July 15, 2014

Step into the addictive world of Fitbit competition

How many steps do you walk in a day?

The results are in on my new Fitbit.

I am a slug.

The Fitbit is one of several brands of gadgets that measure physical activity.

Mine clips to a belt loop and keeps track of how many steps I take in a day.

Beyond that, Fitbit, of course, feels a deep need to be my friend. It wants to sync with my computer and phone. It wants to communicate. It tells me how happy it is when I meet a daily goal. It allows me to cheer or taunt my Fitbit friends. It sends out a weekly Leader Board, ranking everyone in my group.

Fitbit also was nice enough to notify me that a jewelry designer now makes a line of nice stuff to cover up Fitbits, a job my stomachs are doing just fine, thank you.

But Fitbit has been a stunner to me, and to many Americans. We are a nation of people who would drive to the bathroom if we could. I have heard of drive-thru viewing at a funeral home. Every American older than 16 has a car in the yard.

But on foot, one should take 10,000 steps a day to be considered active. That’s about 5 miles. It is considered the least one should do, and it is linked to many health benefits.

I assumed 10,000 would be the number blinking at me at the end of my first day with the Fitbit. I drove to work and wrestled with a keyboard and a telephone all day, and walked the dog a couple of times. At the end of the day, I discovered there are probably Lowcountry oaks that record more steps than I do. I did about 3,000 steps, a level the experts kindly refer to as “sedentary.”

To be active, I quickly learned, one must set aside time and go out of one’s way to walk.

And then Fitbit starts creeping toward an obsession.

If you stand in line at the deli, stepping in place like a trombone player in a marching band, you may be addicted to Fitbit.

If you find yourself walking figure-eights around the produce bins at the grocery store, you may be addicted to Fitbit.

If you can tell strangers what aisle the Band-Aids are on, you may be a Fitbit addict.

If you have begun to think what a nice life hamsters lead, you are addicted.

If you are such a leaderboard zealot that you have considered hooking your Fitbit to the dog to run up the numbers, you need a 12-step program.

But this is a good thing in a nation that has a “sitting epidemic.”

When I think of my great-grandfather walking behind a mule so his descendants would have a better life than he did, I don’t know whether he would laugh or cry to see me walking on a treadmill.

For the first time, I have ventured into the exercise room at work.

Outdoors, the dog is no longer allowed to stop and smell every blade of grass. A puzzled look crosses her face as I tell her we are on a mission to get steps, steps and more steps.

They say the average adult in the United States walks 5,900 steps per day. I know someone who averages 23,000. I still haven’t hit 10,000. How many steps do you walk in a day?

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