It all started with the gift of a Fitbit my partner received from his children for Christmas. Wearing his device, he began avidly tracking his daily steps and his nightly sleep patterns. I decided to get one too, to help shake off the pounds I added to my frame over the holidays, and to get the incentives offered by my Medicare Advantage plan. I chose an off-brand smartwatch and eagerly awaited its arrival.
Once I figured out how to download the app, get the watch linked and synched, and strapped to my wrist, I was in business. However, I quickly discovered that reaching the recommended 10,000 steps per day is much harder than it seems. I walked, I ran, I jumped up and down, and jogged around the apartment. I checked my progress constantly. I discovered in the grocery store that my steps didn’t count if I held onto a cart, so I walked through the store pushing the cart with one hand, while swinging the other arm with conscious effort. Did anyone notice the crazy lady moving oddly over and over up and down the aisles? I didn’t care.
And it wasn’t just the steps that quickly became an all-consuming obsession. My device tracks my pulse, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, calories burned, and more. With the pressure of my finger on the device, I was measuring my vitals 20 times, at least, per day. And the sleep cycles. Instead of asking each other how we slept as we lazily sipped our morning coffee, we were instead checking and comparing our stats, and our sleep scores. Instead of comparing dreams, we were researching whether the amount of REM sleep our devices reported was the right amount for optimal health.
Like any addiction, it’s when it starts interfering with your job, your relationships, or some other aspect of daily functioning that it’s time to take note. I was running in place really fast to wrap up my daily steps to the point where I had cramps in my calves the next day. I was thinking at night as I rolled over and couldn’t get back to sleep that my score wouldn’t be optimal. I think these devices are helpful as a reminder to move every day and to pay attention to our health. But for now, I am removing mine and just going for a walk outside in the fresh air.
Lee Stevens is a mostly wise elder and joyful writer in Hendersonville, NC