Research has shown that incorporating motion into the classroom (and the workplace) promotes creativity and learning. Students and adults need to move and this can help them feel active and alert, which in turn helps their learning and productivity.
Motion in the Classroom
In addition to incorporating physical activities into the classroom, Active Sitting is something that can be beneficial.
What is Active Sitting?
Active sitting, also known as dynamic sitting, is seating that naturally encourages us to stay in motion, rather than passively relaxing into a slouch or attempt to rigidly hold a “correct” pose.
One of the simplest examples of active seating is a “sitting donut,” which is a flat circular air filled rubber disk that can be placed on a chair or on the floor to encourage user movement. Rockers have become very popular. Exercise balls and activity bands hooked to traditional chair legs are also seen in many classrooms.
Students will find a way to move around regardless of the type of chair they’re sitting in. Because traditional school seating lacks the flexibility of active sitting, students often resort to creating their own movement by leaning the chair back on two legs and frequently shifting their position on the chair.
Forced movement such as this can lead to tight muscles, soreness or even physical injury.
How Active Seating Helps Students Focus
Movement, when channeled correctly, actually helps students focus. A 2008 research study found that children need to move while conducting a complicated mental task, according to a National Education Association article.
The study also found that “children, especially those with ADHD fidgeted more when a task required them to store and process information rather than just hold it. This is why students are often restless while doing math or reading, but not while watching a movie.”
Active seating is fidget-friendly, so, for children who squirm in their seats and can’t resist the impulse to move, it’s a way to channel their excess energy into constructive activities. Active seating acknowledges a child’s need to move, but at the same time, keeps them sitting still enough so that teachers and other students may continue lessons uninterrupted.
This is in contrast to forward-facing and rigid seating, which can result in poor attention, poor memory and ultimately, lower achievement scores. In turn, this has an impact on teachers, principals and administrators, who have to have to spend extra time and resources to keep these students engaged in class.
Activity in the Workplace
And of course all of the advantages of active sitting and physical motion during the day also applies to adults. Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day really adds up. What’s worse is that research shows that regular, inactive sitting is the “new smoking” and may increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes
Upgrade Your Office Chair
Dynamic chairs and balance balls, which put you on a less stable surface and require you to actively engage your muscles throughout the day, work to reverse the negative effects of sitting for too long. First, they have you sitting at a higher level than a typical office chair, and that increased hip angle demands more work from your core and allows your spine to sit in a more natural position. The unstable surface also engages more stabilizer muscles—just like when you use unstable surfaces while exercising. Check out dynamic chairs that are currently on the market for a comfy but challenging respite while you work.
Try Standing at Your Desk
Why not ditch your chair altogether? According to The Boston Globe, research shows an increase in mood and energy levels from those who stood during part of their work day. And although standing all day isn’t necessarily the answer for burning calories, it is a gateway to more activity throughout the day, and will likely lead to getting up to talk with a colleague rather than just calling or e-mailing them.
Want to sit sometimes? Try a Sit-to-Stand desk or convert your existing desk with a sit-to-stand adjustable desk riser. Both give you the option to sit or stand throughout the day.
Schedule Walking Intervals
The best way to practice active sitting is to take your workload on the move. Schedule in a short walking session every hour, or a longer walk a few times a day. After all, the 10,000-steps-per-day rule is hard to meet if you drive to work and don’t exercise every day. So whether you’re clearing your head or working on the go, short walks throughout the day can help you get in your daily steps. You may even find that you’re more productive when you return to sitting at your desk.
Both children and adults reap the benefits of active sitting and physical activity throughout the day. Start with these ideas and use your creativity to come up with ways to stay on the move during the day in school or at work.