Sitting For Extended Periods Of Time Is So Detrimental To Your Health It Can Lead To An Early Death. | P+J Labs
Here I share the process behind Xohn, a health+wellness app I designed for the Apple Watch.
So check this out- apparently sitting for extending periods of time is so detrimental to your health that experts say it can lead to an early death. Crazy, right? As someone who spends much of his time staring at a screen, I couldn’t help but find this information at least somewhat unsettling. This project began solely because I was researching symptoms I found myself having.
Boom. So there I was in true millennial fashion hunched over my laptop, back hurting, completely disregarding the option of going to a doctor after contemplating the astronomical bill I would inherit. Instead, I Google searched what was going on. Many of the discoveries in these initial searches led to the idea and creation of this app.
Here’s the rundown on some of the things I found pertaining to sitting down for extended periods of time. Brace yourself:
Heart: When you sit, blood flows slower and muscles burn less fat, which makes it easier for fatty acids to clog your heart. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for instance, showed that women who sit for 10 or more hours a day may have a significantly greater risk of developing heart disease than those who sit for five hours or less.
Pancreas: Your body’s ability to respond to insulin is affected by just one day of excess sitting, which leads your pancreas to produce increased amounts of insulin, and this may lead to diabetes.
Research published in Diabetologia found that those who sat for the longest periods of time were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least. Sitting for more than eight hours a day has also been associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Colon Cancer: Excess sitting may increase your risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancers. The mechanism isn’t known for certain, but it could be due to excess insulin production, which encourages cell growth, or the fact that regular movement boosts antioxidants in your body that may eliminate potentially cancer-causing free radicals.
Findings presented at the 2015 Inaugural Active Working Summit also found that sitting increases: Lung cancer by 54 percent, Uterine cancer by 66 percent, Colon cancer by 30 percent.
Your brain function slows when your body is sedentary for too long. Your brain will get less fresh blood and oxygen, which are needed to trigger the release of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals.
Strained Neck and Shoulders: It’s common to hold your neck and head forward while working at a computer or cradling a phone to your ear. This can lead to strains to your cervical vertebrae along with permanent imbalances, which can lead to neck strain, sore shoulders and back.
Back Problems: Sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing, and the toll on your back health is even worse if you’re sitting hunched in front of a computer. It’s estimated that 40 percent of people with back pain have spent long hours at their computer each day.
The disks in your back are meant to expand and contract as you move, which allows them to absorb blood and nutrients. When you sit, the disks are compressed and can lose flexibility over time. Sitting excessively can also increase your risk of herniated disks.
Standing requires you to tense your abdominal muscles, which go unused when you sit, ultimately leading to weak abdominals.
Hip Problems: Your hips also suffer from prolonged sitting, becoming tight and limited in range of motion because they are rarely extended. In the elderly, decreased hip mobility is a leading cause of falls.
Sitting also does nothing for your glutes, which may become weakened, affecting your stability and the power of your stride when walking and jumping.
I Started With A Watch. A Whole Watch.
The initial question I had was - how can prevent myself from zoning out in front of the computer for hours on end, damaging my health? Set a timer? Look up every half-hour? Too impracticable to remain consistent. I needed something I didn’t have keep tinkering with that would detract from my focus. After much back and forth, sketches, and concepts, I landed upon a watch because of its ability to seamlessly integrate into an individual’s wardrobe and the potential for haptic feedback.
I allowed the idea to manifest with no boundaries, and then subsequently fine tuned it to align with potential costs, market, and feasibility. The reality was - with so many wearables flooding the market, why waste time and money trying to gain a market share in a crowded industry, when that energy could be directed towards a pre-existing platform with much of the target audience you hope to obtain? (These were my thoughts as I decided whether to actually pursue this. I have my reasons as to why I chose to present this as an article rather than making it, but that’s a story for another day.)
The Apple Watch
The idea remained the same, it just took on a new form. Create the simplest way to make sure you’re taking care of your body while you’re sitting, given the negative effects that occur as a result. The Apple Watch became that platform because of its popularity, iPhone integration, and overall capabilities to add haptic feedback. At the time, I didn’t realize Apple had something similar as a native feature in the Apple Watch because I personally didn’t own one. For a while it had me considering whether it was worth continuing with “Xohn”, but after doing some research I realized that although the purpose was similar, the functionality was different.
