I used to think that being tall and skinny predisposed me to poor posture. I had no evidence to back up the theory, I just assumed that no matter how much I focused on standing or sitting up straight, the rolled shoulders and chicken neck would always prevail. And to some extent, they do. While I don’t have terrible posture, more often than not I still do find myself hunched over. Often times, like, way over. And almost always, as you might imagine, while staring at my computer screen. (Although holding a 2-year-old every day doesn’t help either.) No matter how much I try to keep good posture front of mind, it’s only when I stretch that I realize, good Lord, I was practically lying on my desk.
So that’s what persuaded me to try the Upright Go, a small wearable that sticks to your upper back and ‘zaps’ you every time you hunch over. ‘Screen slouch’ is what the company dubbed our global white-collar epidemic, and they had just cleared a $1 million on Kickstarter claiming their device could fix it. The Upright Go will give you “better posture in two to three weeks,” they say, while training you to sit up straight. If anybody was qualified to give it a test, it was me.
The Upright Go is small and sleek and, admittedly, unintrusive. It has a single on-off button, and it attaches to anywhere on your upper back with reusable double-sided tape that’s good for either 10 uses or several weeks, depending on which information you read. It comes with five extra adhesives, as well as alcohol swabs to keep them clean. The water/sweat-resistant pod comes with a carrying case and USB charging cord. It advertises 8 hours of run time on a 45-minute charge ⏤ which I found to be accurate ⏤ and all told, it costs $100 (it’s on sale right for $80).
After downloading the app for iOS and Android, setup is pretty straightforward: stick the Upright Go to your back, turn it on, and pair it with your device. The smartphone app sets up a custom training plan based on your age, weight, etc. and gradually increases the amount of training time — i.e. how often it buzzes to remind you of posture — each day.
My plan runs 18 days and started with five minutes of training; I’m currently on day ten and am around 20 minutes, broken into two sessions. You’re only supposed to need the Upright Go for the duration of the training, after which they say you should be conditioned to sit erectly on your own. They do, however, recommend 20-minute maintenance sessions two-to-four times per week.
When not training, the Upright Go tracks your posture data and handsomely displays it all in the app. And that app is really slick. Colorful, comprehensive, and easy to use, it provides all kinds of pie charts and information ⏤ from the number of hours spent tracking/training, to the percentage of your day spent slouching, to specifically, which hours of the day you demonstrate the worst posture. Naturally, it also keeps tabs on the training program ⏤ how much you’ve completed and what’s remains. The coolest feature, though, has to be big stick-figure graphic that slouches in real-time whenever you do. Fun — and useful.
If I’ve had one issue with the Upright Go, it’s been with the calibration process. Every time you turn the device on, it needs to be calibrated in the app. And that means you need to sit or stand up straight, find a natural and comfortable position, and hit the calibrate button. It’s easy and works fine, no complaints at all. In fact, they even provide a helpful guide to sitting and standing up straight and how to do it properly. My problem, however, was getting it right, even with the guidance. I had the device’s sensitivity sensor set high, so it detects the slightest slouch, but my calibration barely gave me anywhere to go. The simplest lean set the thing off into a feeding frenzy of vibration so annoying I was ready to hurl it across the room. It was borderline unusable.
Part of the problem — and they warn against this — is that people tend to over-exaggerate a straight posture by throwing their shoulders way back and arching the spine. I’m guilty. But even after taking it down a notch, I still had some trouble. At one point, I tried to ‘game it’ by calibrating my upright position with a slight slouch, just to keep it at bay. Eventually, I realized you can lower the sensitivity number and extend the delay (the number of seconds it waits before buzzing), but even so, I’m still prone to some irritating attacks when I simply lean too far forward at the hips, even though my shoulders are back and I’m not hunched over. I never considered that bad posture, but I’m no expert.
All that’s to say, I wish it came with a doctor to look at my posture while I calibrated the first few times to see if I was doing it right. Maybe they can build a feature into the app that allows you to submit a picture of yourself and assess your stance. Who knows.
Overall though, I have to give the Upright Go a big thumbs up. Yes, I’m only 10 days into to the training and have no idea as to whether the device will actually deliver on the promise of teaching me to sit up straight. At this point I’m still somewhat skeptical, as it doesn’t take long for me to resume slouching as soon as I turn it off, but I’m not totally sure I care. I’m just appreciating the immediate feedback that’s allowing me to instantly correct the way I’m sitting. As I write this, I’m starting to hunch over and getting buzzed. And I’m fixing it. Assuming the device is calibrated properly, it works well. And I’ll probably end up wearing it past the training period simply because I like the reminders. Now, if only I could get it fix my chicken neck.