Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition which affects both adults and children. It can impact all areas of life, including health, friendships, relationships, and your career. In adults, the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define. However, some common symptoms include:
- having a short attention span and being easily distracted
- carelessness and lack of attention to detail
- constantly changing activity or task
- being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- being unable to concentrate on tasks
- excessive physical movement
- difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn
- mood swings, irritability and a quick temper
- extreme impatience
- taking risks in activities with little or no sense of danger.
It is also not uncommon for individuals with ADHD to have coexisting conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
How ADHD Impacts Work and School
How much ADHD affects your job depends on how severe your symptoms are. For some, ADHD can make meetings, spending time in the office, maintaining relationships with co-workers, and meeting deadlines and other responsibilities a real challenge. This is similar for children, as ADHD can affect a student's ability to focus, pay attention, listen, or put effort into schoolwork - in and outside of the classroom.
Individuals have success with medication, skills training and counselling to help relieve their symptoms and overcome day-to-day hurdles, but it’s important to keep in mind that ADHD can be seen as a disability under the 2010 Equality Act, and employers have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments to assist employees to do their jobs. Adjustments could include providing visual aids - such as wall charts and noise-cancelling headphones - or modifications to regular practice, such as increased supervision, breaking down tasks into smaller steps, or allowing more regular breaks.
For children, extra time or rest breaks for exams, movement breaks in lessons, written instructions for tasks and a seating plan that minimises distractions can all be implemented to support them to thrive.
Another adjustment could be a standing desk, which has been shown to benefit individuals with ADHD in both scientific studies and anecdotal reports. This article will look at this in more detail, and discuss how you can get the most of your standing desk if you have ADHD.
How Standing Desks Can Help with ADHD
Research has shown that using a standing desk can encourage movement, reduce fatigue, improve focus and increases productivity levels, which could be beneficial for those with ADHD. Let's look at this in more detail.
1. Encourages Movement
Neurodiverse individuals have low levels of dopamine, which is vital when it comes to focus, memory, reward, and motivation. Moving and fidgeting of any kind stimulates the body to produce more dopamine, and what helps to encourage movement? A standing desk.
In his review of life-changing items he uses to make his workspace more ADHD-friendly, Dylan Austin writes that his standing desk 'helps with the timeless “sitting still” challenge, and sometimes, switching heights can even feel like a little change of scenery' which is great for staying focused.
For children in particular, a standing desk allows them to be more comfortable. While a neurodiverse child often has to focus to sit still, a standing desk embraces movement and can help to burn off extra energy, keeping them focused and on task. Indeed, one school in the UK has introduced standing desks for pupils as a permanent measure, with their deputy headteacher stating that “the response has been brilliant, especially from pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other neurodiverse conditions, who have really benefited from being given the option to move. The desks support them to feel more comfortable in the classroom and that has benefits for the teacher and the whole class.” In short, it’s a non-disruptive way for them to fidget, which can help to relieve symptoms.
In another study, parents of neurodivergent children were asked to share what their typical experiences at homework time were. More than half (51%) of the 200 parents surveyed said that their child found it very difficult to focus and challenging to sit still for extended periods of time, especially when completing schoolwork. Two-thirds (64%) added that their child was very unlikely to stay seated for the duration of a task. However, after using a standing desk, parents said they saw increased engagement and focus on the task at hand, along with improvements to restlessness.
In short, restlessness can be challenging to manage for those with ADHD. However, standing desks provide an outlet for physical movement, allowing users to move (or fidget) without disrupting their work.
2. Improves Focus
As well as the positive relationship between movement and staying focused for ADHD individuals, standing desks can improve focus levels through promoting additional physical and mental effects.
When standing, blood circulation improves, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the brain. The presence of increased oxygen stimulates brain activity and can improve alertness, clarity, concentration and focus, which can also improve cognitive performance. Prolonged periods of sitting, on the other hand, have been associated with poor executive function.
Indeed, it is thought that just 10 minutes of movement is all it takes to increase mental focus, with 37% of employees reporting high levels of energy in the middle of the day when incorporating small and frequent movements.
Thus, although executive functions - such as planning, organising, and impulse control - are often impaired in individuals with ADHD, a standing desk can help to stimulate the brain's executive control processes, which could lead to improvements in cognitive function. Improvements to cognitive function can also help improve productivity levels.
3. Reduces Fatigue
Research has shown that standing desks may reduce acute levels of sleepiness and physical fatigue, which could positively impact cognitive function and alertness.
In another 7-week study, participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue than those who remained seated the entire work day. Additionally, 87% of those using standing desks reported increased energy and vigour.
Another study found that reducing occupational and regular sitting time in the short, medium and longer term had a positive impact on many work related outcomes, such as job performance, work engagement, occupational fatigue, and sickness presenteeism.
While the potential benefits of standing desks for ADHD are promising, practical considerations and proper use is crucial for success.
- Individual Differences: ADHD is a heterogeneous condition, and what works for one individual may not be as effective for another. Consider the unique needs and preferences of each person, and adapt to those where possible
- Introduce Gradually: Suddenly switching from a seated desk to a standing one can be a shock on your joints. Ease into your new lifestyle by switching between sitting and standing on a more regular basis until you adapt.
- Personalise Schedule: On the same note, there is no "best" time to stand at your desk or sit down. Consider your work schedule and personal preferences to determine whether there is a "right" time for you to stand (or sit) at your desk.
- Avoid Discomfort: Prolonged standing may lead to discomfort and fatigue, which could potentially undermine the positive effects of standing desks. Maintain proper posture, wear correct footwear, and consider using an anti-fatigue mat or footrest to prevent strain.
- Take Breaks: Alternate between sitting down and standing up, and take regular breaks to stand up, stretch, and walk to promote blood circulation and prevent stiffness.
- Remove Distractions: Even with a standing desk, it can be difficult to remain focused. Try to limit temptations and distractions by optimising your desk for productivity, such as removing personal devices and giving yourself enough space.
In conclusion, standing desks can encourage movement, improve focus, and reduce fatigue, which are all potential benefits for those with ADHD. This makes them a non-disruptive outlet for restlessness, and a promising solution for both adults and children. However, proper use is essential to get the most out of your standing desk. Once you've got this covered, integrating standing desks into your home or work office can make a huge difference.
Looking for a standing desk for your home, office or workspace? Check out our collection of standing desks, available for next working day delivery if ordered by 3pm. Our desks come with a 7 year warranty, 30 day risk free return, as well as access to a UK-based customer service team to answer any questions that you might have.
Otherwise, our blog provides more useful tips on using a standing desk for a more balanced lifestyle. Feel free to contact us with any questions, with the handy live chat feature on our site, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.