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Fibion takes a stand against sitting

Fibion visualises how sitting and physical activity are in balance for health benefits in a form of a balance board. The board also includes a goal-setting tool.Fibion Inc.

These days there are a multitude of gadgets on hand that measure everything from the steps you take to the time spent exercising. But, how about seemingly insignificant daily activities such as sitting or standing?

Think about the comfiest seat you know. It may be the sofa, your office chair, or even the swing seat outdoors that forms the focal point of your summer. Altogether, how much of your day would you spend sitting down?

Well, the reality may surprise you. According to Olli Tikkanen, partner and PhD (Sports and Health) at Fibion, the average amount per person is around 10-11 hours every day.

“In developed countries, millions of people are suffering from a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and resulting health problems,” Tikkanen explains. “Sitting is associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even premature mortality.”

In fact, such inactivity has swiftly become the fourth leading cause of premature death in the West.

Finnish company Fibion is seeking to make a difference, with its Fibion Analysis solution measuring and assessing people’s physical activity routines throughout the whole day – regardless of whether they are on foot or on tail.

A healthy balance

Designed to support the work of health and fitness professionals, the Fibion measurement device fits easily in the pocket. The reasoning behind this is not only convenience, but also practicality. By resting next to the thigh, Fibion can accurately detect the full spectrum of physical activity, including any previously untraceable time spent sitting and standing.

Needless to say this gives it a significant competitive edge over wrist-worn devices, which are limited in their scope when recognising such things as cycling or utilising a standing desk at work.

Designed to support the work of health and fitness professionals, the Fibion measurement device fits easily in the pocket. Image: Fibion Inc.

The resultant data is accumulated during waking hours over seven days, helping determine whether the person meets sitting time recommendations and how well they can interrupt harmful long-term habits. Relevant professionals can then provide evidence-based advice to change the person’s lifestyle towards the direction that also encompasses healthy sitting.

“Fibion visualises how sitting and physical activity are in balance for health benefits in a form of a balance board,” Tikkanen states. “It also includes a goal-setting tool. The underlying algorithms are based on hundreds of research papers.”

No small matter

The Fibion story stretches back to the formation of a research group at the University of Jyväskylä’s Department of Biology of Physical Activity in 2009. An active member of this collective, Tikkanen would go on to become the world’s first PhD studying the health impacts of everyday activity using long-term electromyography studies.

As the research group gathered momentum over the years, eventually it was decided to spin a company out of its findings in 2014. Together, Tikkanen and fellow researcher Arto Pesola teamed up with Tommo Reti’s information technology know-how and Fibion was born. Releasing its landmark product onto the market earlier this year, the company has already attracted considerable attention in the short time since.

“The Aava Medical Centre, a leading medical service provider in Finland, is using Fibion in their type 2 diabetes prevention programmes,” Tikkanen says. “Also, Cambridge Weight Plan has taken Fibion into use, to help customers on their weight loss journey.”

Fibion’s global impact is set to increase further in future, after recently being accepted to the Amazon Launchpad programme, which seeks to give startups a successful boost. Thanks to this Fibion will soon be reaching fresh markets in several new languages.

Also refraining from resting on its laurels is Fibion’s R&D, with future scientific discoveries to be incorporated into Fibion Analysis. Looking ahead, an online service is also being rolled out later this year, facilitating customer management and group reports with ease.

All of this current ‘get up and go’ for Fibion mirrors that of the company’s hopes for its end customers.

“From an individual’s point of view, already standing up from the chair regularly helps in losing weight and keeping blood sugar levels stable, and thus improves mood, vigour and concentration,” Tikkanen says. “From a behavioural point of view, it is important to show people how small things matter for their health.”

Finnish Fibion wants to get people up off their bottoms, on their feet and off their chairs. Fibion’s core trio (from left): Olli Tikkanen, Tommo Reti and Arto Pesola. Image: Fibion Inc.
By: James O’Sullivan