Run Forest! Run!

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Like a significant portion of mobile people in America, I’ve gotten sucked into the step counter craze. Whether you have Fitbit, Jawbone or any other trendy brand, you’re one of millions of us who’ve made it their mission to know exactly how many steps they’ve taken throughout the course of the week.

It should be no surprise to anyone that one of the most morbidly obese countries of the world, home of KFC’s double down, and fried twinkies would give people the opportunity to strike it rich by tapping into the fitness market. After decades of gorging ourselves to death’s doorstep, we decided it was time to start burning calories in an effort to unclog our overloaded arteries.

But how do we know if we’re exercising enough? In most cases, increasing heart rate, sweat beads and heavy breathing is a good indicator. However, our answer to every question since 2007 has been “there’s an app for that.” In comes MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, etc. All of which was followed by wearable technology that allows us to monitor much more than our walks.

As a Fitbit wearer myself, I find a certain level of pressure that comes with owning a wearable fitness tracking device. Gadget or not, I know when I’m active and when I’m not. What the Fitbit has done has been to tap into my insanely competitive side and given me the urge to move just to keep up with the Jones, aka those on my friends’ list. As a result, the tracker’s benefit is more mental than physical. I’m so bent on winning the daily showdowns and the weekly challenges that I pace constantly. I pace when I brush my teeth. I pace around my boss’ office as we discuss my next assignment. I go to the restroom on a different floor. I park my car in the front parking lot, but I walk in through the back door. Every step counts. “I can’t afford to lose my spot at the the top of the list!” I try to explain to my husband. This also means that I don’t want to move when my Fitbit is not on my arm. In fact, I feel trapped in step counter jail when my tracker is not on my person. Why would I put any effort into moving when the spent energy isn’t going to crushing my Fitbit friends’ dreams of getting this week’s trophy?

So how do our devices get us off the couch? They don’t. We aren’t motivated by our bracelets or belt clips. What really gets us going is our race to amass a string of virtual badges with trophy pictures. We aren’t even getting real cold metal trophies! Bragging rights on an iPhone app is all the accomplishment needed. Those little round e-badges keep screaming:”RUN! Eva is catching up, RUN!”. But who cares if the trophies aren’t real? If the extra boost of encouragement helps us shed pounds and lose inches, we’re still winning the most important challenge of all.

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