Can An Ergonomic Workspace Boost Your Academic Performance?

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We all know that spending too many hours in front of a computer can result in a stiff neck and leg pain, but sitting in the wrong chair or using a desk that is the wrong height can result in musculoskeletal problems, fatigue, muscle/ligament/disc strain, and more issues that can affect your academic performance. In this post, we look into recent findings on the relationship between ergonomics and school performance and suggest ways to improve your chances of success.

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics involves the study of the optimal interaction between people and the products they use. Studies have shown that it is important to harmonize furniture dimensions and the measurements of students. As noted by A. Zunjic et al in a study on the role of ergonomics in education, “School furniture is devastatingly inadequate in many cases. Reports by research groups in many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and the US, also have raised awareness about the large number of pupils with spinal cord problems.”

How can ergonomics affect your grades?

Studies have shown that poorly designed furniture can negatively affect students’ behavior. It can also lead to lower back pain and scoliosis. Research has also shown that chairs and desks that are the wrong height can lead to fatigue. Around 64% of recently reviewed studies show that ergonomic furniture design improves physical responses and academic performance. The specific design features that enhanced performance included sit-stand furniture, high furniture, and tilt tables and seats (which put less stress on the spine when students lean forward to perform work). In particular, desks with a 15º inclination reduced forward head tilts and neck and trunk flexion, thus improving comfort. As noted by researchers, “In requiring a child to sit erect at an ordinary desk while reading or writing, we are demanding a physical impossibility.”

Furniture design matters to student health

Schools and colleges should take specific measurements into account when purchasing furniture, including popliteal height (the distance from the underside of the foot to the underside of the thigh at the knees), knee height, buttock-popliteal length (the horizontal distance from the rearmost part of the buttocks to the back of the lower leg) and elbow height, to encourage the proper seating posture. In general, static posture and bending forward for long period strains the muscles, ligaments, and discs.

Improving ergonomics at home

You don’t need to spend an inordinate amount of money to improve your home ergonomics with a desk of an appropriate height. Adjustable desks are key since they will allow you to work at a height recommended for your measurements; there is a bevy of free online guides that will aid with this adjustment. As noted in the above-mentioned review, “It is difficult to encourage proper posture early in life without the support of adjustable chairs, desks, and tables in the classroom.”

Consider a standing desk

Sitting for various hours a day is considered an occupational health hazard. It is also related to psychological symptoms which can interfere with academic performance since it is linked to anxiety and depression. To reduce sitting time, consider a standing desk. Several studies have shown that this type of desk produces powerful cardiovascular benefits. Some studies have also shown improved productivity and enhanced engagement, attention, and absorption when using a standing desk.

Poorly designed furniture can not only result in pain, but also in fatigue, anxiety, and other conditions that can interfere with a student’s ability to concentrate and complete the tasks at hand. Ergonomics should be a major priority at schools and colleges, but they should also be an aim for individual students who study or work at home. Adjustable furniture, standing desks, and a greater awareness of the importance of measurement can go a long way towards reducing the devastating effects of poorly designed chairs and desks.