5 tools help employees avoid sitting disease

May 3, 2012

in context communication,health games,hotseat health app


we know prolonged sitting’s detrimental to individual and business health. prolonged sitting decreases productivity and creativity and ratchets up stress. research now links prolonged sitting to more extreme health risks, such as obesityalzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, and even an earlier death.

the research is telling us: we need to unseat employees. but how? until dance walking through the office becomes the norm, we’re going to need some help. i collected a handful of tools employees can use to unseat themselves throughout the day, including one designed and developed by my firm. of all of these, i’ve only tested hotseat and fitbolt.

1. hotseat

(warning: self-promotion. hotseat is a product from context.) hotseat is a new health app that uses social accountability, gameful design and our extreme attachment to our smartphones to unseat employees. with hotseat, employers and health plans can reach employees whether or not they’re at their desk or even have a desk. employees start by choosing activities that interest them and meet their desired intensity level. working with each employee’s calendar availability to make sure there are no conflicts, hotseat sets up a daily roster of two-minute activity breaks and nudges employees to complete them. employees can take their breaks solo, or they can create collaborative and competitive challenges to make the breaks social and fun. hotseat is available for iphone, ipod touch and ipad. android to follow.

2. fitbolt

fitbolt is the product of evan carothers, a software developer. fitbolt sits on your browser or desktop and alerts you every 30 minutes to take a fitness break, pulling from a catalog of stretches and exercises. its algorithm tracks what exercises you like and pushes out new activities based on your preferences. premium members receive health reminders and diet pointers as well as tips about improving posture and work ergonomics. fitbolt integrates with other popular personal health trackers, such as fitbit, runkeeper and dailymile, and has recently issued an open invitation to employers interested in deploying fitbolt companywide.

3. instant recess

instant recess® is the brainchild of dr. toni yancey, a professor at UCLA’s school of public health. since 1999, dr. yancey’s advocated for bringing playground recess into the workplace through her book and partnerships. the idea is simple: create structured activity breaks throughout the day and invite all employees to participate. the length, frequency and style of the break is something you build over time and customize to your culture. one company using instant recess implemented five-minute breaks three times per day. another set up 10-minute stretch breaks every morning and afternoon. similarly, the break approach is up to each company’s interpretation. your company wants to line dance during its 10-minute break? then shake it. you have a more sedate culture? no problem, you can do walking meetings.

4. workpace

workpace isn’t focused on reducing sedentary behavior, but it does prompt employees to get up and move. workpace bills itself as a health and safety tool focused on injury prevention brought on by computer overuse. workpace tracks computer use to detect patterns and alerts employees when they need to take a break. breaks may be small—a micropause—or a bit longer—a workpace break. the workpace break functions as an activity break, as you need to get up and move. typically, workpace only interrupts users if they don’t take natural breaks, and the default setting is a five-minute break after every 55 minutes of continuous PC use. companies using workpace can pick and choose their settings and apply different settings to different work groups.

5. dog, the sedentary employee’s best friend

a new study finds bringing dogs to work may lower employee stress. dogs at work will certainly get employees out of their seats, whether it’s to play fetch or to keep the carpet in the conference room stain-free.



Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle James May 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

What a great list of tools! I have the opportunity to use a couple of these tools, including the dog (when I am working from home). Each one has a slightly different functionality and objective, so I would highly recommend understanding your population/employees needs, job type, and motivation. You don’t want to pick a tool that employees will react negative to because you haven’t fully done your homework. Make sure it fits your population and make it part of your culture.


fran May 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

michelle, thanks for sharing workpace with me! you’re right about finding the one–or ones–that fit. that’s one of the benefits employers get from better integration. the employee can choose what he or she wants. the employer can still get the data.



henry albrecht May 4, 2012 at 10:52 am

I know Brett, David and Ryan at Limeade (3 dog-bringers) will love this — and Hotseat!


fran May 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

three dogs in the house?! madness. i hope you have a dog park beside limeade HQ.



Alyssa May 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I downloaded the Fit Bolt add-on for my browser at work and it has become kind of a running joke in the office. There are only 4 of us in the office, but ever time the timer dings on my computer and the exercise pops-up, my boss comes out of the office to “watch” while my two other coworkers and I participate. I’ve tried to convince her to join in, but she always claims one excuse or another. I shrug it off and think that she is at least getting out of her seat to watch us look like goofballs in the office. Highly recommend Fit Bolt!


fran May 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

keep it up. sooner or later, they’ll join you.


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