The smart belt that encourages good posture during exercise and in the office

registered physical therapist Eoin Everard he sees the painful results of bad back behavior every day in his clinic. “People exercise, lift things and even do rehab exercises with terrible technique,” ​​says Everard, who has a Ph.D. in biomechanics and human movement from UL.

“The reason for this is that they are not aware of their position. This leads to an overload on the spine that can cause injury and damage.”

Everard’s solution is BackAwarea smart belt aimed at both recreational athletes and elite athletes that provides instant feedback on the position of the wearer’s lower back.

“The idea is to allow someone to track and train their lifting technique and posture to improve back health,” he says. “It also gives them confidence that they are exercising correctly, which can be a source of uncertainty for someone exercising alone at home.”

Everard started working on the idea for BackAware in 2019, and the product launched late last year.

“I know from clinical experience that those who lift weights with poor technique will have problems in later life,” he says. “That got me thinking about developing equipment that would let them know when they were doing an exercise wrong and help prevent back pain from developing.

“People exercise because they want to be fit and healthy, but they don’t get the results they should or, at worst, create problems for themselves. With BackAware it’s like having a physical therapist supervising your exercise sessions.”

Eoin Everard, founder of BackAware

Learning curve

To activate the belt, a user downloads an app and pairs the belt with their phone. The belt is calibrated to fit a person’s “normal” posture, and if someone flexes or overextends, you’ll hear a warning tone.

“There are posture trackers on the market, but their main function is to establish whether someone is upright,” says Everard. “BackAware is the first tracker and trainer tied to the user’s specific back position and can be used for any lift or exercise and even sitting at a desk.”

The electronic components inside the BackAware belt are sourced from Asia, while the belt itself is made in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Covid put a damper on Everard’s plans, so it took about three years and a steep learning curve to get BackAware into beta. “I’m not a designer or an engineer, so it was a challenge to turn what was a concept in my mind into a real product,” he says.

As someone used to running his own business, Everard knew the importance of keeping things efficient and was able to keep development costs down to €35,000. The project received financial support from LEO of Kilkenny while Everard has recently participated in the Company Ireland New Frontiers program for start-ups run by the Synergy Center at TU Tallaght.

The BackAware belt targets three customer groups: people with back pain; those who want to learn the correct technique for gymnastics or Pilates exercises; and manual handling training companies/corporate entities interested in the well-being of employees as back pain is one of the main causes of work absenteeism.

The belt can be worn individually or in groups and the company has already taken an interest in the product from a Premier League football club in England. It has also partnered with the Football Association of Ireland to help younger players develop good drill technique.

The belt retails for €149 and users can also sign up for a number of exercise and Pilates programs (charged monthly) to get more bang for their buck. The belt goes on sale this month and Everard is now in the process of launching a €500,000 seed round to accelerate the launch of the product to multiple markets.

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