My Annoying New Friend

You spend money on new electronics, and usually it is something that will make your life easier. In my effort to always try to make life a bit more challenging to myself (because certainly leaking toilets and roofs and broken heat pumps do not present enough challenges), I recently purchased a Fitbit. If you don’t know what this is, think swanked up pedometer. The thing that tracks the number of steps you are walking. In other words, think “the enemy”.
   
I am a benefits consultant. I have the kind of job that usually either has me in front of a computer or on the phone.  Very rarely does it require much activity on my part….usually activity is only is required for occasional meetings with clients or insurance company reps or other benefits vendors….and let’s face it, if meetings are your “activity”…there is a problem!
The last couple if years I have been reading a lot about the impact of the sedentary lifestyle. Interesting at first, until all of a sudden it occurred to me that it was talking about me!  A concern, because I read a lot about the higher risk it puts me in not just for obesity, but things like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, musculoskeletal issues, depression….and even earlier death. Still, I just pondered it for a while. I am the woman who reads a cookbook like a novel and never cooks any of the recipes in it. Because I find it interesting, doesn’t mean it changes my behavior! But I started paying a bit more attention and I realized I can sit still for long periods of time. Hours and hours. I started seeing myself sitting for up to five hours at a time, just looking at the computer screen and rarely moving. Kind of funny for someone with ADHD….but I assure you, quite possible.
It’s important to note that being sedentary and being physically active are not the same thing. I work out several days a week. I started realizing that I could work out every day and still be considered sedentary. I still spend most of my work hours sitting and then have that burst of activity at night. I found a lot of my hours off work can easily be spent sitting, too. You live a sedentary lifestyle if you spend long periods of your day sitting, lying down, or not engaging in activity that kicks your metabolism in gear. It really is that simple.
And my skinny friends…because you are thin or at an adequate Body Mass Index (BMI), it doesn’t mean you are not at risk. My more chunky friends….just because you are obese doesn’t mean you are sedentary, The sedentary lifestyle is not something always evident on the outside. Look at how your hours are spent….that is the best gauge of how sedentary your life really is.
So anyway, this Fitbit. I knew I needed to increase the activity in my days, especially in my work days. That was a goal for 2014. Once again, I am usually not the gung-ho type. I think about things….a lot. The Fitbit was to make me think a bit harder. I actually hoped maybe I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I know! Sometimes I am just a cock-eyed optimist. Or is that a wishful thinker?
 
A month of data is in and the truth is that I am incredibly sedentary during my days. My evenings are OK, but even they can be improved on. Some of the data has been arrived at rather humorously. For example, one day I forgot to turn off the sleep function on my Fitbit (they also can calculate your sleep activity.) The Fitbit calculated my “sleep” until 3 p.m. the day that I worked. Periods of restlessness, a couple of times awake, but generally it calculated me in a pretty restful state of sleep all day long. Yes, I think that is evidence I may need to move more.
 
I am now more conscious of how bad it is, and I think this will gradually change my thinking. Make me more thoughtful about my activity level. It slowly seems to be doing the trick. It is humiliating to think about how bad I must have been before. I know it was worse than now. It’s quite embarrassing how sedentary I can be, but yet that is valuable information to know about yourself. So I will have to change. To stay in the past when I have this knowledge… that would be very sad.


With all that I have read I am encouraged that we don’t have to workout like an Olympian to get our lifestyle out of its sedentary state. Standing up helps. Normal walking. Stretching,. Getting up to put in a load of laundry. Reaching down to pick up a piece of paper. Vacuuming the floor and unloading the dishwasher. All things we need to do…all helpful to increase our movement.

Nothing in my job description requires that I sit still all day. There are many opportunities to increase the activity in my work day. I can work standing up. I can walk around while talking on the phone. I can even get on the treadmill during conference calls that don’t require that I talk much. I can just get up and walk around every hour. And I can fidget. This has all made me mindful that fidgeting can be a healthy activity. I am moving my body!

So, here I go. My annoying friend Fitbit stays with me all day long and keeps me honest about the amount of movement I am getting in my day. My analytical self can already tell you some of the ways it doesn’t calculate things well, but really it does a pretty good job. My goal is that instead of low activity all day with a big spurt at night, there will be more movement throughout. This isn’t about fitness… it’s about stopping the lack of activity in my day. More than my mind needs to be moving. I’m not making sweeping changes overnight, but gradually I am figuring it all out. Gradually I am changing how I live.

How about you? How many steps are you taking in your day? How much time is your body not in motion? Let’s get going! Get up and walk around. Do a few squats or pushups. Have a two minute dance party. It doesn’t have to be anything difficult or monotonous. It can be fun and remind you that you are alive! You don’t need a Fitbit or any of the other fun little devices that calculate your steps for you. Just pay attention. Be your own annoying friend.

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