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Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize that you’re doing something unconsciously? It can be very disorienting to see your body acting or reacting without direct input from your conscious brain.
I had one of these instances a couple of months ago. I was on the floor, playing with my cat, when it occurred to me that my hunched posture must be doing terrible things to my spine. When I say “hunched,” I don’t mean “slightly leaning over,” I mean “basically bent in half while I sat on the floor.” The questions started spiraling in my brain: How long had my posture been this bad? Would I end up with a permanent hump on my back if I didn’t fix it? Could it be fixed? If so, how long would it take? Was it worth it to actually try to do anything about it?
While I pondered what to do about the situation, in a happy coincidence, I was given the opportunity to try out the Upright Go 2, a Bluetooth-enabled “posture corrector.” How can something with Bluetooth fix your posture? I tested it to find out.
What is the Upright Go 2?
The Upright Go 2 is a small device that you adhere to your upper back along your spine. After calibrating it to the correct upright posture (more on this later), it gently vibrates every time you start to lean too far forward, which reminds you to sit up straighter.
When you purchase the Upright Go 2, which costs $99.99, you get the device, a case for the device, 10 adhesive strips for affixing the device to your skin, a USB-C charging cable, and a small piece of laminated plastic that helps to remove the adhesive from the back of the Upright Go 2 once it starts to lose its stickiness.
Why does good posture matter?
I’m sure more than a few of us rolled our eyes at our parents when we were told as kids to “sit up straight,” but it turns out that having good posture is an important way you can help yourself stay healthy.
In the short term, bad posture can cause back, neck, and shoulder pain, according to Annmarie Regan, a board-certified licensed massage therapist in the Boston area. In the long-term, you may be faced with more chronic issues, like jaw pain, spinal curvature, headaches, and compression of your joints, organs(!), and spinal disks. Furthermore, your muscles may contort themselves even more in an attempt to still provide your body with the proper support while you’re over slouched. Not good.
How does the Upright Go 2 work?
After charging the Upright Go 2, downloading the companion Upright Go app (iOS/Android), and applying an adhesive strip to the back of the Upright Go 2, you’re good to go. Following prompts from the app, you press and hold the button on the Upright Go 2 until the LED flashes green and the device syncs with the app over Bluetooth.
Then, you use the adhesive to stick the Upright Go 2 on your upper spine. Those with short arms or less flexibility might need a second person to mount the Upright Go on their backs, but it’s fine to put the device high up on your back, like just below the knob where your neck meets your spine.
After answering questions about your age, gender, weight, and assessing your existing posture and back pain, the Upright Go app develops a customized program that will help you to improve your posture. Most programs run about two weeks.
Curious if the Upright Go 2 would actually help me sit up straight, I forged ahead with a 15-day program.
What’s involved in the Upright Go 2 program?
The Upright Go 2 program consists of daily goals that you have to meet. To meet a goal, you leave the Upright Go 2 device on your back in “Training” mode for a certain amount of time. Early on in the program, this translates to 10 to 15 minutes per day. As you get further along, you’re asked to wear the device for two to three blocks of up to 20 minutes in a given day.
The Upright Go 2 has three “Training” modes that match your current level of activity:
• Stationary (when you’re sitting or standing for long periods of time)
• Moderate (when you have a mix of both sitting and standing)
• Active (when you’re often on the go or doing some sort of activity that doesn’t require sitting)
Note: The app explicitly says that the Upright Go 2 is not meant to be used during sweat-inducing levels of activity; sweat (or water) could interfere with the adhesive’s ability to keep the Upright Go 2 on your back.
It’s important to update your current level of activity in the app so that the device can adjust when it sends alerts that you’re slouching. For instance, here’s me sitting upright (according to the app) in the Stationary mode:
And here’s the point at which the Upright Go 2 started to vibrate, indicating that I was hunching too far forward:
As you might guess, there’s a lot more leeway for slouching, leaning, and bending over in the Moderate and Active modes.
In the “Tracking” mode, the Upright Go 2 just records your posture data without sending out slouching alerts. You can look at this data later as a way to notice where/when your posture needs the most work.
For each Upright Go 2 session, you attach the device onto your back, set your baseline “upright” posture (while standing up), set your level of activity, and then go about your normal activities. The phone vibrates once you’ve met your goal for the day; however, once you start getting further along in the program and multiple 10- to 20-minute sessions are required to meet your goal each day, the app starts counting down in the next session once you finish the first, while advising you to take a minimum of a 40-minute break in the “Tracking” mode in between each session.
What are the features of the Upright Go 2?
The Upright Go 2 app shows your posture in real time; the avatar on the screen is as upright or bent over as you are. This kind of instant feedback made it possible for me to correct my posture quickly.
The Upright Go 2 app allows you to customize almost everything about the vibration that alerts you to the fact that you’re slouching, including the buzzing pattern, intensity, range of motion threshold (i.e. when it actually started buzzing), and the time before it started buzzing. If you walk away from your phone while wearing the Upright Go 2, the minute you’re back in range, the app updates based on the latest data recorded by the Upright Go 2.
