Sitting Time Apps and Inactivity-Tracking Activity Monitors

Reminding You to Get Up and Move

Research evidence is mounting that sitting too much is its own health risk factor, even if you get in enough workouts each day. But many of us have sedentary jobs and then sit at home while watching video, gaming, or socializing. How can you be more mindful of your sitting time and work on getting up and moving around to break it up?

The typical pedometer or activity monitor wasn't built to tell you that you've been sitting too long. Most don't distinguish between sitting and standing, yet standing seems to be better for us. These apps and activity monitors can alert you when you are sitting too long. It's one of my 6 Hacks to Sit Less and Save Your Life.

Fitbit Alta

Fitbit Alta
Fitbit Alta. Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Fitbit Alta has vibrating move reminders. If you haven't logged 250 steps yet during the hour, you get a vibrating and scrolling alert. Put in the steps and it congratulates you with a vibration and message. It tracks the number of hours you achieved this goal during the day, and you can set the start and stop period. You can review how you have achieved it over the week. It also shows your longest inactive period for the day and total minutes active and sedentary.

The Fitbit Surge includes a watch face with a "flare" display that shows how active you are each minute. It's a great visual reminder to move more throughout each hour.

The Fitbit Blaze, Fitbit Charge 2, and Fitbit Flex 2 also include vibrating inactivity alerts. Most other Fitbits track hours where you moved at least 250 steps but do not have vibrating alerts.

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Garmin vivosmart HR

Garmin vivofit HR
Garmin vivofit HR. Courtesy of Amazon.com

This smart fitness band vibrates after an hour of inactivity to tell you "time to move!" Then you'll need to get up and walk for a couple of minutes to reset the inactivity timer. I far prefer vibrating inactivity alerts as they are harder to ignore than other signals. You can also set it to vibrate and display information on incoming calls, texts or email from your linked smartphone. It tracks steps, distance, calories, time of day and sleep. You can set a vibrating alarm to wake you up in the morning. You can pair it with a heart rate monitor to track the intensity of your workouts. I prefer it to the Jawbone UP because it has a numerical display and you can easily see your key stats on your wrist.
Review: Garmin vivosmart

Garmin vivofit: The little brother to the vivosmart has a growing Move Bar to show you how long you have been inactive, with an alert when it has gone past an hour. It doesn't vibrate.
Review: Garmin vivofit ​​Buy from Amazon

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Jawbone UP2, UP3

Jawbone UP Family of Fitness Trackers - UP24, UP MOVE with clip and wristband, UP3
Jawbone UP Family of Fitness Trackers - UP24, UP MOVE with clip and wristband, UP3. Jawbone

The Jawbone UP wristband activity monitors pair with a phone app (Google Play and iOS). You can set Idle Alerts and they will vibrate when you've been inactive for your chosen amount of time. I like the vibration feature. It takes a couple of minutes of motion to satisfy its desire that you really do get up and move. Just standing won't convince it. In addition to the Idle Alerts, it has a full suite of activity and sleep monitoring functions. You can track workouts, track your diet, track all-day steps and mood. It has a top-grade sleep quality monitoring function due to integration with MotionX sleep technology. The wristband has no display of its own, you have to sync it with a mobile device via Bluetooth. The less expensive Jawbone MOVE gives Idle Alerts in its app but doesn't vibrate.

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Apple Watch

Apple Watch - Stand Achievement
Apple Watch - Stand Achievement. Wendy Bumgardner ©

The Apple Watch Activity app reminds you to stand and move around for at least one minute each hour. It's one of the three key activities that it tracks automatically and displays on the Activity Ring icon visible on many of the watch faces. If you haven't gotten up within an hour, it gives you a tap on the wrist and an notification that you need to stand up. Once you've moved for a minute, it congratulates you and logs your achievement. The goal is set to Stand for 12 hours per day, which you can adjust.The activity graph shows which hours you have missed. I found this incredibly motivational. More great Apple Watch features for walkers

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iFit Active

iFit Active
iFit Active. iFit

The IFit Active can be worn as a fitness band or on a belt clip. It has vibrating alerts when you have been sitting for your chosen time interval. While it will alert you, it doesn't track inactive time as a statistic. The sensor displays steps, distance, calories in and calories eaten. You can quickly log calories on the sensor, pressing the button to log 50 calorie increments. You can also track workouts and sleep. It syncs via Bluetooth to iFit app, with data added to your iFit account. It recharges with a custom USB cradle, a charge lasts several days.

