Did you even know that “forward head” is a thing? I found out the hard way last year doing PT for shoulder surgery when my therapist told me I had a pretty bad case. It turns out that many of us have forward head syndrome, also referred to as “Scholar’s Neck” or “Reader’s Neck”. If you spend much of your day working with electronics, whether sitting or standing, odds are that in time you, too, will find your head and neck out of balance. I knew something was going on when lying down I couldn’t rest my head flat on the floor without a pillow or other support. It turns out there are exercises you can do to improve this painful condition that will otherwise just get worse. Standing desks are good for your back and adjusting monitor and keyboard heights for overall improved posture also help, but you still need to watch for forward head. It turns out that even when we walk we can hurt our posture.
We’ve looked at posture detectors and correction devices in the past, including Upright and Prana which signal when you stand or sit incorrectly, and LumoLift, worn like a pin to vibrate when you’re moving poorly (it also counts your steps, distance, and calories burned). Another device in this category is Zitko’s Zitko Walk which is billed as an activity and posture coach, is worn on your wrist, and reports specific gait and posture problems.
With a nod to fashion, the dark, sleek, and (at less than a half inch thick) arguably thin Zitko Walk comes with your choice of gray or black silicon strap for $149. A selection of optional interchangeable bands range in price from $25 to $50. Powered by a lithium ion battery rated for 2-3 days use before charging with an included docking station, the water resistant Zitko Walk has a phantom LED display (little dots of light) and uses Bluetooth 4.0 to sync with iOS and Android phones. While the Zitko Walk does not currently count calories (that’s promised in a further version), once you sync it with your smartphone the device can display the current time, the number of steps you’ve walked, and the number of calls and SMS messages you’ve missed. It also calculates sleep time, measures light and REM sleep, and tracks how it long it takes you to fall asleep, according to the manufacturer. Where Zitko Walk differs significantly from other fitness/health wearables is what it does with gait and posture.
When you get your Zitko Walk the first step is to take a gait test. The device works by measuring balance as you walk, specifically tracking your arm swing. After your initial test you are assigned a posture score and also recommends specific exercises to correct your posture. Thereafter the Zitko Walk can identify four types of unhealthy walking, including hunch walking, phone walking (looking down at a device), drag walking when you drag your feet, and slow walking when your gait varies too much. When the watch detects one of the four undesirable postures it vibrates and the LED display uses two letter codes and a posture score to indicate the walking fault and how bad it is. The smartphone app tracks your walking posture over time so you can monitor your improvement – or lack thereof.
The Zitko Walk in its current version does not sense posture when you’re sitting or standing, so if you have a significant posture issue it’s no help there. If you’re a walker as well as someone who puts hefty hours with electronics, chances are you have incipient if not a good start on forward head and the stylish Zitko Walk might just fill a need by alerting you to walk right and keep your head up.