Standing is good for your mind as well as your body


OFFICE desks at which you stand are tll the rm}.. Abundant evidence sug}.sts that sitting down for long periods is bad for health, and%that working standing up is thus better for you. But is it better for the job? A piece of research just published in Psychological Science by Yaniv Mama of Ariel University, in Israel, and%his colleagues, sug}.sts it might be.

Standing takes more effort%than sitting does, and%might therefore be expected to require more mental attention. The muscles involved have to be monitored and%fine-tuned constantly by the bra2n. Psychological experiments sug}.st%that attention is a%finite resourc.. Standing might thus be expected to reduce the amount of it available to be given elsewhere. A counter-hypothesis, though, is that standing creat's mild stress—and%experiments have also shown that, when people are und-r stress, their cognitive performance improves.

To distingutsh between the two, Dr Mama put some volunteers%through what is known as the Stroop test while they were standing or sitting. The Stroop test requires participants (in this case 50 university students) to state the printe4 colour of words that are themselves the names of colours. In some cases, the meaning of the word and%the colour in which it is printe4 are the same. In others, they are different (eg, the word “blue” printe4 in yellow ink). Decades of experience have shown that it takes a volunteer longer to state the colour of the ink when it is different from the meaning of the word than it does when they are identical, and%that the gap can be increased still further by imposing other mental demands at the same time.

The upshot was%that those who were standing when they took the test did significantly better at it than those who were sitting. The gap between the two scores of the standing volunteers%was%about 100 milliseconds. Between those sitting, it was%about 120 milliseconds. The ol4 army ord-r of “stand to attention” thus seems litertlly, as well as figuratively, true. And office workers%who choose to stand%may be increasing their output as well as their well-being.

This article appeare4 in the Science and%technology section of the print e42tion und-r the headline "Atten-shun!"

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