Why you should care

Because your mom was right all along: Slouching is bad for you.

Right now, as you’re reading this, you might be doing something that many say is harmful to your health. I’m guilty of it too: slouching.

Most of us slouch or have bad posture and don’t even realize it. Which is why technology is stepping in to help nag us into sitting up a bit straighter. Palo Alto, California-based Lumo BodyTech has developed wearable tech devices that keep track of your posture.

There is no ignoring this digital companion. The company’s first product, the $150 Lumo Back, is worn on a belt around your lower back and vibrates when you slouch. Whenever your body moves out of proper alignment, the gadget’s vibration reminds you to improve your posture. Think of it like a Fitbit that alerts you to pay attention to how you’re treating your body. Which could be incredibly annoying to some — and incredibly useful to others.

…Part posture police, part fitness coach.

The company’s newest gadget, the $99 Lumo Lift ($79 if you preorder), starts shipping this summer and focuses more on the upper back. This small device uses a magnetic clasp to attach anywhere on your upper body — like a shirt collar or undershirt. Paired with an iOS or Android app, the Lift is part posture police, part fitness coach. It can track your steps, calories burned and the amount of time spent in what it considers a “strong, confident posture.” And if you’re a frequent sloucher or huncher but don’t want to be incessantly reminded of that fact, the gentle vibration alert can be turned off.

Techno-toys aside, why does posture matter so much? Because poor posture can cause a number of health problems, starting with back pain. And the consequences aren’t merely physical. A recent San Francisco State University study found that walking with a slouched posture could lead to decreased energy or feelings of depression.

Lumo BodyTech says the Lift “helps you look and feel more confident, while also encouraging you to lead a healthier, more active life,” and its website features videos explaining what good posture is.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, sitting up perfectly straight is not ideal.

Esther Gokhale, who has been called the posture guru of Silicon Valley,” has worked with employees who spend long hours sitting at desks at places like Google and IDEO. She says technology can be a helpful reminder to check your posture, but people also need to know how to correct it.

“Unless there’s an education that goes with the reminders, it is likely to be counterproductive,” Gokhale says, adding that good posture “isn’t rocket science but neither is it trivial.” In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, sitting up perfectly straight is not ideal.

What is the best position in Gokhale’s opinion? Something she calls “primal posture” — essentially the posture we had when we were 2 years old or back when society consisted of hunters and gatherers.

The problem isn’t just that we’ve become much more sedentary as a culture. Badly designed furniture and misinformed ideas about posture are also to blame, Gokhale adds. For technology to help us with posture, she says, it needs to be more sophisticated. For instance, if it could measure precisely how much you’re pulling on your rhomboid muscles, you might then have more informed information to correct that specific part of your back.

For now, whether or not technology does the nudging, it might come down to being more aware of how we carry our bodies. If, for example, you’ve temporarily stopped slouching by this point in the article, then that’s a small win — make the Lumo, and your mom, proud.

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