To combat childhood obesity, Australian school launches world's first standing classroom

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SummaryMont Albert Primary School has been fitted with height-adjustable desks to allow the pupils to sit or stand.

In a unique effort to combat childhood obesity, a primary school here has launched the world's first standing classroom.

A grade six class at Mont Albert Primary School has been fitted with height-adjustable desks to allow the pupils to sit or stand, as part of an experiment by Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute researchers.

Since the desks were introduced more than two months ago, most students have taken the opportunity to stand.

The standing students will be monitored by a team of scientists keen to know if being upright can improve their health, fitness, learning and memory.

Students will also be fitted with devices to measure how long they spend sitting, with lesson plans overhauled to cut down the time students are idle.

The institute's head of physical activity research, Professor David Dunstan, said the long hours sitting at school were a hazard for children he hoped to overcome.

"It is a twofold process: changing the environment and also training the teacher in how to administer this in a new and innovative way," Dunstan said.

"When they stand up they are engaging more muscles that are likely to be of great benefit for keeping the blood flowing throughout their body and reducing the level of fatigue.

"If we can ingrain good health behaviours in early age we know they track into adulthood," Dunstan said.

Previous studies have shown students spent two-thirds of a school day sitting, and prolonged childhood sitting can contribute to the onset of such diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Mont Albert Primary School principal Sharon Saitlik said students, parents and teachers had embraced the project.

"Those boys that can tend to fidget and get distracted easily have been more engaged," Saitlik said.

"Even though they are only standing in preference to sitting it gives them the space they sometimes require," Saitlik said.

If comparisons show benefits for the cardiovascular health, learning and memory of the standing students over a traditional class, researchers hope to progress the pilot study into a much larger trial to see if it can have an impact on lessons across Australia.

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