Does the World Need an Anti-FitBit or Reverse Fitness Tracker?

Fitbit ambassadors show off their fitness trackers

Fitbit ambassadors show off their fitness trackers | Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Fitbit

Fitness trackers have hit the scene and changed the way tons of people exercise. There are many models from many manufacturers, and the ability to track your daily energy output has helped a lot of people get a better grip on their fitness level. Whether it’s led to more walks home rather than grabbing an Uber or just taking the stairs instead of the elevator, merely having a tracker on your wrist can keep you aware of how much you’re moving.

One of the most popular brands, FitBit, recently came under fire for the shortcomings of its devices, however. Though FitBit is not the only company to be singled out by angry consumers, it’s name is nearly synonymous with fitness trackers. Researchers have been digging into the effects that widespread FitBit and other trackers have had on our habits, and a recent study has an incredibly surprising idea for FitBit and other manufacturers.

They should make an anti-FitBit. That is, a device that doesn’t track activity, but rather tracks a lack of activity. A sedentary behavior tracker.

This idea came from study from Loughborough University, a college based in the U.K. A research team from the Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit at the school found, though there are many available fitness trackers on the market, very few of them track and self-monitor down time, or time we’re not engaged in any physical activity.

With that, a market opportunity: The sedentary behavior tracker.

The opposite of a FitBit?

One of FitBit's many models

One of FitBit’s many models |

The lead researcher, doctoral student James Sanders, said in an accompanying press release the study indicates a market gap that new devices can help to fill.

“The wearable tech sector must now fill this identified gap in the market so people can have a comfortable and easy-to-wear device that helps nudge them throughout the day to spend less time sitting,” Sanders said.

The study itself took a look at 82 different measurement technologies and found that, while 73 of them were effective at measuring physical activity, only nine measured sedentary time. This sort of flips our thinking around — using devices like a FitBit tends to guide our thinking toward making sure we’re getting enough exercise. But it’s our sedentary lifestyles that are really dangerous.

This is part of the reason we’re seeing an obesity epidemic, and why so many people are at risk for related diseases like diabetes. And we all know sitting, or being sedentary, is killing us.

A new kind of fitness tracker

Lazy employee with a fitness tracker

Lazy employee with a fitness tracker |

What these researchers are proposing is not only a new type of wearable technology device, but also a new way of thinking about or approaching fitness to begin with. In the modern world, many of us are afforded the luxury of a sedentary lifestyle. Our caveman ancestors, while chasing down all matter of four-legged dinners, didn’t have the chance to sit around in front of computers all day. Even a century ago this wasn’t a viable lifestyle.

But now that it is? We’re having trouble physically adjusting. We evolved from creatures that were able to outwit and survive. Now, the vast majority of people don’t need to worry about surviving. We’ve gotten used to thinking of sedentary time as more or less a default position.

Even in generations past, the majority of people made a living through some sort of manual labor — whether it was putting things together in a factory, building, driving, etc. Our current environments make it easy to sit in a chair for eight hours a day, sleep another eight hours, and, in a lot of cases, come home and watch TV. A sedentary time tracker will keep you mindful of how you’re spending your time, but it can’t make different choices for you..

Does the world need an anti-FitBit? There’s evidently a market-based argument for one. But would it be successful with consumers? That’s another question entirely.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @Sliceofginger

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