 5th, 2012
10:40 am

@TWG….I suppose the employer should be on the hook for the expense of the treadmill desk. I don’t see this sitting thing as a problem…primarily because most Americans are embracing the “obesity epidemic” by sitting at their jobs all day….then sitting in their cars for their commute (because riding their bikes or walking to public transportation is too much effort), then going home and sitting down to watch “the bachelorette” or “real housewives of the OC” or the latest news on the Today show about Kate Middleton’s morning sickness…then sitting at their PC to blog about it. When I see people who can show their committed to fitness away from their desk, then I’ll buy into the concept they are committed to fitness at their desk.


December 5th, 2012
10:46 am

I hate sitting for long periods. At work, I’ll walk to someone’s office, as opposed to calling them on the phone.

I go for a walk at the park on my lunch hour. I walk the dog at least 1 mile every evening. My kids jog every night, sometimes while I’m walking the dog. We have a great neighborhood with hills and curves, so it’s gets strenuous at times.

We take the dog to the doggie park on the weekends. Trust me, we get out and exercise daily!!!!

@Who knows – There is NO way I would ride a bike in Atlanta traffic during rush hour. I drive shaking my head anyway at the idiots who don’t seem to have a clue. The ones that are texting, etc. Saw a lady yesterday run off the road NUMEROUS times in a 3 mile stretch of Buford Highway. At the traffic light, she had her cell phone in her hand. I figured. Shaking my head…..


December 5th, 2012
10:56 am

I find it amazing that the examples were from “gifted” teachers that do not teach a regular classroom. They have smaller students ratio than a regular ed. class and usually only see the kids once a week or an hour per day. Yes kids need to get up an move. Any good regular ed. teacher has the students get up and strech or move every few hours. Please do not think that a regular ed. class can allow students to do the things that a “gifted” teacher can. If you want that lower the student ratio and remove all the disruptive students.


December 5th, 2012
10:57 am

I think it’s great that not only workplaces but also classrooms are recognizing that the goal is productivity and learning. Being flexible and creative is great, especially if it keeps our kids engaged and productive. Some have said kids need to learn to sit still. I agree, there is a time where one might need to be able to sit quietly. However, I think we have to way the goal with the “lesson.” The goal is learning, engagement and productivity. Sitting still can be learned at church or at home. There are too many other things our kids need to learn at school and if movement helps, I am all for it.


December 5th, 2012
11:30 am

I didn’t have ADD or ADHD or HDTV or any other acronym. I simply didn’t like sitting in a desk all day at school. I feel that’s essentially the case for most of the supposedly afflicted children of parents who likely fall victim to the pharmaceutical game that is heath care today. It’s amazing how nobody had ADHD 25 years ago, and today an ever growing number of people suddenly do. Get off the pills and get on the (tread)mills.
Side note (and I realize it is only 1 example, but) I have a dear friend and colleague who self victimized himself as suffering from ADHD because he was placed on pills in elementary school for the same reason, being twitchy and easily distracted during lectures. Many pill popping years later when he faced a layoff and lack of cash, he simply stopped refilling the prescriptions (cause we all know they ain’t cheap). After a few months he noticed changes in everything from energy levels to ability to focus and concentrate – they all went up. He never refilled the pill bottle and as of 4 years later is happier and healthier than ever. Just my take.


December 5th, 2012
12:20 pm

@Mangeler, I had ADHD and was on Ritalin from 1983 to 1990. NEXT!


December 5th, 2012
12:24 pm

Also, 25 years ago no one had Dyslexia. And 150 years ago, no one had infections caused by bacteria.
Crazy! It’s almost like they just didn’t know it existed.

Judge Smails

December 5th, 2012
1:19 pm

ADHD became known right about the time they stopped using the paddle in school. HMMM…

Instead of drugging our kids into compliance, how about some discipline???


December 5th, 2012
1:22 pm

Um Jarvis – my brother was diagnosed with dyslexia back in 3rd grade……1968. Well over 40 years ago…..


December 5th, 2012
1:27 pm

My students who need to move in class, move all around their desk. We are also in group in the floor, at the “big” table, computer stations, etc. they move all day long in the class. I have a smaller special education class so the movement isn’t as disruptive as a class with 15-20 students moving around. It doesn’t bother me and the ones who need to move are seated around the edges of the class so they have space that is their own to do what they need to do.

Judge Smails

December 5th, 2012
1:36 pm

I would be very interested to see the relationship between kids with ADHD and one-parent households. I’m betting that most kids who don’t have a strong male influence in their lives are the ones being drugged.