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MotionX 24/7

MotionX Sleep - Daily Step Tracker
MotionX Sleep - Daily Step Tracker. Screen Shot by Wendy Bumgardner

Publisher's Site
This iOS app does a lot. It turns your iPhone or other device into an all-day pedometer, exercise tracker and sleep quality monitor. You can also set Idle Alerts so it will alert you when it hasn't sensed any motion in your set period of time. Besides all-day steps, it tracks aerobic steps so you can also see if you are getting the 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise recommended for health. It has a voice coach to guide you through timed walking or running workouts and uses your phone's flash to take your pulse. The sleep quality monitoring is very detailed and is the same as is used in the Jawbone UP. The disadvantage is that it will use more battery power to work in the background than the Move More app, which uses very little. You may have to recharge your phone during your idle times.
Review: MotionX 24/7

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Polar Loop - Polar A300 - Polar M400 GPS

Polar Loop
Polar Loop. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

Polar incorporates inactivity alerts in its line of fitness bands and watches. They all tie into the Polar Flow phone app. If you've been inactive for an hour you get an inactivity alert. These show as marks of shame on your daily diary. They also encourage you to be "Up" by adding minutes standing to your daily goal total. You reach the goal by a combination of standing, walking, and more-intense activity. All of these Polar models also link to their Bluetooth heart rate monitors for tracking of workout sessions.

Polar Loop: Fitness band model, it also will link to Bluetooth heart rate monitors.
Review: Polar LoopBuy from Amazon

Polar A300 Fitness and Activity Watch: A step up from the Loop, this watch is also focused on all-day activity and sleep.
Review: Polar A300  Buy from Amazon

Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch: In addition to all-day activity/inactivity, you can track workouts by speed and distance with built-in GPS, and more features of a running watch.
Review: Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch  Buy from Amazon

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LYCOS Life Band

LYCOS Life Band
LYCOS Life Band. Courtesy of Amazon.com

The LYCOS Life smart band has vibrating alerts for your chosen period of inactivity. Many other devices have a pre-set 60 minute alert that you can't change. But with this band you can choose your interval and change it as you wish. You can set other vibrating alarms. It links to both Android and iOS devices, with notifications. Those also vibrate, so you may find yourself moving a lot more. It tracks steps, calories burned and automatically tracks sleep. It has a finger-press pulse reader built in. It has a 10-14 day battery life before recharging.

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Muva Gruve

Gruve Activity Monitor
Gruve Activity Monitor. Wendy Bumgardner © 2012

The Gruve vibrates when it thinks you've been inactive too long. This activity monitor is designed to maximize your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.) so you burn more calories throughout the day. It may decide you are too inactive when you've been sitting for 45 to 90 minutes. For me, it vibrated after 57 minutes. I think that's much too long, but you can't modify the settings other than which hours of the day it vibrates. One research study said we should move for two minutes after each 20 minutes of sitting. The Gruve uploads activity data via USB and you can view your activity calories and activity intensity zones for the day. On the device itself it just has a glowing color indicator that tells you how you are progressing towards your daily activity goal. It doesn't give you a step count. For about the same cost as the Jawbone UP, I prefer the UP.

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Get Moving App

Publisher's Site
This iOS app for the iPhone 5S and above tracks all of your daily activity as a pedometer. You can set custom inactivity alerts to whatever interval you desire, one-time or repeating. The clock starts when it detects you are idle. You can view weekly summaries on how long you were inactive, where and when.

Move More App

Move More App
Move More App. Screen Shot by Wendy Bumgardner

Publisher's Site
This app for iOS can be used with your iPhone or iPad to let you log your activity and inactivity. It doesn't automatically sense what you are doing. It's a log rather than a sensor. Instead, you tap the app to record the start of a period of sitting, standing, moving, exercising or sleeping. If you forget to change your level, you can always go back and edit the start and end time. You can set alerts for any of the levels. If you want it to alert you when you haven't changed from sitting/inactive after 20 minutes, you can do so. You can review days or ranges of days and compare two days or date ranges. I like it for its simplicity, and it is very inexpensive at 99 cents. That's less than 1/100 what Jawbone UP or Muva Gruve cost. Yet if you can get in the habit of using it, you will become much more aware of how much time you spend sitting, and maybe get motivated to, er. move more.
Review: Move More App

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Break Time App

Publisher's Site
This app for iOS and Mac allows you to set alerts for your chosen interval to remind you to take a break from sitting. It is flexible for the amount of time between alerts, plus the length of break. If you want it to alert you every 30 minutes, take a 2 minute active break, and back to work, you can do that. It is easy to adjust the duration between breaks and it runs in the background. It doesn't sense your activity and it doesn't provide any graphs or comparisons from day to day. But it may work well to remind you to get more active.

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