SRU faculty standing up for a healthier future

faculty and students working at standing desk

(From left) Lexi Nieri of Northport, New York and Abby Kantz of Beaver Falls, graduate students in the adaptive physical therapy program, work with Wendy Fagan, instructor, adaptive physical therapy, at Fagan’s standing desk. Photo by Haley Sweetland, digital media production major from Volant.

June 8, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - "Sitting is the new smoking."

When Randy Nichols, professor of physical health education at Slippery Rock University, read those words from the comfort of his desk chair some five years ago, he realized that he had been failing to practice what he taught.

With decades of statistics showcasing ever-climbing obesity rates and a sedentary lifestyle that was quickly becoming the norm, Nichols knew it was time to rise up - literally - and make a change for the better.

He started with his desk.

The idea of moving to a standing desk, which first became popular in the homes and offices of the rich during the 18th and 19th centuries, caught the attention of several of Nichols' fellow health educators, who joined him in soliciting the University to replace the department's standard, sitting desks with their upright counterparts. The initiative became a reality in August 2015 and the results, according to Nichols, have been remarkable.

"(Standing desks) have radically changed my lifestyle and my ability to work as an instructor," said Nichols. "I feel as though my brain is clearer and I am able to be more creative, receptive and alert. I'm a better writer and a better person for using it."

But don't just take Nichols' word for it.

According to a new study by Texas A&M University's Health Science Center School of Public Health, the popular desks are as beneficial as they are trendy, improving worker productivity significantly.

The study, which monitored 167 employees in a Texas call center over a six-month period, found that employees using stand-capable desks were more productive than their colleagues in standard, seated desks. The increase continued steadily over time. In the first month, the stand-capable group had 23 percent more successful calls than their seated colleagues and by the sixth month, they had 53 percent more successful calls.

For the study, the employer defined productivity as the number of successful calls in one hour of work. A "successful" encounter, in this case, was defined as a phone call in which the participants -- health and clinical advisers -- reviewed and set new goals with their clients and scheduled a follow-up call.

The height-adjustable desks have continue to gain traction due to their purported health benefits with Nichols' coworkers sharing his enthusiasm for the new trend in office functionality.

"The standing desk has been an awesome benefit to me because it has gotten me up and out of my chair throughout the day and improved both my posture and mood," said Wendy Fagan, instructor of physical and health education.

Dallas Jackson, assistant professor of physical and health education concurred. "The standing desks eliminate some of the health risks that come from working in a sedentary environment," he said. "They cater to a healthier 'big picture' while remaining a fun alternative."

Many large corporations including Google, GlaxoSmithKline, Twitter and Facebook have incorporated standing desks into their office spaces, with all of them citing employee wellness as the reason behind this decision.

Facebook has reported that the use of standing desks in the office helps keep energy levels high. "I don't get the three o'clock slump anymore," said Greg Hoy, a Facebook recruiter, to the Wall Street Journal. "I feel active all day long."

Financial firm, FF Venture Capital recently equipped its meeting rooms with standing tables and found that it led to increased collaboration and idea sharing,

Whether or not standing becomes the new sitting - or an eventual global trend - Nichols intends to take trumpet the idea across SRU.

"I've brought standing desks to the faculty, and the students are next ... and not just in our physical and health education department," said Nichols. "We have grown too accustomed to rushing to the next chair, be it in a classroom or a conference room. It's time to take a stand for a healthier tomorrow."

MEDIA CONTACT: Maizee Zaccone | 724.738.2091 | mxz1016@sru.edu