Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE

Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health faculty have been awarded $402,875 by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to conduct a two-year study on the use of stand-biased desks in classrooms.

Based upon the findings of several pilot studies, the Dynamic Classrooms Project will examine the effects of using a stand-biased classroom design on children’s caloric expenditure and physical activity, their behavioral engagement in the classroom, and academic performance.

“Given the growing epidemic, childhood obesity continues to be a focus area for public health,” said Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE, assistant professor at the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health and principal investigator. “Different aspects of the school setting have been targeted, but one untapped opportunity is increasing physical activity during instructional time without disrupting planned instruction.”

Monica Wendel, Dr.P.H., M.A.

Hongwei Zhao, Ph.D.

Three elementary schools are participating in the study, with two treatment and two control classes in each of the second and third grades at each school (24 classrooms total). With sufficient evidence of the effectiveness of dynamic classrooms on addressing childhood obesity and improving academic performance, new public schools as wells as older schools being renovated may adopt this intervention simply as part of their purchase of furniture.

“As more schools implement dynamic classrooms, the paradigm of seated instruction can potentially shift to one that is more conducive to alertness and attentiveness while increasing passive calorie burn at the same time,” Dr. Benden said.

Other TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health faculty on the project are Monica Wendel, Dr.P.H., M.A., and Hongwei Zhao, Ph.D., in addition to Jamilia Blake, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell