Toward a persuasive mobile application to reduce sedentary behavior
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- van Dantzig, S., Geleijnse, G. & van Halteren, A.T. Pers Ubiquit Comput (2013) 17: 1237. doi:10.1007/s00779-012-0588-0
Prolonged sitting is a potential health risk, not only for people with an inactive lifestyle but also for those who meet the daily physical activity recommendations. Mobile applications that trigger people to take regular breaks from sitting seem promising. In this paper, we present the results of our quest to create effective persuasive mobile applications aimed at reducing sedentary behavior. First, we developed SitCoach, a mobile application to nudge office workers from their seats. SitCoach monitors physical activity and sedentary behavior and provides timely persuasive messages suggesting active breaks. A user test showed that users had little awareness of the risks of prolonged sitting and considered their ability to take active breaks to be highly dependent on external factors. The results from this study formed the basis for a second experiment, which was more extensive in duration and number of participants. In this 6-week experiment, office workers received timely persuasive messages on their smart phones, advising them to take an active break whenever they were sitting behind their computer for too long. Compared to a Control group who did not receive these messages, a significant decrease in computer activity was achieved. The studies show the potential and limitations of using a smart phone as a platform for reducing sedentary behavior. We conclude with recommendations to create effective mobile applications that motivate people to take regular breaks from sitting.