You know you should be working out, and maybe you’re diligent about getting in your 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise. But did you know that even if you exercise regularly, sitting still for too long at a stretch can elevate your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease? Recent studies have found that independent of exercise habits, people have an 18% to 37% greater of chance of death if they sit for six hours a day instead of three. And, the more people sit, the more their markers for insulin resistance and inflammation increase. Other studies have found similarly heightened risks from inactivity throughout the day.
Well, that’s scary, but surely nobody sits for six hours a day, right? In fact, we do. A recent study found that the average New Yorker sits for an average of seven hours a day, and that may be a low estimate. Manhattanites, who famously walk everywhere, sit even more, for an average of more than eight hours a day.
So we’re sitting a lot, we don’t realize it, and it’s seriously endangering our health. How can we be more aware when we’ve been congealing at our desks too long and it’s time to lurch forth and get our blood moving? You could get a treadmill desk, but some find it distracting, and anyway who wants to live out the concrete manifestation of an anhedonic metaphor? So, from most to least expensive, here are some less tedious options.
If you want a full-featured device that does a lot more than track fitness, a smartwatch may be a good option.
– The Apple Watch has a native Activity app with a vibrating alert if you haven’t stood for at least a minute in the past hour.
– The Pebble, an entry-level smartwatch that was originally developed through a Kickstarter project, has an available watchface from Jawbone UP with a vibrating inactivity alert. The time interval can be adjusted.
A dedicated fitness tracker offers fewer features and flexibility than a smartwatch, but is typically cheaper and may have better battery life. Fitness trackers pair with smartphone apps, so make sure to check that your smartphone model and operating system are supported by the manufacturer.
– All the current wrist-worn models of the Jawbone UP (UP2, UP3, UP4) have a vibrating idle alert.
– The Garmin Vivosmart has an hourly vibrating inactivity alert. The less expensive Vivofit also has an hourly alert, but it’s only a visual representation and audible tone, it doesn’t vibrate.
At the price of a buck or two or even free, smartphone apps are significantly cheaper than a smartwatch or fitness tracker, and there are no device compatibility issues. Drawbacks: you have to keep your phone on your person, and a buzzing phone might not be as noticeable as a vibrating watch, since all kinds of apps make your phone buzz. It can get annoying to continually take your phone out of your pocket only to find it’s yet another email or Facebook notification.
– For the iPhone, the MotionX 24/7 app has a “Get Active” vibrating inactivity alert which can be set at varying intervals.
– For Android, Movn Activity Sit Pedometer has a simple, appealing interface and nice set of features, including various metrics over time and a social feed. In addition to vibrating, the inactivity alert also plays an audible tone, but it’s really quiet and there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn it up.
Obviously you’re not going to lug your desktop PC around with you, so this option doesn’t measure your activity level. Instead, you use the program to set reminders by time interval. But if your problem is that your face is stuck in a screen all day at work, Big Stretch Reminder, a free program for Windows, actually works pretty well. The program lives unobtrusively as an icon in your taskbar until the interval you choose has passed, then displays a balloon reminder or small pop-up alert and plays a tone. You can set the length of move time, and postpone or skip breaks if you’re busy. You can choose the alert sound and different kinds of messages: activity tips, quotes, or your own custom text. Mousing over the icon shows how much time is left until the next break. All the different customizable features make this quite a viable option.
Excessive inactivity, over time, can really shorten your life. With so many easy ways to warn yourself that you’re becoming one with your desk or couch, there’s no reason you should unknowingly ossify. Try one of these options and see!