Wearing the Lumo Lift: Day 1
[Second in a series on wearable health technology]
Last night, I unboxed my brand new Lumo Lift, a wearable sensor which tracks physical activity as well as posture. Basically, it’s a fancy-pants pedometer that you wear on your chest instead of your belt. It connects wirelessly to a smartphone or a desktop app. Using sophisticated biomechanical models, it purports to track steps more accurately than a traditional pedometer. If you set the device to actively remind you to sit up straight, it will vibrate when you start to slouch.
The physical benefits of posture tracking are fairly straightforward: good posture is good for your back. And the company explains in detail what good posture is. But it’s the psychological aspects of Lumo that are most interesting. The commercial for the Lift states outright “improve your posture and change your life.”
So, how true is this notion? Well, some Ohio State research would seem to back it up.
Richard Petty in the Department of Psychology found in a 2009 study that good posture makes us more confident. Asked to write down both positive and negative traits about themselves, study participants were more likely to believe that the positive traits were true if they were sitting up straight. “People assume their confidence is coming from their own thoughts,” Petty said. They don’t realize their posture is affecting how much they believe in what they’re thinking.”
And a study by William Marras in Integrated Systems Engineering found a kind of corollary to be true: when we feel stressed, we are more likely to injure our back. Study participants were asked to lift a box before and after witnessing Marras yell criticisms at the grad student running the experiment. (The yelling was all staged; he’s actually a nice guy.) Introverts were especially prone to turn the psychological stress of the situation into physical stress. “The criticism just rolled right off the extroverts, but introverts changed the way they used their muscles, so that lifting became much more mechanically stressful,” said Marras.
You could sum up Marras’ study as “having a jerk for a boss is bad for your back”—at least, if your job involves lifting things. But a growing body of research suggests that working at a desk doesn’t do you any good either. [What if you work at a desk and your boss is a jerk? Someone should look into that.] Lumo Bodytech has worked up a report loaded with infographics that shows the physical and mental tolls we pay for using technology. The company calls the cumulative health condition “Silicon Valley Syndrome.”
As to the Lift, I’m excited to try it, since I like shiny things. It worked right out of the box; I had no problems connecting it to my iPhone and using the app. [The Android version is not yet available.]
Now to gather some data! I was actually able to get some information from it just by wearing it as I drove to campus (screen shot to the right). The interface seems friendly and conversational. So far I like it. Let’s see if I like what it tells me.