In classrooms all over the world, students spend countless hours sitting at desks and tables having lessons and listening to the teachers. The lack of movement in class was not a huge concern in previous years when children would compensate by being much more active after school.
Now, as children spend more time in front of a phone or television screen rather than engaging in physical activity, greater numbers of them are becoming overweight. In its 2017-2018 report, the National Health Survey estimated that almost a quarter of Australian children and adolescents are overweight or obese, the percentage remaining stable since 2007.
Schools around the world have wellness programs in place to encourage children to exercise and eat healthy. The school design, however, is an underestimated aspect in these programs.
Wellness design improves student health
The time spent sitting in classroom chairs and desks only emphasise a student’s sedentary habits, and the lack of physical activity makes it more difficult for them to concentrate. Obesity also takes a physical and mental toll on students, as they are more prone to develop diabetes and have low self-esteem.
A campus designed with wellness in mind has students making healthier choices. When a school encourages children to move around, students are likely to have fewer absences, better academic performance and improved mental health.
Implementing wellness design on campus
When designing for wellness, a school can refer to several guidelines, including those by the Center for Active Design (CAB) and the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). Both specify recommendations to create an environment that promotes health and wellness.
Both organisations recommend the following when designing for wellness:
- Appeal to the senses
Incorporating the five basic senses into a campus design can stimulate motivation, which, in turn, increases engagement and performance. Pleasing colours and graphic design details enhance students’ mood and make stairs and hallways look more appealing. Lighting affects mood and behaviour, so opt for large windows with open views or install LED lights.
- Encourage movement
Aside from physical education classes, the campus must be designed to encourage students to move. Create wide staircases and situate them near entrances to invite students to choose the stairs over elevators. Design paths and walkways that encourage people to walk around even during intense heat or rainy days.
- Improved air quality
Poor indoor air quality worsens respiratory illnesses, triggering asthma and allergies. Well-maintained ventilation is essential to the comfort of students, especially during the intense heatwave in Australia.
- Incorporating flexibility
The use of modern furniture in the classroom provides comfort and flexibility for the students. Opt for tables that can shift from sitting to standing height, and chairs that can be adjusted to suit different comfort levels.
- Access to nature
When building a space that promotes well-being, providing access to nature is essential. The sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors have shown to improve memory, reduce stress and enhance focus. Recreate the natural environment indoors by bringing in plants, water and natural views.
Schools play a powerful role in shaping students’ lifelong habits and behaviour. Creating an environment that promotes wellness encourages students to take care of their bodies, resulting in better physical and mental health.