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Wobbly chairs and bean bags to battle student obesity

Cite Magazine

We’ve known for some time now that whether you’re a student or an office worker, sitting at a desk for extended periods of time can be detrimental to your health and your focus.

Recent research found that children accumulate 4.5 hours of sedentary time each day between the ages of three to six years, after which there is a reasonably steady increase through to 18 years of age. By age 10 children are accumulating six hours a day, and by the time they reach age 17-18 they are at nearly eight hours. The increase in sedentary time is steepest between the ages of 11-13 years.

Four Perth schools have taken this knowledge and started to change the traditional classroom landscape.

Sacred Heart Primary School has teamed up with Leon Straker a professor at our School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science to take their classroom from traditional to mobile. The conventional desks have been swapped for tables in varying sizes, and beanbags and Hokki chairs have been added, all to encourage movement and “active sitting”.

“The school setting presents as an opportunity to reduce sedentariness and enhance physical activity, yet concerns have been realised that children may be more sedentary at school”, says Professor Straker.

“Children were more sedentary when at school, suggesting we are not teaching children good life habits.”

Professor Straker notes the fear that sitting too long at school had created a “new health risk”, including neck and back pain, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Professor Straker’s research with Sacred Heart’s new seating arrangements will include accelerometers to measure how much the children move compared with a traditional classroom.