Whether it’s for training, dancing, dating or simply slobbing around the house, there’s a bra for every occasion. While all bras have the same primary purpose, to offer support, they also have something else in common. A feeling of relief to the wearer when taken off.
But, if a new bra hitting the market is anything to go by, we may feel much better by keeping it on.
The Vitali bra is a revolutionary piece of smart clothing that not only offers physical support, but claims to offer emotional support, too. Having recently reached its target for launch via Kickstarter, the Vitali bra is now taking orders online.
Designed for all day wear, this on the go “wellness coach” is unlike other smart clothing. Rather than monitoring fitness, this bra tracks breathing, posture and heart rate via a powerful processor that collects data from sensors.
These embedded sensors in the bra measure ECG (electrocardiogram) directly from the heart and analyse HRV (heart rate variability) to understand your body patterns. Biofeedback is provided to the wearer when changes occur in HRV patterns that indicate stress.
The real-time feedback is delivered to the user via gentle taps. One tap may remind the user to sit up, whilst two may remind them to take a deep breath. A synced app will also guide and assist the wearer to adjust their posture or breathing accordingly.
But could this really be the future for wellbeing?
“Many people are unaware of the low level of stress that they’re under. It’s only when stress is chronic and severe, resulting in a deterioration in mental health, that the physical signs become more apparent,” says GP, Dr Michelle Groves.
Because stress comes in many forms, both externally and internally, this can manifest in infections, illnesses and chronic diseases. When adrenaline is released into the body because of stress, our heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and perspiration are all affected.
“Wearable body measurement devices can now pick up changes in your body before you’ve even realised that you were under pressure,” says Dr Groves. “Wearing such a device that gives real time tracking of vital signs and creates progress logs, will enable people to understand and monitor their stress levels.”
It’s this awareness that could help people be more mindful of their health and potentially lead to earlier intervention to prevent further deterioration.
“When changes in the body patterns are noted, the wearer will start to recognise what stimulus has given a particular emotion. By learning these stress triggers, the wearer is better equipped to manage them,” says Dr Groves. “This could then break the negative cycle of thought to feeling to negative action.”
While Dr Groves believes that such wearable devices could help those who suffer with daily stress, as well as mild anxiety, she says that it’s not a one size fits all solution.
“Users of wearables need to be motivated to use these sensors, so patients suffering from moderate to severe depression, bipolar or other serious mental health issues would not benefit from these devices,” she says.
“I’d also have concerns about the accuracy and safety of these products as they do not meet the rigorous standards of medical devices. While they have a high potential, there are many unknowns, and there’s strong evidence that many users stop using similar devices after a few months.”
From a professional perspective, Dr Groves says that personal sensors could become a powerful, insightful tool by being in control of negative lifestyle factors and implementing a positive change.
However, she says that they’re not a miracle cure for mental health issues, which need a multidisciplinary approach in conjunction with a trained health provider.
Marny Lishman is a health and wellbeing psychologist. She says that learning good posture and breathing skills in response to stress underpins many therapeutic techniques for wellness, such as yoga, meditation or pilates.
“When we’re stressed and anxious, we often don’t breathe very well. A part of the fight or flight mechanism that turns on when we’re stressed is that we will breathe a bit quicker, our blood pressure and heart rate increase and we tense up,” she says.
“If we’re feeling stressed or anxious a lot, then this is happening often and can affect our overall wellbeing.”
Like Dr Groves, she agrees that having an awareness of what our bodies are doing in reaction to our environment is a good way to initiate change. However, she also echoes the sentiment that it’s different for everyone.
“Similar to other wearable gadgets, such as those that monitor exercise, some women may find this bra helpful, while others may not,” she says. “If it works and is making a difference to you, then keep wearing it. If not, other techniques or gadgets may be better suited.”