It is a known fact that sitting is unhealthy. Using an analysis of blood values, movement scientist Hans Savelberg already showed in 2013 that standing and sauntering are healthier. Not just because you use more energy and prevent obesity, but also because the body doesn’t ‘dose off’ and switch all kinds of systems, including metabolism, into stand-by mode.
There is a world to win for students, shows research by HQ Chim, which constitutes the basis of her PhD at the end of this month. Data from activity trackers worn by more than three hundred Maastricht first-year bachelor’s students showed that they sleep for more ten hours a night and sit for nine hours each day. Remarkably, on the days that they have no classes, they only sit for twenty minutes less.
“You would expect students to be more active in their spare time, walk more and do sports,” says Chim in a joint Zoom session with professor Hans Savelberg (in which both are standing). Nevertheless, the results don’t surprise either of them. “Sitting is still perceived to be the norm,” says Savelberg, “whether you are in a GP’s waiting room or taking an exam in the MECC.”
In another (still unpublished) study, Chim tries to determine whether standing has any effect on learning achievements. She divided 96 first-year students from the Maastricht study programme of Biomedical Sciences into two groups, one group following a block for nine weeks standing, the other sitting. The block had two-hour meetings once or twice a week.
The results were crystal clear: standing does not affect learning achievements. The exam results of the students who stood, were slightly higher, but not significantly. Also, the students’ learning development as well as the quality of the discussions in the tutorial group meetings gave no clue to there being a difference in learning achievements. Something that had more or less also become apparent from the literature study.
At the same time, students who stand during sessions do move considerably more. Not just on the days when they have classes, but also when they have time off. How this effects their health, is difficult to say. Savelberg. “Those effects will only be visible in twenty years’ time, when diseases such as obesity and diabetes manifest themselves, or not. No matter what, the most important thing is that we make youths aware of the fact that standing is often a good alternative to sitting.”