Pronounced “Zone”, Xohn stuck because the overall vision I had for the app was to market this product to creatives. It is an observation of how our workflow can cause us to zero-in, or “zone”-in on our screens for hours at a time. Obviously the app is beneficial to anyone sitting for long periods, just like running shoes are for more than athletes- it’s just that the brand narrative became increasingly clear and more focused as I defined who I was speaking to.
The concept is essentially a reminder to get up and move. Being able to set a time frame you plan to work within as well as how often you’d like to be reminded to get up is the caveat, but I realized while working on this that there could be some pretty interesting interactive features/objectives that spill over to the iPhone as well as opportunities to tap into health and wellness education in terms of content marketing.
Branding + Identity
The branding I decided to go for was maintained under three key words: “Minimal, sleek, and clean”. The feeling it ended up conveying is somewhere between sport and luxury, in part because black remained the dominant color.
Black and white photography would be the appropriate coupling to the design.
The logo is reflective of the function of the app, as it acts as an hourglass of sorts. Hidden within the mark is the “X” for Xohn. Minimalist as it may be, it took more than a few revisions to bring this concept together in a way that made sense visually.
The UI follows suit to the defined brand aesthetic, and was simplified into (2) steps/questions in order to function as a tool unobtrusive to actually getting work done.
How long will you be working?
The first question is aimed at creating a timeframe by which the user will be notified to stand. Many reviews of the Apple Watch’s native movement feature complained that the watch would alarm them to move when they had already been up and about. This eliminates that frustration.
Set how often you’d like to be reminded to stand
This second question is aimed at frequency (obviously). Having the option to be reminded to stand at your own set pace is beneficial because it keeps your body in motion, decreasing the risk of the aforementioned issues, but is also a flexibility factor that fits the type of work you may be doing. Sitting down editing video may need a different parameter than going out for coffee with friends.
Here’s a prototype/walkthrough I ended up posting on my Instagram account to share the post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWyIA2OHxN9/?taken-by=tylerevanshaw
For Xohn I wanted to tap into what a potential 30 second teaser could look like. Due to only having two hands and a handful of other obligations, I opted to use FilmSupply for the footage I ultimately ended up editing.
I visualized the video narrative as a teaser for on-the-move, hip individuals. Something in the tone of the soulful song selection spoke of the freedom Xohn would give to its user.
Key visuals- people working, a dramatic floating Apple Watch (..that I sat and recolored/edited 88 frames to get right..) give the viewer a brief hint that it’s a commercial about a product with the hopes of raising curiosity to find out more. I also edited it in this vague way because when I posted it to social media I wanted an authentic response from the people who interacted with my work.
If I had shot it or had a friend shoot it, I probably would have began with an overhead scene of the app walked through by an individual as a narrator spoke in a friendly, but concerned voice saying something along the lines of: “Sitting for extending periods of time is so detrimental to your health that experts say it can lead to an early death. We’d like to help you prevent that”. I feel like those words are the campaign and marketing strategy. Alarming, but true.
Essentially Freemium, with Premium in-app offerings.
I have a few thoughts as to how this app could be monetized, but speculation is just speculation until it’s actually in the market. Reading through the stories of many notable startups, I realize that a lot of good businesses have a few pivots before they get to the fully developed idea.
In my last concept (VIEW) I ended it with a proof-of-market tidbit by including dozens of people who had complained about the current system Nike and Adidas has in place for sneaker checkout on limited edition shoes.
For this, though, I don’t feel it’s necessary. I could definitely pull together some examples of people complaining about back pain, but with a concept like this it’s different, and almost unnecessary. Studies have shown excess sitting can actually lead to premature death- and who doesn’t sit? It’s not as niche as highly-coveted sneakers. Think about it- the majority of people in a corporate job are sitting down from 9–5 everyday, and if they’re not, they’re probably making up for it at home.
You’re probably sitting down reading this.
Thanks for taking the time to read through my work. Regardless of your thoughts on the app, please keep in mind: Sitting For Extended Periods Of Time Is So Detrimental To Your Health It Can Lead To An Early Death.
Take care of your body.
I’m always looking to collaborate and work with like-minded individuals and organizations. Drop me a message: firstname.lastname@example.org