Back when I was a ballet dancer, I had gorgeous posture and never had to think about sitting up straight because it was second-nature. But, like many people who discover they don't have what it takes to pursue a career in the performing arts, now I sit at a desk for hours on end, and my perfect posture has wilted.
But some of us might find that we need a literal nudge to sit up straight, which is where posture trackers and trainers come in handy. You might have seen the Upright Go on Instagram, a wearable posture tracker that sticks onto your upper back with adhesive. The goal of Upright is to give you real-time posture feedback and remind you to stay, as the name suggests, upright. If you slouch, it gently vibrates, and you can monitor your progress throughout the day with the corresponding smartphone app. Over time (they recommend using it for 4-6 weeks), you can train yourself to not need the $99.95 device, or you can return to it when you need.
I slapped the Upright Go on my back in the morning as soon as I got to my desk, and calibrated it to my posture. The device itself kind of looks like an Apple mouse, and although it's discreet enough to wear under clothes, I felt like a robot. You really have to sit up completely straight, with your chest up and shoulders over your hips, for it to register as "upright," otherwise it vibrates. The vibrations are not like a taser or anything intense, they're more similar to a cellphone vibration or an Apple Watch notification: not painful, just annoying. If you're like me and feel the need to check your phone or watch anytime it buzzes, then the Upright notifications will get your attention.
By around 2 p.m., my ribs and abs were aching. Your core muscles — abdominals, obliques, and back — work to keep your body upright, so if you're actively sitting stick straight for hours on end, it's natural for your muscles to get sore. But I kind of liked the feeling, and doing a subtle ab exercise at my desk helped to give me something to think about and pass the time during long meetings. According to the app, I was upright for 5 hours and only slouched for 15 minutes. When I did give myself a break, slouching felt amazing on the back of my shoulders, kind of like doing the "cat" pose in cat-cow.
I spent the rest of the day puffed up like a peacock pretending I was Meghan Markle. Mixing my salad, washing my hands, and reaching down for things under my desk proved to be a bit of a challenge, because anytime I bent over it would buzz me. But otherwise, the Upright Go was pretty fun. The question is, would using this little thing actually help my posture over time, or do I have to wear this thing stuck to me for the rest of my life?
Improving your posture requires a commitment similar to a fitness routine, so the best way to work your posture is to make it a habit, says Amanda Brick PT, DPT, OCS, Clinical Director at Professional Physical Therapy. "Wearable posture correctors seem to be a quick fix, but they can easily become annoying and its user may not have the strength to maintain the necessary upright posture," she says. I get that.
Some people might find wearing an electronic device just for posture excessive, too. There are some non-electric posture braces out there that physically hold your shoulder blades back, but those could actually inhibit your body's natural range of motion, Dr. Brick says. "I would be more inclined to recommend a postural cueing shirt which is more flexible, acting as a guide for correct posture, while allowing natural range of motion, unlike a brace," she says. Or, if you don't want to wear something extra, you could just set a recurring alarm for yourself, she says. And obviously, seeing a physical therapist is one way to learn exercises to help you strengthen the muscles necessary for good posture.
So, will I use the Upright Go again? I could see it being useful in the weeks leading up to a big event where I know I'll be on display, like a wedding or work presentation. But for daily posture reminders, you might be better off with a sticky note, cell phone alarm, or other thing that gets your attention.