Are Standing Desks the Answer to Childhood Obesity?

Juliet Starrett is on a mission, and it's an ambitious one. She and her husband, Kelly, are working to get standing desks into every public school classroom in the country in the next 10 years.

In April of 2015, Juliet and Kelly founded StandUpKids, an organization raising funds to get standing desks in public schools "to combat the epidemic of sedentary lifestyles and inactivity." But the mission really began in June of 2013, when the Starretts volunteered at their daughters' field day at Vallecito Elementary in San Rafael, California.

"We worked at the sack races, and we noticed that a lot of the kids literally lacked the hip range of motion to get their feet into the sack — that this was actually challenging for kids," Juliet says. "On top of that, we saw that the kids also lacked the hip range of motion to jump effectively in the sack. What we saw was that sack races were exceedingly difficult for a vast majority of the kids, which really freaked us out."

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Juliet and Kelly had been preaching the value of standing up at work to adults through their physical therapy practice for years, but it had never occurred to them the same principle could be beneficial for children at school. Before the Starretts left the school that day, they scheduled a meeting with the principal to talk about the benefits of standing desks.

"That's when I really delved into the research," Juliet says. "I wanted to come armed with every piece of data and information I could have about why sitting is terrible for you and why standing is better for kids."

The Starretts were already well aware of the orthopedic benefits of standing desks through their work in physical therapy, but they were surprised to learn the caloric benefits. Children at a normal weight burn between 15-25 percent more calories at standing desks than at sitting desks, and obese children burn 25-35 percent more.

As a former attorney practicing complex commercial litigation for nearly eight years, Juliet says she showed up to the meeting ready to present her "Supreme Court argument." She was shocked when, just a few minutes into the meeting, the principal said she was on board and that the school was about to add a new fourth grade class for the 2014-15 school year, and they didn't have any furniture for it yet.

"We said 'We're going to put our money where our mouth is; we'll buy all the standing desks,'" Juliet says. "We bought 25 standing desks, and in August of last year, we unveiled them in this fourth-grade class."

The new desks were so well received that after the first semester, the Starretts purchased more for the remaining two fourth-grade classes and an additional first grade classroom.

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About the Author

Scott Brown

Scott Brown is a senior content editor for Active.com. He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Electronic News before working for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer for four years. Scott enjoys kayaking, reading and playing with his three dogs. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram or Google+.

Scott Brown is a senior content editor for Active.com. He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Electronic News before working for FC Dallas of Major League Soccer for four years. Scott enjoys kayaking, reading and playing with his three dogs. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram or Google+.

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