In the app, you can view the posture data from both previous days and the current day, with pie charts and timelines indicating when you were slouched (red) and upright (green). It was useful to be able to review my data at the end of the day and see if the slouch events coincided with me sitting in particular chairs, or sitting for long periods of time. Through the app, you can also read FAQ articles, ask Upright people for assistance, or participate in forums with other Upright Go 2 users. I didn’t find this feature particularly useful, but maybe those who are more sociable will want to share their progress with other Upright Go 2 users.
I found the battery life of the device itself to be adequate; when only worn for the training sessions (plus a few extra tracking hours), it lasted about a week. It only takes a few hours to fully recharge, too.
Finally, the adhesive is reusable. I was able to use only one adhesive strip throughout my entire program. The Upright Go 2 comes with 10 adhesive strips and three alcohol wipes (for cleaning your skin prior to application), but extra strips are also available for purchase.
What are the benefits of using the Upright Go 2 to improve posture?
While I wouldn’t say that the Upright Go 2 solved my posture issues, I think it did well in two respects: First, it made me aware of my posture at all times, but especially when I was wearing the Upright Go 2 device. Second, it gave me a baseline understanding of what sitting or standing up “straight” meant in different scenarios. I took great pains to wear the Upright Go 2 in a variety of settings, including multiple office chairs, my couch, my car, and, uh, while I was sawing through PVC piping (don’t ask). Overall, in my opinion, the Upright Go 2 gave me the most important feedback when I was seated for long periods of time.
In its Stationary mode, the Upright Go 2 is relatively unforgiving; even leaning the slightest bit forward can set off the slouching alarm. Based on my trial and error with this device, I found that one of the quickest ways to improve your posture is to lean back. That sounds obvious in retrospect, but there were plenty of times where the Upright Go 2 buzzed me the second I leaned forward and stopped buzzing once I leaned back a bit. So, when in doubt, lean back.
I now also have a pretty good idea of what “sitting up straight” looks like and, as you might guess, it feels different in different types of chairs and sitting positions. I will use that knowledge going forward.
What are the shortcomings of using the Upright Go to improve posture?
I did not find the Upright Go to be helpful when I was in the Moderate or Active activity settings. While I probably shouldn’t be bending down as much as I do (and, in fact, I did start to bend at the knees more so that I wouldn’t set off the Upright Go 2), bending over is unavoidable in certain circumstances, and I didn’t like that the Upright Go went off so often. It got to the point where I only wore the Upright Go 2 when I was planning on sitting down and working for a couple of hours.
Granted, the Upright Go 2 app offers a lot of customizability for the vibration alerts; in theory, it would be easy to make the device not yell at me every time I bent over to pick something up off the floor, but I didn’t go that route because I wanted to see how the Upright Go 2 would react with its default settings. Maybe someone who intends to use this device long-term would be more likely to adjust the settings so that it wouldn’t cause the device to vibrate so frequently.
However, that leads me to another potential issue: buy-in. While the Upright Go 2 starts off with two-week-long programs, it’s probably better if you use it for a few hours a day over a series of months so that sitting/standing upright becomes an ingrained habit, rather than something that has an end date of 14 to 15 days in the future. Given that it can take about three weeks to form a habit (or even longer), using the Upright Go 2 for one program cycle might not be enough to get it to (figuratively) stick. I wore the Upright Go 2 for a few days after my 15-day program finished, and the app advised me to wear the device for 20 minutes a day to meet my new daily goals. Granted, that’s not a lot of time, and the total passivity of the device means that once it’s on, it doesn’t interfere with your life, but if you’re not willing to put this device on every day and adjust your level of activity every time you decide to sit down or move around during the “Training” period, this might not be the posture solution for you.
One other thing to consider during the process of using the Upright Go 2 is the observer effect; basically, because something is recording your posture, you change your normal behavior so that your posture appears to be better than it is. I sat very, very straight for the first few sessions, and felt very smug about the positive results reported in the daily data section. It took me a couple of days to realize that that’s not really how this device is intended to be used. The whole point of the Upright Go 2 is to improve your posture in a realistic way by making you aware of when your posture is not ideal, preventing the vibration alert from going off by making adjustments to your posture, and making those new habits sustainable in the long-term.
I recently hung out with an older relative who now has a permanent hunch to her back. When she drives, she requires multiple pillows to feel at ease when she leans back in the driver’s seat. When I asked her about it, she said, “After a while, being hunched over hurts less than standing up straight.” Only you can decide if the Upright Go 2 is the right way for you to improve your posture, but just know that the Upright Go 2 is not meant to be a quick fix. If you decide that your posture is something you need to fix right now before it causes problems later in life, and you’re willing to incorporate the Upright Go 2 into your daily life, then go for it. If you worry you’re developing a medical problem that requires more specific attention, see a doctor.
How can I improve my posture without the Upright Go 2?
Annmarie, the licensed massage therapist I spoke to, had a few tips about ways to help mitigate the effects of bad posture over time:
Before you go to bed at night, do some light, slow stretching of your back, arms, and legs. Roll your shoulders back a few times. This should help to relieve some of the tension you’ve accumulated during the day.
If possible, try to sleep on your back. This is the position that allows for the best spinal support during sleep. Sleeping on your front may result in spinal and muscle pain. Putting additional pillows into any gaps between your body and the mattress can help you to relieve muscle strain while you sleep.
If you find yourself sitting down for hours at a time, try to get up and move around once or twice an hour. If you have access to an ergonomic chair or standing desk, use them.
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