When I was a bored prepubescent, my mother temporarily banished me from the house with a lone sentence: "Walk around and get some exercise."
Realizing it was a command as opposed to a request, I did as I was told. I returned looking slightly rosy-cheeked, all the proof my mother needed that I had done my young body good.
Today I could have denied her wishes with any of the following excuses:
"I can't find my charging cable."
"My wireless sync dongle is malfunctioning."
"I have already taken a sufficient amount of steps today."
"I did not obtain proper sleep quality the previous evening."
Conversely, had I ventured outside in today's high-tech fitness world, on my return my mother would have looked not at my cheeks but at flashing LED indicator lights. She would either be satisfied or force me to turn around and not return until I felt a triumphant vibration emanating from my wrist signaling that, yes, my health tracking device had done its job.
Leave it to the fitness industry to make the simple art of walking so numbingly complicated.
My steadfast refusal to slap upon my wrist a band that silently tracks my daily step quota has made me an outcast among friends and co-workers, all of whom have temporarily stopped checking their phones for texts every 15 seconds. Instead, they stare at their Fitbits, Jawbones and FuelBands, whether walking to the mailbox or preparing to rest their heads upon pillows and turn out the lights. They agonize upon realizing they are well behind their daily quota of steps taken while loudly bragging to anyone within earshot on days when they reach their goal, be it steps walked or hours slept.
On a recent trip to my health club to engage in the low-tech art of weightlifting, followed by the even lower tech activity of a sauna, I attempted to swipe my membership card at the front desk. The elderly female attendant behind the desk bounded up from her chair. I waved her off.
"I can do this," I said, for I had proactively swiped on numerous other visits.
"No, let me," she replied. "I need the steps."
I peered behind the counter and estimated that it was two, possibly three steps, from her chair to the computer. Another three back to the chair for, if I calculated correctly, a whopping total of six.
"What's your daily goal?" I asked.
"So only about 1,600 more people need to come through the doors today and you'll be right there," I said with a laugh.
She failed to find the humor. I wasn't surprised, as I have found health tracker enthusiasts do not like their exercise routines mocked. While on business at a Mexican resort, I was forced to listen to a guest tell me he had already walked 4,000 steps simply by strolling around the resort grounds. Twice.
"Well, it's 10 steps from my lounge chair to the pool bar and 10 steps back," I said. "If I order 20 margaritas and make separate trips to claim each one, then technically we're even, right?"
Again, I waited for the laughter. None came.
My ophthalmologist came into the examining room one morning, where I awaited a laser procedure, and proudly announced he'd gotten seven hours of UNINTERRUPTED sleep the previous evening. It's information that can be obtained one of two ways: Fall asleep, wake up, look at the clock and do some basic math, or wear a health tracking device. Fitbit owners EASILY get this information by doing the following, according to the Fitbit website: "Log on to the fitbit.com dashboard. Click the gear icon in the top-right corner of the page and select 'Settings.' Using the navigation tabs at left, find the Sleep Sensitivity setting and choose 'Normal' or 'Sensitive.' Note that you must sync your tracker for the change to take effect."
If getting sufficient sleep means he feels more confident firing a laser at my eyeball, then kudos to him. Ditto to my friends whose attitudes improve just knowing they are walking to the company cafeteria, as opposed to taking the elevator.
As for me, I'll continue my weight lifting/sauna regimen at the health club. I may even increase my number of weekly visits.
The front desk attendant will be overjoyed.