Apparently, David Sedaris lives near where I grew up in West Sussex. He also shares my love of the fitness tracker; he leads a Fitbit life.
The interwebs is abuzz with the notion that sitting is the new smoking, but I don’t think that standing all day in front of an ‘Ikea hacked‘ standing desk is the answer. It’s far easier to make the decision to incorporate movement into the working day.
The benefits of walking
Walking isn’t just a way to relax and give your eyes a rest from your computer/phone/TV screen. Mild exercise actually improves cognitive performance – it’s no coincidence that you have good ideas on your lunchtime stroll:
Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them. – Ferris Jabr
Despite knowing these irrefutable benefits to my walking breaks, I still struggle with the guilt of not working. If I’m not butt-in-seat, hands-on-keyboard am I being lazy? Well, no. Walking lets your mind wonder, make connections, have ideas, and be creative.
Having my fitness tracker counter-balances my not-working guilt. Because of my lizard brain, I’ve trained myself to feel guilty when I don’t hit 10,000 steps. I’ve been gamified.
There’s no glamour walking in the rain
The Fitbit adverts show beautiful people running in beautiful places. My experience is rather different. Living through dreary Scottish winters means I need the motivation to get outside in the cold, dark drizzle.
A Fitbit advert featuring me would show a pathetic, soaking wet figure trudging through puddles impatiently waiting for the magic 10,000 number to flash up on the device.
Glamorous, certainly not. But without my Fitbit it would be all too easy to remain desk-bound, accumulate back problems, and miss out on the benefits of regular walks.
Sure, you don’t have to be a sports scientist to know that ‘steps’ are a flawed metric (are running strides equal to walking steps?) and that 10,000 is an arbitrary number. There are also many issues surrounding the accuracy of the metrics collected by these fitness trackers.
But who cares.
It’s better to track something and encourage walking than to track nothing. Surrender to the step-count.
I’m off for a walk…