Sit up and listen

Trainable device ‘Upright Pro’ targets bad posture

Trainable device ‘Upright Pro’ targets bad posture (photo credit: UPRIGHT TECHNOLOGIES)
Trainable device ‘Upright Pro’ targets bad posture
If I had a shekel for every time my grandmother told me to “sit up straight and stop slouching,” I would… still not be able to afford an apartment in Tel Aviv. I could, however, rent a deckchair on the beach without thinking twice, which is nothing to sniff at.
You get the idea – I am no stranger to this command, and I’m sure many of you can relate. Posture is something we tend to think of on occasion, shifting in our seat and elongating our spine for a few minutes before forgetting and slumping back down, hunch-backed and concave.
Oded Cohen witnessed how his mother’s poor posture led to pain and discomfort, and was determined to come up with a solution. In 2015, he and two others launched an Indigogo campaign to fund their venture – a smart wearable device that sits directly on your back, to train you to improve your posture. This device was named the Upright Pro. After exceeding its funding goal, Upright was well under way, and put their product on the market the following year. A year later, Upright looks back on its progress with well-deserved pride; having received several first-place awards from Medica and Experimental Med, to name a few, and selling worldwide via several distributors in addition to Amazon UK and US, this Israeli start-up is set for success.
How does it work? Upright is a trainable device.
“A trainable is a wearable that accurately gives realtime feedback to maximize behavioral or physical change,” explains Cohen, the firm’s CEO.
“Getting the right piece of advice at the right time is incredibly powerful in that it lowers the effort you have to make, and increases the speed of learning.” It consists of a small device that sits on your back via a hypoallergenic adhesive pad, and pairs via Bluetooth to a mobile app. When the device detects that you are slouching, it gently vibrates to remind you to readjust your posture.
Each customer receives a customized training plan, delivered to their Upright app (available for IOS and Android). To begin with, the device is worn only for five to 10 minutes, three or four days a week.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, five minutes is easy,’ but it’s really not, it’s challenging. Particularly for those with desk jobs, who sit all day,” explains Upright’s marketing manager, Cid Carver. The time gradually builds up over 30 days to around 60 minutes per day.
“It takes 21 to 30 days to form a new habit, so the idea is to train consistently to build up muscle and core strength, and muscle memory.”
Once the habit is formed, it must be nurtured.
“It’s like going to the gym. Once you’ve completed your first training program, we suggest you continue to wear the device two or three times a week to keep the habit going strong,” says Carver. In theory, this should set you up for a lifetime of good posture. Why is good posture important? Aside from the occasional nag, posture is never something I seriously considered, especially not as a potential health risk. It turns out, that good posture is far more important than most of us realize.
Poor posture can lead to your gastrointestinal system not functioning as effectively as it should, resulting in pain. Some say that hunching forward too much can affect your lung capacity by as much as 30% and cause pain in your shoulders and back due to muscle tension.
In addition to physical symptoms, posture plays a part in our mental health.
“Think of the power pose – it is people standing tall and straight, looking you in the eye. Bad posture can cause a lack of confidence,” says Carver.
If you have reached this point without subtly shifting in your seat and straightening your spine, now would be a ripe time to do so – and throw in an upward stretch or two for good measure. It’s worth noting how much taller you become with a simple movement, and how easy it feels to fill your lungs when your spine is straight and your shoulders are pushed back.
Emphasizing the power of posture is more important than ever before. Many of us spend most of our day at a desk, sitting facing a screen. We are not aware of how we are sitting, and often hunch further and further down as we fatigue. This condition, called “screen slouching,” is said to affect one in four people.
Another increasingly cited term, “tech/text neck,” refers to a repetitive strain injury caused by hanging one’s head forward to look at a mobile device for extended periods of time. This movement puts excess pressure on the neck, and can result in a strained feeling, shoulder stiffness, headaches and even long-term damage to the spine. It can also lead to sagging skin and dropping jowls. Essentially, nothing good can come of it.
What’s particularly alarming is how many people these conditions affect. In recent years, Britain has reported a 60% rise in the number of teenagers and young adults suffering from back and neck pain, and I’m sure that many readers are no strangers to such ailments.
Upright targeted these conditions with corporate wellness studies at Ernst & Young professional services company, amongst others, and received encouraging feedback. Employees and victims of “screen slouch” and “tech neck” reported that, with Upright, they increased focus and productivity. They felt more alert, were breathing better and were more engaged.
According to reviews on Amazon, Upright could be the solution. Feedback such as “I hit the jackpot with this little device” and “A month or so into the process, I’m hooked” far outweigh the grumbles about Upright’s adhesive tabs not sticking on hairy backs.
Everyone praises the company’s customer service.
There are glitches that need to be ironed out, as one might expect in any start-up. The company is addressing one of the biggest grumbles – that the product can only be worn when sitting down – with its newest model: the Upright Go, which can be worn on the go all day. Even when reminders are turned off, the device continues to track your posture.
For the benefits of a lifetime of good posture, this device seems worth consideration.
Grandmothers everywhere would approve.