Anyone disagree?


December 5th, 2012
2:05 pm

I DO!!!!! I know several single parents, and not one of their kids is being drugged.

The kids who are being drugged have parents who don’t care, aren’t interested, and basically don’t want to deal with it.


December 5th, 2012
2:06 pm

Oops….let me re-phrase that one. I meant NO offense to anyone!!!!

“MOST” kids that are being drugged are from homes where there is no parental authority.


December 5th, 2012
2:11 pm

@ judge…from an educator…I disagree. I would love to hear from other educators. We see more children than just relatives.

@ SB…Sitting still can be learned at church or at home. REALLY? As could manners, hygiene, promptness, responsibility, honesty, respect, nutrition, budgets and so many other things that are NOT being learned at home. Try directing a classroom for a few days and get back with us as to what most kids should still be learning at home.


December 5th, 2012
2:15 pm

@ Mayhem…are these MOST kids the kids you know or do you work with kids in a professional capacity? We are close friends with an elementary school psychologist and this has never been mentioned, in our conversations.


December 5th, 2012
2:43 pm

PE once a day, and a 15 min. recess in the part of the day that doesn’t have PE. Why reinvent it with high-techy mumbo-jumbo? Kids are kids — they need to move. This isn’t rocket science.


December 5th, 2012
3:20 pm

Well, I have never had a child on meds that didn’t need to be–that did not improve, usually drastically, when on them. I’ve taught over 1000 kids since 1973. My area is not big for giving meds. In fact, we have quite a few parents/grandparents who won’t allow their child to be on meds, to the child’s detriment as well as the rest of the class. THAT is where I have a problem–when the student’s behavior impacts the other 26.

I am all for successful students. Anything that gets in the way, I am against.

The only other observation I will make is, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Quite often, disorganized, inattentive kids have parents that set the gold standard for it.

Judge Smails

December 5th, 2012
3:31 pm

So it seems we have three choices…

Drug our kids into compliance.

Beat our kids into submission.

Let the inmates run the asylum and do whatever they want (stand, hover, hop on one foot)

What a lousy choice.


December 5th, 2012
3:34 pm

Thanks catlady! I was wondering what you thought about kids on meds. I have also seen significant improvement. Social implications are important too. When a child is constantly interrupting the class, he/she can get a bad rap from the other kids who are tired of the interruptions. Why not try whatever you can, to see what works?

I loved your last paragraph. My two are last minute, about most stuff. It drives me crazy! They laugh and tell me they take after their Dad. Absolutely true.


December 5th, 2012
3:59 pm

Quiet is a lost art in the western world. Has anyone just sat without the radio, TV, internet, etc going? Just sat and thought. I used to love to do that when my little ones were down for a nap. Just sit and think in pure silence for about 20 minutes.


December 5th, 2012
4:21 pm

@ SEE….I love quiet too! When I am traveling and in a hotel, I rarely turn on the TV and when I am home alone it is typically off too!

Longtime Educator

December 5th, 2012
8:59 pm

I started teaching in elementary school in 1977 and we didn’t seem to have as many off-task problems as you see now. I’ve often wondered how too much exposure to television, computer screens, and video games has increased the problems with attention and the ability to complete quiet seat work. As far as ritalin, etc. is concerned, it can truly be a miracle drug for some children who need it.
I often had students who preferred to stand to do their work and I had no problem with it. I usually put them in the back or sides of the classroom. Others liked to lay in the floor on their stomach and complete their work. It seemed terribly uncomfortable to me but if it worked for them, I had no problem with it. I did have certain times that students were required to be at their desks and seated, but it was easier if it wasn’t for hours at a time.


December 5th, 2012
10:24 pm

For once, I agree with the pious, pompous mother Jane goose. She hit the nail on the head.


December 5th, 2012
10:37 pm

@ Judge Smails
I absolutely disagree. My son and all three of my nephews on my husband’s side come from 2 parent families and have strong male influences in their lives. All four have ADHD. But so does my husband and both of his brothers. Also from a 2 parent family and a strong male influence in the home.

ADHD is not linked to single parent families. But it is genetic and strongly tracks along the male parent line.

How ADHD is dealt with in the home is the major determinant of whether or not ADHD sufferers are successful in life.


December 10th, 2012
10:43 pm

My daughter’s 1st grade teacher actually has “Wiggle Time” worked into her schedule. It’s cute to watch when they all get up out of their seats and wiggle, jiggle, and dance to some music for 2 mintues or so. She says she finds it extremely helpful in getting them to maintain focus.