This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2014-07-09 at 1:04 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/14900
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Stand Up! The Work Break Timer that Wants to Save Your Life

by Josh Centers

Sitting is killing us. Study after study has linked extended periods of sitting to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease [1], and we presume tooth decay and the moral decline of society will be on the list soon. Unfortunately, even exercise doesn’t offset the harm done by sitting.

“A consistent body of emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity,” Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario told Runner’s World [2].

The common answer to the hazards of sitting is a standing desk, or even a treadmill desk, but not everyone can take advantage of those. Most people work in offices where they have little say over what kind of equipment they can use. Some people have health issues that prevent them from standing all day. Others, like yours truly, can’t concentrate well while standing.

Fortunately, research shows that standing up and moving around every 20–30 minutes offsets the damage done by sitting. You could manually set a timer to remind you to stand up, but I’ve found a free solution to make it even easier: the Stand Up! [3] app by Raised Square LLC [4]. It runs on your iPhone, so you can use it at your home or office.

Stand Up does one thing and does it well. Open the app, select which days you would like alerts on, set a time range for those days, set an alert interval, and if you choose, even set alerts to work only at your current location so it doesn’t nag you when you’re out of the office. For a 99-cent in-app purchase, you can choose from a selection of alert sounds, though the free default is perfectly audible and pleasant.

[image link] [5]

By default, the app features a yellow theme, but if you wish, you can change it to a number of other colors. Not that it matters much; after setting your preferences in Stand Up, you won’t be spending much time in the app. Now, every few minutes (45 by default), you’ll receive a notification on your iPhone telling you to stand up. If you’re in a meeting or other situation where suddenly popping to your feet would be inappropriate, you can tell Stand Up to remind you again later, and there’s also an always-visible graph that shows how many reminders you’ve explicitly acknowledged. Simple, and effective.

[image link] [6]

It does seem that Stand Up could make use of the iPhone’s accelerometer, both to acknowledge alerts automatically and to reset the timer if you stand up on your own before being alerted. Perhaps a future version will add some additional smarts in this area.

I’ve been using Stand Up for a few weeks now, and I’ve noticed less pain in my back and posterior. There are a lot of reminder apps out there, but Stand Up is free, well-designed, and can be taken anywhere. In addition to that, it might extend your life.

[1]: http://qz.com/223160/why-not-even-exercise-will-undo-the-harm-of-sitting-all-day-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/
[2]: http://www.runnersworld.com/health/sitting-is-the-new-smoking-even-for-runners
[3]: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stand-up!-the-work-break-timer/id828244687?ls=1&mt=8&at=10l5PW
[4]: http://www.raisedsquare.com/standup/
[5]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2014-07/Stand-Up.png
[6]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2014-07/Stand-Up-colors-notification.png