The risks of inactivity are generally known. However, the precise definition of “inactivity” may need clarification. Most people think of being inactive as simply lack of exercise. Studies have shown that periods of inactivity such as sitting increase risk of disease and mortality independent of exercise.

Recent research has shown that sitting for prolonged periods is linked to increased rates of chronic disease and mortality. “Sedentary behaviour is ubiquitous. Society is engineered, physically and socially, to be sitting-centric.” As a result, companies are looking at interventions such as sit-stand workstations to help their employees improve and maintain health.

A UK study finds significant health benefits associated with standing:

Contrary to what one might believe, exercise does not seem to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

“People need to understand that the qualitative mechanisms of sitting are completely different from walking or exercising,” says University of Missouri-Columbia microbiologist Dr. Marc Hamilton. “Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body.”

With this in mind, wearable technology can be a valuable tool in the battle against sitting disease. Various devices on the market will send notifications when you have been inactive for too long. These “move reminders” vary from device to device but all have the same goal of decreasing inactivity, or at least bringing this to the user’s awareness.

The goal of a healthy life free from disease is what people strive for. As technology, knowledge, and tools evolve, so will our adaptation to these and hopefully, resulting behaviours. A device will not necessarily motivate people to change. Combined with the right information though, wearables can aid in making healthier lifestyle choices.

In the spectrum of Big Data, analysis of disease risks across workplace populations can provide insight into what types of jobs are occupational risks for inactivity. Are you sitting too long? What can enterprises do to to help people move more and sit less?