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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UCLA: Study Takes A Stand Against Prolonged Sitting

In many workplaces, standing desks and walking meetings are addressing the health dangers of sitting too long each day, but for universities, the natural question is how to make such adjustments in classrooms.

The question appealed to emerita dance professor Dr. Angelia Leung from the UCLA Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance. Sitting too long was never an issue for Leung’s students. But for most college students, desk time is more common than dance time. In an unusual collaboration between the arts and sciences, Dr. Leung partnered with Drs. Burt Cowgill and Wendelin Slusser, both with the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, to find ways to help students stand up.

“A cultural change has to take place — that it’s OK to take a stretch break, to stand up during a lecture, to fidget when needed — it’s ‘good’ for health’s sake,” Leung said.

The team’s research, published in the Journal of American College Health on February 6, hit upon solutions that students and faculty can agree on. However, all the solutions, the researchers said, would work best if joined with an effort to raise awareness about the health risks of extended sitting, aimed at shifting cultural expectations and norms about classroom etiquette.

“We need to change the way we teach so that we can offer more standing breaks, create opportunities for in-class movement, and even change the built environment so that there’s more room for moving around,” Dr. Cowgill said.

Dr. Cowgill said he was surprised to learn that many of the participants were not aware of the health problems that prolonged sitting can cause, even for people who are otherwise active. “Many people thought they would be fine if they also squeezed in a 30-minute jog, and that’s just not what research shows us.”

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