Article Thumbnail

I Tried a Posture-Tracking Device to Make Me Less of a Slouching Hobgoblin

My week with Upright Go 2, the gizmo that zaps your spine into submission

Today’s wellness trends demand some form of restriction under the axiom of health. We’re all supposed to stop drinking, turn off our phones, run as our primary means of transportation and fast for 18 of our 24 hours a day. As the unhinged but oddly prophetic Billy Corgan laments in Smashing Pumpkins’ “Zero,” “Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness and cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty, just like me.”

Improving my posture despite not having any sort of serious back issue seems to me like one of those dictums to follow, but since it really only involves sitting in my chair, but better, I decided to give it a shot. The thing about improving one’s posture, though, is that it’s a rather nebulous endeavor. Sure, I can try to be more “conscious” about sitting up straight, but that only works until my little rat brain switches to another topic again. It’s meaningless to even try unless you enforce it with some kind of system to monitor you. 

Fortunately, there’s an app for that — and a $100 Bluetooth-enabled device, naturally. More than just making you stand up straighter, the Upright Go 2 claims to build confidence, make you appear taller and slimmer, boost your productivity, relieve stress and maximize your opportunities in life, all because of your posture. And while that all sounds decent, I simply want to look and feel less like a gremlin, which, in fairness, I guess does imply all of the above promises. 

So, I gave the device a shot. 

The Upright Go 2 is a tiny white block, about an inch and a half long and an inch wide. You place the device on your upper back between your shoulder blades with a sticky adhesive, after which you connect the device to your phone via Bluetooth. Then, with the accompanying app, you “set your posture” by sitting up straight for about five seconds. Following this, the app goes into “Training” mode. During it, the device gives you a buzz each time you slouch. The training periods increase in duration over time. 

On the first day, you need only complete one 5-minute training session. After a week, you’re completing two 12-minute sessions a day. Outside of these training sessions, the device enters “Tracking” mode: Here, the device doesn’t buzz if you slouch, but instead monitors your overall posture. If you slouch for more than 15 minutes straight, however, the app will send you a notification. 

What I first noticed about sitting upright for more than a minute at a time is that it hurts. Of course, this would explain why I often slouch in the first place. I never considered myself a frequent sloucher, by any means, but through using the device, I quickly learned that I actually am. The vibrational warnings that the device provides are mild and painless but feel shameful enough to punish you back into spinal alignment. I did not want to disappoint my tiny plastic cube overlord. 

Wearing the device, even only on tracking mode, made me far more aware of my posture. On the app, the company states that you should strive to be upright 60 to 80 percent of the time: On Day One, I managed to be upright for 70 percent of the day. My progress was not entirely linear, though. On Day Two, I was worse than on Day One, clocking in at 64 percent. For the rest of the week, I improved beyond Day One, though my scores continued to fluctuate (on Day Four, I only wore the device for 40 minutes, but managed to be upright for 95 percent of it). 

Somewhat miraculously, although I’d decided to challenge the device a little more by spending my final day riding coasters and drinking at Six Flags Magic Mountain, I managed to stay aligned 78 percent of the time. Assessing the areas of these days where I succeeded and failed, there is a direct correlation between the nature of the activity and my posture. Walking around the park, I had the grace of Mikhail Baryshnikov — I may only be 5-foot-1, but to my fellow park attendants, I’m sure I clocked in at a solid 5-foot-3 thanks to my perfectly upright stature. On the rides themselves, the device either couldn’t process the speed, loops and vibration of the coaster, or the coaster simply managed to perfectly support my back on its own. During an extended beer-filled lunch break, however, I triggered the notification for slouching longer than 15 minutes twice. 

Going to an amusement park is an anomaly for me, though. More telling is the data from the days I simply lazed around my apartment or went to work. I sit at a desk for much of my day, and without noticing, tend to slunch over my computer. It turns out, though, that the fancy ergonomic office chairs we have actually do a decent job of supporting one’s spine when sat in properly rather than curled up in a ball, as I often love to do. 

Further, I completely forget about the mere concept of posture when on my couch watching TV. In fact, the reason I only used the device for 40 minutes one day was that I was sitting on my couch watching TV and realized that it simply fucking sucks to sit upright when I’m trying to relax. I kept it going for as long as I could before turning it off, which again, was substantially less than a single hour. As a statement to the device’s comfortability, though, I forgot to remove it afterward and ended up taking a nap with it on. 

After a week with the Upright Go 2, I still drink more than I ought to, eat before bed and make every excuse as to why I can’t make that pilates class for the third week in a row. But a week is nowhere near enough time to make the kind of changes in life that become a habit, and I plan to continue giving the device a shot. I may still be a short, overwhelmed and shy gremlin of a woman, but by God, I will at least be a gremlin with enviable posture.