My Name Is Linda and I'm a Walkaholic

Taking the fitness tracker phenomenon in stride

by Linda Yellin
Photograph: Zohar Lazar

Four weeks ago, I was at a cocktail party when an excited guest announced, “I hit two miles!” She had just returned from a trip to the hors d’oeuvres table, but that definitely wasn’t two miles away. Then I realized she was referring to her fitness tracker.

Lately, everywhere you look, people are running around with these gizmos on their wrists, the Big Brothers of good health. Along with a smartphone and an accompanying app, these trackers can report how many calories you’ve burned and the distance you’ve traveled. Still curious about yourself? You can also learn the number of stairs you’ve climbed and steps you’ve taken, metrics ithad never occurred to me to wonder about.

Not one to resist peer pressure, however, I popped $100 for a Fitbit Flex (fitbit.com). I chose that brand on the basis of intense research: asking my friend Sari which tracker she used.

The Fitbit website offered instructions on setting up my new tracker. I entered my height and gender and certain information I considered none of its business: birth date and weight. Then I established goals. The American Heart Association recommends we all walk 10,000 steps a day—about five miles—and so does Fitbit. I decided 6,000 steps was a good, underachieving place to start.

I changed my tune when, on day one, I hit 6,000 steps and tiny LED lights flashed on my wristband. Cocky now, I went back to my phone and upped my goal to 8,000 steps.

OK. So I got a little obsessed. I’m a sucker for positive reinforcement. At Bloomingdale’s on day five, I decided to check my progress. My target number was just 275 steps away! I walked around the dress departmentwatching my smartphone register each step I took. I hate to tell you how much pleasure this gave me.

Now I always wear my tracker, not because I’ve grown to love fitness but because I like being trendy and self-absorbed. Last night I was leaving a restaurant when Fitbit emailed to congratulate me on walking more than 10,000 steps. Who wouldn’t love a gadget that turns your every footstep into an accomplishment? 

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First published in the July/August 2014 issue

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