NSF supports new technology that increases employee mobility and blood flow

Pamela Krewson Wertz
March 27, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided funding to a team of design professionals, including a Stuckeman School faculty member, to develop a seating solution that improves the blood flow and mobility of workers who are required to sit for long periods of time.

Mihyun Kang, Stuckeman research professor and College of Arts and Architecture liaison to the Sustainability Institute, is the co-principal investigator (PI) of “moveSIT: A Seating Solution to Improve Blood Flow,” a project that received a $50,000 grant through NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. Kang developed the proposal while she was a faculty member in the Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising at Oklahoma State University prior to coming to Penn State this spring.

“The technology proposed in this project will greatly impact the lives of millions of workers in office and administrative support positions, as well as programmers and other professionals, who sit for prolonged periods of time, especially in the workplace,” said Kang, who is a trained interior designer. “The fact that this project could impact the lives, and livelihoods, of so many workers suggests that the commercialization of it has the potential to be exponentially successful.”

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), nearly 26 percent of the 5,900 people it surveyed sit for more than eight hours per day. Forty-five percent of respondents don’t get any exercise (moderate or vigorous) during the week and about 11 percent sit for more than eight hours a day and are physically inactive.

Portrait of Mihyun Kang

Mihyun Kang, who has a doctoral degree in interior design, joined the Stuckeman School faculty this spring.

IMAGE: Mihyun Kang

“…when people sit, they deactivate the large muscles in their legs, and this has a host of metabolic consequences that seem harmful,” said Peter Katzmarzyk, the study’s co-author, in a November 2018 CBS news report about the JAMA findings.

Furthermore, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, sitting for six hours or more a day can increase early mortality due to all causes – including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and more – by 19 percent. Along with an increased risk of early death, prolonged sitting means less movement in the lower extremities, which could result in venous blood flow issues and, in some cases, pulmonary embolism.

The seat on the moveSIT device has a mechanism that enables individuals to move their legs up and down while seated. The innovative technology used is valuable to any organization in which individuals sit while working because of improved blood flow and also perceived comfort, which then leads to increased work satisfaction and increased productivity.

In the latest edition of the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which was released in November 2018, it is stated that a single instance of physical activity can improve an individual’s sleep and strengthen their body’s ability to convert blood sugar into energy. It can also dramatically support the healthy flow of blood throughout the body.

“Interviews we conducted with people who sit for the majority of their working day all agreed that the ability to sit and move while working would be valuable to them,” said Kang. “If the moveSIT technology is taken to the marketplace, it could help not only create more job opportunities, but also provide an opportunity for individuals to be a part of the solution that will help improve the lives of millions of employees who sit during their workdays.”

Aditya Jayadas, an industrial engineer and assistant professor in the Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising at Oklahoma State whose research interests include ergonomics, is the PI of the project. Gabriela Fonseca Pereira, Kang’s former research assistant who graduated in December with her doctorate in interior design and is now an adjunct professor at Oklahoma State, is the other co-PI.

Margaret Sevadjian, an Oklahoma State alumna who is the CEO and president of Charles Alan Incorporated, serves as the industry partner on the proposal. Charles Alan Incorporated is a furniture manufacturer in Fort Worth, Texas, that specializes in American-made custom, commercial, health care and hospitality furniture.

NSF’s I-Corp program specifically “…prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of NSF-funded, basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 27, 2019