How many hours per day do you spend in your chair? If you are like an average Brit who spends about 8.9 hours each day sitting, I’ve got bad news for you: medics now estimate that diseases linked with too much time sitting kill as many people globally as smoking does. For instance, a major 2012 Australian study showed that prolonged sitting was associated with a 7% increase in risk of death over 3 years.
One of the biggest reasons for the increase of sedentary lifestyle is technology - from the home computing revolution of the 1990s to Generation X-Box, digital technologies have the unsought potential to glue us to the couch. Yet there are people now using technology to help us re-engage in physical activity. Rob Finch, the marketing director for London digital workplace health start-up StepJockey, that encourages people walk on the stairs using technology, has written for Consciously Digital blog an overview of useful tech apps that are undoing the harm that technology has done to our health, and helps you move. The tech helps The trend to help sofa-surfers back onto their feet probably started with games consoles. From X-Box Kinect Sports to Wii Fit, we’ve seen the best part of a decade’s worth of innovation in digital gaming technology coupled with the magic (AKA algorithms) of remote sensing. Tech like this allows usually sedentary gamers to take an active break or get active gaming into their normal routine. The iPod revolution and subsequent podcast phenomenon enabled health-conscious innovators to come up with wonderful motivational fitness series. These include the incredibly easy and successful Couch to 5K and its imitators. It gives everyone a hand up off the sofa, gradually increases fitness, helping you reach an achievable goal of running 5km non-stop in just 8 weeks. And in some ways, some of the simplest of functions of smartphones can help you get active. Geocaching, for instance, uses very simple GPS locating technology to turn a walk in town or country into a fun game with a prize. Fitness break And for the increasingly sedentary office worker, there are now several apps to get you to give your butt a break. Move is an app that reminds you to stretch and stay active throughout the day. Users can do 300 exercises that you won’t be embarrassed to do in the office. If you’re ready for something more strenuous, apps like RunKeeper can calculate your running pace, cycling speed, route distance, elevation and calories burnt and blend them with audio coaching and training plans for the more serious. For a more fun spin on jogging apps, Zombies Run, combines fitness motivation with the pop culture zombie zeitgeist that’s spawned “The Walking Dead”, “World War Z” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. Wearable wonders Wearable tech makes it super-easy to be nudged into getting active Jawbone’s Idle Alert will buzz you when you’ve not moved “enough”. The Apple Watch Activity App and Nike+ FuelBand remind you to move around every hour. I’m yet to be convinced that wearables are the future. While they’re great at nudging us, they’re too easy to ignore, switch off and put in the drawer. As yet, there’s no “killer app” that makes wearables a must-have, but I firmly believe there soon will be one. What’s next for digital health? We’ve already reached a flowering of creative ways to encourage activity. The next step will be to make the comfort of sitting somehow uncomfortable. Maybe we’ll see apps lock your fun apps until they detect motion every hour. When will we see the app that makes you use Just Dance so that you can unlock Just Eat? Our lazy lifestyles can’t be cured by digital tech alone. But I’m confident that some very smart brains are working hard to ensure that current and future generations live longer, healthier lives through innovations that stop our armchair existences. Consciously Digital asks: do you use any health apps or programs yourself? Do you see the change thanks to it? Post your answers in the comments!