If you haven’t heard, slouching will kill you. Cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, foggy brain, mushy abs, disk damage, soft bones and poor circulation — they’re all linked to sitting, especially sitting poorly. That’s the bad news. The good news is proper posture can save you, and a wearable posture coach and activity tracker, Lumo Lift ($100), is here to help.
In the last decade, posture’s been in the hot seat, and the perks of good form have come blazing out of the fire. Studies from Ohio State University, Columbia, and Harvard all found there are perks to good posture. It helps increase focus, inspires positive thoughts, and, as made famous by Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, causes a decrease in cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and an increase in testosterone (associated with confidence, and a few other things, like virility). Sitting and standing properly not only changes how you look: it changes your chemical balance. We may know all this, and yet, we still slouch.
Sitting and standing properly not only changes how you look, it changes your chemical balance. We may know all this, and yet, we still slouch.
Lumo Lift comes in at around 12 grams of weight, 1.75 inches wide and an inch deep. It’s a humble size for a savior. The device is worn an inch under the collarbone, with the small, pill-shaped sensor slipping under a shirt and a square magnet pinning from the front. It can be hidden on an undershirt or worn with the discrete square sitting in plain view. It gets noticed (“Is that a magnet?”), people usually tend to see the point after some explanation (“My posture sucks, too”).
The device syncs easily to an iOS app, and then data collection begins. (There’s no app for Android and Windows Phone users; however, the device can be bundled with a USB dongle for PC use.) There are two modes, which are essentially active and passive monitoring. In active “Coaching Sessions”, the Lift gives a buzz anytime you move from your aligned posture. These sessions can last for 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 1 hour, or 4 hours. Alternatively, the Lumo can track your posture passively, providing hour-by-hour reports and a full-day assessment. Outside of Coach mode, the Lumo does not buzz, but silently records your slouch.
Coaching sessions help monitor proper posture, but I quickly learned that what that feels like is this: sitting straight up and perfectly still. The realization is underwhelming. When I started to lean slightly forward, still with good posture — shoulders back, chin up — the Lift buzzed me back. I felt wrongly accused. It’s one of the sensor’s limitations; as a gyroscope, it’s not an omnipotent posture assessor. If it feels you lean forward, even if you’re not slouching, it’ll give you a jolt. Or, if you slouch without lean (just drop and curl your shoulders and your collar bone won’t move much), the sensor won’t detect the poor posture. I found the device either split hairs with my posture, buzzing at every slight lean, or missed several times that I leaned forward. It was a tad fickle.
I found it easy to cheat the Lumo Lift. Calibrating “proper posture” is up to the user, with a quick double tap of the device; and outside of coaching mode, it quickly fell out of my conscious recognition. Also, your proper posture shifts between sitting and standing, and for ideal results, you should re-calibrate the sensor each time you change position — but I often forgot. And what with the necessity to attach it to every piece of clothing (rather than wearing it on your wrist), I occasionally left the device at home and went around with my posture unmonitored.
The Lumo Lift’s companion app is a small collection of data that errs on the side of overly streamlined. It summarizes posture in one of three simplistic ways: Slouchy, Good and Remarkable, and grades activity levels as At Rest, Active and Super Active. You can see steps, distance covered and estimated calories burned, but the data’s relatively basic, based on the pedometer and your entered weight, height, age and sex. Running won’t factor in any differently from a slow stroll, and unlike other wearables, the Lumo Lift doesn’t track sleep patterns.
The Lumo Lift is simple to use and does what it proposes to do. It’s just that what it does is less exhilarating than what I’d hoped.
With the investment, a Lumo Lift user is showing dedication to improve their posture. And, with some buzzing here and there and a minor data pool, they’ll have some verification of their efforts — Slouchy, Good or Remarkable. It’s not a lot, but it’s something, and the Lumo Lift is simple to use and does what it proposes to do. It’s just that what it does is less exhilarating than what I’d hoped. When I wore it, I had better posture; Big Brother was watching and I wanted to perform. But when I took it off, I was either exercising — swimming (the device isn’t water proof) or riding my bike (cycling isn’t tracked) — or slumping down into the couch, relieved that my poor posture wasn’t being judged.
The hype around sitting and slouching, and how it’s all going to end in atrophied muscles and cardiovascular disease, triggered a collective guilt. We can all sit better, and we all should. And the Lumo Lift will help you sit and stand better, but it won’t save your life. It’s more of a silent, buzzing sponsor, something there, under your collarbone, to help you kick a bad habit. It can’t stop you from relapse, but for $100, you can have a small buzzer there for support.