Can a gadget that zaps me really cure my bad back habits? FEMAIL tries out a new posture-correcting app (with some … – Daily Mail
Like many people who work at a desk, my posture is terrible. As the hours tick by, I slump forward like a wilted daisy, but the trouble is I don’t realise it until I uncurl myself, painfully, at the end of the day.
In the absence of my mother standing over me barking ‘Sit up straight!’, it’s hard not to slouch.
Which is where new posture-correcting app Lumo Lift (you slouch, it vibrates) comes in. The £59.99 sleek, pebble-like gadget (which you attach to your vest or bra with a tiny magnet) buzzes a warning every time you unwittingly begin to curl into a hunch.
Like many people who work at a desk, my posture is terrible. As the hours tick by, I slump forward like a wilted daisy (File photo)
Provided it is touching your skin, it monitors your posture angle. Given my history of worn discs and lower-back pain, this appears to be just what the physiotherapist ordered.
As I attach the device to my bra strap just beneath my collarbone, I confess I’m nervous. I don’t want my underwear to vibrate alarmingly every time I tilt away from the vertical.
Next I install the app on my phone and read the galvanising message: ‘Get ready to sit and stand taller, Anna.’ I guiltily shift position.
Now I must train the device to recognise my target posture (ideally, the graceful poise of a dancer, though my natural stance is more Stone Age woman than English National Ballet).
I shuffle backwards on my chair until my spine, hips and bottom press against its supporting back. As I straighten up, I hear something in my spine click. In better news, the Lumo Lift’s buzz turns out to be audible only to me, the wearer. More of a genteel cough than a warning shout.
Target posture achieved, I’m supposed to press and release the device to inform it this is my ideal sitting position. It beeps three times in response to confirm it is primed. Then, if I laze back into a slouch, my slump monitor will buzz after 15 seconds.
But after a day of fidgeting, I realise I’m not at all clear on what ideal posture is. I refer to the gadget’s website for guidance.
A post entitled ‘What is good posture?’ informs me it’s ‘a straight, stacked spine . . . imagine your head is being pulled by a string.
‘Lift your chest slightly and draw in your abdominals. Keep shoulders down and back.
‘You’re aiming for a strong, confident position! Beginners’ should clasp their hands together behind their back while standing, then bring both hands back to their sides. This naturally pulls your shoulders back.’
If this is good posture, then my shoulders hang a good inch too far forward — like a baboon’s — so I make a conscious effort to force my shoulders down and back, lift my neck and straighten my upper back.
It feels awkward, but I grumpily press the device to inform it that this elevated position is my target posture. ‘If you feel unnatural strain in your back or muscles, reset target posture in a more comfortable position,’ says the Lumo Lift website.
Which is where new posture-correcting app Lumo Lift (you slouch, it vibrates) comes in (File photo)
Now I’m getting really annoyed. Yes, it’s very uncomfortable — my back and shoulders ache like mad — though perhaps after years of sitting like Neanderthal woman, the correct posture should feel challenging.
At the end of the day, my phone shows I’ve achieved just 3.37 hours of good posture. Meanwhile, the device and I have developed the relationship of an unhappily married couple.
‘Oh shut up,’ I mutter, as it buzzes irritably when I lean forward to eat toast. It even vibrates when I dare to rest on my elbow. We are not getting on.
I decide to get advice from an expert on the definition of ideal posture. What if I’m doing more harm than good?
‘So, it’s left entirely to your interpretation as to what “good” is?’ asks the London-based physiotherapist Nigel Roe, whose pedigree includes a decade of work with rugby teams the All Blacks and Saracens.
Though he approves of the Lumo Lift concept, he agrees that, like me, most people would have no idea what position they were aiming for.
‘If you sit badly for long enough that becomes your normal,’ he says.
A clue you might be sitting badly is if you have back and neck discomfort that you think a massage will fix. But, because our muscles have adapted to our poor posture, Roe says: ‘If you try to correct [your spinal posture], your brain will say “Why?” ’
His advice is to aim for a sense of ‘lengthening through your middle back’. He likes the Alexander technique tip of drawing up from the centre of the chest by visualising being gently pulled by a string from the top of your head.
You can tell he has worked with rugby blokes: he tells me to think of a meat hook lifting me from under the breastbone.
Roe warns it’s possible to over-correct. Good posture should involve ‘minimal effort. It’s got to be efficient’.
He also disagrees with Lumo Lift’s advice on shoulders. ‘Good posture has nothing to do with pulling shoulders back,’ he says.
Telling people what good posture is only works if they have the suppleness to achieve it. To that end we do a flexibility test.
I stand, back flattened against the wall, with my feet half a foot length out. I raise my arms until they’re vertical, flat against the wall, and bend my elbows to a 90 degree angle. Then, keeping my back flat and pelvis tilted, I try to raise my arms higher against the wall.
Roe says this shows ‘if you’ve got the straightening potential through your middle back and rib cage to bring your arms up, without your lower back coming off the wall’. To my relief, I can manage the exercise.
Finally well-informed, I re-attach the Lumo Lift. Every morning, as I settle myself at my desk, I ensure my bottom is against the chair back and my chin doesn’t jut out or tuck in. It takes a bit of twisting to perfect my neck position.
When I stand, I consider Roe’s advice about not over-tilting the pelvis either way (‘doing a Beyonce or an Elvis’).
Once I re-programme the Lumo Lift, I barely hear a peep out of it.
Five days in, I’ve accumulated tens of hours of good posture without undue exertion.
Rather than feeling enraged when the device buzzes as I load the dishwasher, I take it as a pleasing sign that the rest of my day has been spent in a spine-friendly attitude.
Wearing it is a valuable mental prompt — I even re-think how I sprawl on the sofa. Good posture requires effort, but it quickly becomes habit. In less than a week, I am in better shape.