Can you believe it? Technology has now reached posture! Technology now called "wearables" have become accessible to the public. Consisting of a wearable piece that is linked to an app on your phone it tracks how you sit and stand and transmits a gentle vibration to remind you to sit up straight when you start slouching. In this article I reveal the most popular wearables for 2016, the upside and the downside of using them and I explain why adopting one position for long periods of time is detrimental to the health and wellness of your body. Read on to find out more...
The wearables of 2016
Lumolift is a small sensor that you place on your t-shirt at chest level. It measures the angle of your torso and gently vibrates to remind you to sit up straight if you start slouching.
ALEX is a wearable neck device that sits around the back of the neck monitoring alignment and sending out a vibration reminder when the wearer begins to slouch. It is currently crowdfunding through Kickstarter so not available to the public right now.
I am all for new technology. Technology is woven into every part of our life now so it is natural that designers and product developers are thinking up ways to influence health, wellness and now posture.
I think a positive about wearables is that they provide some sort of consistent reminder of what an individual is trying to achieve - in this case better posture. When trying to improve posture in sitting, standing and corresponding movement, consistency is absolutely imperative to create change. We build programmes for movement and posture that are stored in our brain. The more we use these patterns the stronger they become. I liken it to drawing a line in the mud with a stick - the more times you do this the deeper the groove in the mud becomes. When we work on posture or a new movement pattern we cannot overwrite an old programme in the brain we can only build a new one and try to make it the preferred one. The key to making a movement or posture pattern dominant is to repeatedly use it so it becomes stronger. In essence a wearable can act as a consistent reminder to make a preferred posture pattern stronger.
As a posture and movement specialist sitting and standing better is not just a matter of sitting/standing "up". The changes in posture that an individual needs to make are as individual as their injuries and or discomfort.
Everyone I work with here at Precision Movement receives bespoke programmes and bespoke cues for improving and changing posture. What is really key in sitting and standing posture is the information you give an individual to elicit change.
Often if you tell someone to sit up straight or stand better they get taller but often lean back. They hinge from the mid-back and the position of the shoulders and head stay the same in relation to the chest and back. This is no more correct than slouching forwards and can lead to as many if not more problems in time. It is also common for an individual to "hold" themselves in a better posture creating a higher resting tension in muscles which is both metabolically inefficient and will lead to muscles becoming overworked, tired and sore.
Posture and movement are intricate, delicate, and sensitive systems that require subtle, measured changes to achieve optimal joint centration and muscle balance.
I give my clients a 10 minute audio posture meditation to listen to on their commute to work, during their lunch break or on their commute home to remind them of the cues for better posture. You can listen to it below or click here to the article I wrote about it.
Posture isn't static
The body is built for movement. It is well known and certainly well written about that sitting at a desk is not good for posture. It is true that sitting creates undesirable postures but stagnancy is equally to blame for poor posture, discomfort and injury.
Movement helps prevent muscles, joints and connective tissue from stiffening up. Movement helps pump blood into muscles, it pushes lymphatic fluid out and both provide cells with nutrients and remove toxins. This also helps reduce discomfort.
Rather than trying to sustain one good posture all day it is also beneficial to stand up and walk around the office or go out for lunch. At Precision Movement we often give individuals stretches and mobilisations to do in their chair just to create a bit of movement away from sitting still for long periods.
I think wearables could have a place in reminding an individual on a consistent basis to think about a better way to carry themselves. But (and I rarely ever use the word but), the information given to an individual about how to improve alignment is absolutely crucial to the success of improved posture.
So in conclusion, the cues that an individual is given to improve posture are the real gold here, the wearable can act as a positive reminder in the early stages of change. I would recommend anyone wanting to use one to work with a posture specialist and incorporate the wearable in sessions. I would also recommend a programme of stretches and mobilisations that can be done in an office setting also to encourage movement. The ultimate goal is to find good posture and movement without the use of external stimulus so an appropriate phase out of the wearable should be considered also.