Tech + Health

08.26.14

Lumo Lift Vibrates You Into Better Posture

A new wearable promises to help you improve your posture. Is it worth the cost?

The Lumo Lift, a new $100 wearable device, aims to buzz desk jockeys into the habit of good posture. A simple magnetic shirt clip recognizes a hunched back and slouched shoulders, pulsing gentle vibrations until the user is back into a straighter position.

It begs the question: Is good posture worth the price?

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The mind and body are inextricably linked. In a 2009 study, Ohio State University researchers found that simply asking study participants to slouch made them less confident in their qualifications for a job. Amy Cuddy's TED talk on the neurological benefits of an upright posture backs this up:

Proper posture is, of course, also good for the body. “The majority of back pain is the result of muscle and ligament strain or weakness, and can often be prevented by developing core strength and proper posture,” Dr. Daniel Mazanec, an associate director of the Center for Spine Health at the Cleveland Clinic, told The New York Times.  An upright position—with shoulder blades gently squeezed and neck held tall—can make a lot of difference. But, it's really difficult to remember to straighten up all day long, especially for the legions of America's desk-chained workforce.

Enter the Lumo Lift. The sleek, peanut-shell sized device slips on near the collarbone. From the torso, the Lift claims the ability to better sense the true culprit of bad posture: the neck and shoulders.

After testing out the device, I can tell you that it’s frustratingly accurate. It's the equivalent of having a nagging teacher or parent telling you to "sit up!" It even works while walking and running, which is a nice reminder that slouching doesn't simply occur while at a desk.

On the downside, the Lift recognizes sitting in a cross-legged fashion as bad posture, even though it is possible to maintain a neutral upper spine and pulled back shoulders if you tilt over at the hip. I often sit on the floor and work cross-legged with my laptop. To maintain a good posture, I get into normal upright posture like I was sitting in a chair, but then tilt forward, so I don't have to crane my neck down.

It's the equivalent of having a nagging teacher or parent telling you to "sit up!

The Lift registers this a poor posture. "It is not ideal to sit cross-legged for prolonged periods of time and work on a laptop," a company spokesperson told me in an email.

Unlike previous versions of the Lumo Lift, the newest design does not buzz users all day long for having bad posture. It'll only buzz during "coaching" sessions that users voluntarily try out to help them build a habit of good posture. "We found that constant feedback could be overwhelming for people. We modified it to more of a training experience," a company spokesperson told to me. Instead, the Lift monitors posture all day long and gives a daily summary of performance. Over time, you could elect to do more coaching sessions if your daily scores started to drop. (In my opinion, it would be better to include an option for constant feedback. The whole point of wearables is that you don't have to think about improving!)

Overall though, I like the Lumo Lift. In the short term, it definitely improved my posture, and I’m curious to see how it holds up over months of testing.