My partner offered me his old Fitbit when he got his replacement, which the company had shipped for free after he emailed them saying his had worn away on the edges. I said I’d try it on for kicks.
A Fitbit is a wearable fitness tracker you wear every day, like a watch.
It was great at first. I was taking the stairs more often at work, walking outside to make phone calls, messaging back-and-forth with other friends with Fitbits, and even joining in on the occasional Weekend Warrior competition, a mini-marathon you do with your friends to see who can get the most steps in a weekend. This type of behavioral change works for a lot of people, and for some, it’s even helped them lose weight and reach other fitness goals. For me, not so much.
I got my first warning that Fitbit wouldn’t work for me on my second day wearing it, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was walking along when suddenly my wrist began to vibrate violently. I looked down to see the band flashing “10,000” in bright white numbers as diagonal stripes criss-crossed across the tiny screen.
The tiny party on my wrist meant I’d reached the daily 10,000 step goal, the magic number many people with wearable fitness trackers are working toward. While it made me feel great at first, the feeling quickly spiraled out of control.
The 10,000 number isn’t completely random: The American Heart Association backs it as a benchmark for improving health and reducing the risk of heart disease. The workplace health organization Global Corporate Challenge has also conducted studies whose outcomes seem to support the 10,000 step approach. Many participants in one of its recent studies saw significant improvements in weight, blood pressure, waist size, and BMI.
When the vibration stopped, I immediately texted my partner, Chris, to report my progress. “10,000 steps!” I texted him, adding, “W00t. This is fun.”
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