Occupations leave their mark. The bow-legged cowboy, an icon of the Old West, displayed an obvious adaptation to many hours sitting in the saddle. As office workers, we experience similarly significant adaptations. We are all familiar with the postural changes associated with deskwork: slumped shoulders, aching backs, and craned necks. Now we are beginning to understand the impact of long hours of sitting on our health and longevity. The better we understand this, the better we understand the resulting financial impact on our nation, projected to be in the trillions of dollars.
Simply put, being sedentary is dangerous. An American Cancer Society study found that women who sat 6 hours or more and were otherwise physically inactive were 94% more likely to die during the 14-year study period than those we were physically active and sat for less than three hours per day.
Many of us believe that we can overcome the inertia of a sedentary day through daily bouts of exercise; indeed, this is in line with government guidance to exercise 30 minutes per day at least five times per week. Unfortunately only an estimated 17% of the population complies with these recommendations. Worse still, even these people may not be getting the benefits they expect.
Researchers have found that even among physically active individuals there is a strong association between extended periods of sitting and a reduction in life expectancy. The study concluded that extended sitting correlates with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Currently 1 in 3 Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease that will be life limiting. The cost of cardiovascular disease in terms of medical expenditures and lost productivity is projected to exceed $1 trillion dollars by 2030.
This enormous cost will serve as a yoke around the neck of our nation and our nation’s businesses. Worse still, the human cost of 116 million Americans suffering, including lives lost and impact on families, is impossible to calculate.
The good news is that we can extend our lives with “a single step” (multiple steps are even better). We simply need to avoid extended bouts of sitting. Even very brief bouts of activity such as walking short distances or transitioning from sitting to standing can have a positive impact on body composition and triglyceride (fat) levels in our blood.
At Healthrageous, one of our goals is to empower individuals to identify and make the small everyday changes necessary to reap great rewards in health and wellbeing. We approach this goal via education, feedback loops, and gaming mechanics. First, it is crucial to understand that some movement is better than none. Whether it be a walk to the water cooler, visiting a co-worker instead of sending an email, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator; such small changes have an impact greater than the number of calories burned. They signal to the body that you are on the move and it is time to wake up and start burning some fat.
Next, we give our participants a clear picture of their activity levels throughout their day. We present a tight feedback look that visually depicts hourly activity linked – with expert advice from our automated coach. This helps Healthrageous participants to understand their behavior and recognize opportunities to make small but meaningful changes.
Lastly, at Healthrageous we believe it always helps to make things fun. We have developed (and are continuing to expand) a whole series of game dynamics targeted toward developing healthy habits. Participants can join team or individual competitions, and earn rewards for achieving personal activity goals.
At a time when the economic viability of our businesses and our nation depends on reducing the prevalence of costly chronic diseases, we are proud to be developing science-based solutions that empower people to improve their own lives. By helping people to implement crucial small changes in behavior that produce large results, Healthrageous reduces disease, controls costs, and helps keep our individuals and businesses healthy.