Q: I, like everyone within eyeshot in my office, am currently slouched over my computer and know my neck and shoulders pitch forward when I stand. I've recently seen a number of posture-correction devices online, from simple mesh straps you put on under your clothes to full-on digital wearables with companion apps. Do any of these actually work? Or is there no substitute for proper stretching and conditioning?
A: Here's the very short answer: Save your money and teach yourself how to sit up straight.
And here's the longer one: Good posture is important. Having it can save you from a whole host of problems, preventing back pain and muscle strain, among others. Plus, it “contributes to a good appearance,” and of course we all want that. You can find a plethora of devices, including a couple of “smart” ones, that supposedly help you to sit up straight. Supposedly.
The two smart devices, the Lumo Lift and the Upright, function in about the same way. The Lumo Lift is a little sensor that goes on your upper body somewhere and fastens with a magnet through your clothes. It vibrates when it senses that you’re slouching. If you lift your head and push your shoulders back, it stops. It works with an app that tracks this behavior, similar to a fitness tracker. The Upright, meanwhile, is a device that sticks to your back, right on your skin; other than that, it does the same thing as the Lumo Lift. Both devices have mixed reviews on Amazon, as well as F grades on Fakespot. (Using Fakespot is a good way to find fake or compensated reviews, as we discuss here.)
The non-smart posture devices mostly consist of a strap that goes across your back and pulls your shoulders up. They cost around $20 to $30, which is a steal next to the prices of the smart devices: The Lumo Lift is $80, and the Upright is $130.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any scientific studies on these posture devices, smart or otherwise, so we don't have good data on whether they really work. But here’s an option that’s free: Teach yourself to sit up straight while you’re at your desk. The Cleveland Clinic has some good tips for finding a correct sitting position, and here are some exercises you can do to improve your posture. It’s also crucial to make sure that you’re not straining your back and neck in front of your computer, but you can set up your workstation (or your laptop) to help minimize that problem. One of the most important things you can do in that regard is to make sure that your monitor is at the right level for your eyeballs; we have recommendations for monitor arms and laptop stands if you need help. (And if you need these things for your work setup, ask if your company will cover the cost. Healthy employees are more productive employees, after all.) Stacks of books work for raising computers to the correct height, too.
If you need reminders to sit up straight, try setting them on your phone, or setting a Slackbot if you use Slack chat. I use the latter for reminders to walk around the block every hour. Although it’s annoying, it works for me—well, 75 percent of the time. And it does have a snooze function.
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