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Colorado Startup Making App To Cure Sedentary Habits

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) - There is a silent killer stalking the nation.

It's a health epidemic that has nothing to do with diet or smoking, yet everyone does it every day and it is taking years off of lives in some cases. The culprit is sitting, and experts say that being sedentary eight hours a day can be as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.

The "cure" is simple: walking. The CDC reports that frequent breaks from sedentary activity can lower health risks, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, associated with sitting.

A new Fort Collins startup company called SmartMove is working to develop new technology to help people break free of sitting around too much by getting them up and moving.

Standing in front of a flat-screen television, to which his smartphone is connected in the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, Gene Berry goes from walking to standing to sitting.

As he moves, a small person on the television imitates his movements, reflecting his actions. When Berry sits, the small man on the screen sits. When Berry walks, the small man on the screen walks.

The significance of the small figure is a first-of-its-kind breakthrough in smartphone technology, Berry said. Berry, chief financial officer with SmartMove, has helped develop a new shoe insole that has the ability to accurately track a person's movements throughout the day.

The USB rechargeable insole, which can go in any shoe, is equipped with two sensors that can tell if a person is sitting, standing, walking, running, climbing stairs or cycling.

Data collected from the insole is transferred to an application on an iPhone that will tell users how much of their day has been spent sitting versus standing, walking or running. The app also will provide calories burned and the number of steps taken.

"We know that the best accuracy comes from the foot. ... Nothing is 100 percent accurate," he said, but the SmartMove insoles are expected to be more accurate than current wristbands or waistbands on the market that offer similar smartphone tracking.

Perhaps one of the most useful and innovative tools of the insole and app is that it will send users a text alert if they have been sedentary for too long, telling them it is time to get up and move around for a bit.

Potential also exists to connect the app to personal calendars so it can be more intuitive to a person's schedule and other apps such as MapMyFitness.

In modern society, most people go from bed to sitting at a table to sitting in a car to sitting at a desk and then to sitting in a car to sitting on a couch and back to bed. For some, there may be a bit of walking, jogging or exercise mixed in, but the culture of sitting has seeped into society.

According to a 2008 Vanderbilt University study of 6,300 people published in the Journal of Epidemiology, 55 percent, or more than seven hours, of waking time is spent sitting. The result is someone is 94 percent more likely to die from a sedentary lifestyle.

A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, states that "prolonged sitting time has emerged as a risk factor for various negative health outcomes." Sitting too much can cause chronic disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and death, according to the study.

With such research in mind, SmartMove is taking the insoles and app a step further with a "coach" feature.

SmartMove Chief Operations Officer Maureen Weber said one of the most exciting aspects of the new product is a subscription-based trainer for users.

Berry said typically a fitness "coach" on a smartphone app will regurgitate data back to the user. SmartMove is trying to make that data more detailed and personal so users receive feedback that correlates with their strengths.

"We are trying to get to a more emotional response because we know to get a behavioral change, it is going to be emotional," Berry said.

Unlike most other fitness apps, SmartMove's coach will start by asking the user a number of questions via text message to make it feel more conversational. The questions range from goals to personal strengths.

SmartMove's technology came out of technology founded at the University of Colorado. Now the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, is helping fund the project with a $1 million grant. SmartMove is working with CSU's Health and Exercise Science's Assistant Professor Ray Browning and CSU doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant Chrissy Schaefer.

Schaefer has been working on the coaching aspect of the app and said that they are attempting to create a "virtual relationship" by tailoring feedback for each individual user.

In its commercialization phase, the company is looking to sell the insoles for around $149 with the free app. Currently, the app is only for iPhones, but they are working on an Android app.

SmartMove is seeking people to take part in beta tests this summer to evaluate the insoles' accuracy and impact.

- By DAVID YOUNG, The Coloradoan

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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