A 'natural slob' tries a Fitbit (and finds herself a bit annoyed).

I come from a long line of physically-inactive women or, as I would prefer to put it, “bookworms”.

At high school, I spent every sports period in the library, writing stories about small-town girls who ran off with French philosophers (you needed an active imagination in 1970s Toowoomba). My daughter once asked me what sport I’d played at school; I was completely baffled.

“Girls didn’t play sport in my day,” I explained to her. “We were too busy smoking and getting a tan. Exercise was for boys.”

I was wrong, of course. I now know that unless I want to buy a new wardrobe every season, I have to get up off the sofa and move. For a few years I could blame the kids, but that excuse is wearing a bit thin. Now that my younger child is leaving primary school, it’s definitely not “baby weight.”

I’m just a natural slob.

Finally, after putting my back out by rolling over in bed, I was forced to join a gym. In the first week of classes, I pulled all my abdominal muscles doing a “burpee”, a kind of air-borne frog jump. When I shuffled into the doctor the next day, icepack on my stomach, he looked bemused.

“You’ve injured yourself just by raising your arms,” he said. “That’s incredible.”

Fast forward a few years and several costly gym memberships, and I’ve arrived at the Fitbit. For those who’ve been living under a rock, it’s a small black piece of rubber that wraps around your wrist and synchs with your iPhone or computer.

You can program it to do a few things, including tracking your sleep patterns. I don’t need a device to tell me that my nights involve a trip to the bathroom, getting up to let the cat in and dreams about losing the children.

But the best function is the one which records your steps and tells you when you get to a certain number.

Image: iStock.

Back in the early 1960s, a Japanese doctor worked out that the average person walked between 3500 and 5000 steps a day. If you could increase that to 10,000 steps, he reasoned, you could improve your health. And as the Japanese are famous for their longevity (they now buy more adult nappies than baby ones), it clearly works. So I set my Fitbit to 10,000, laced on my trainers, and set out.

The first day, looping around the park, I made it to 8000. The second and third, by parking my car a bit further away; 10,000. Success!

Eventually, however, boredom set it and I found myself resenting the time it took. But I’d paid money for it and I hate wasting cash, so the Fitbit and I have been forced to come to an arrangement. As long as I don’t have to spend hours at the gym, and it allows me a couple of day off a month, I’ll agree to move around.

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Now, whenever I want to buy a few groceries for dinner, I strap on a back-pack and my trainers. Coffee with a friend? I walk there. Taking back my son’s library books – well, that’s about 2000 steps. Recently, stuck in an airport, I paced up and down the terminal, boosting my circulation and my step count. “Every little bit helps” I mutter, taking the stairs at the mall.

Wearing the Fitbit now feels like a marriage rather than dating; we’ve accepted each others faults and learned to live with them. I’ll put up with it living on my wrist and it has come to terms with the fact that I’ll occasionally fall short. It takes a while to form a habit; I think we’ve finally got over the hump and agreed that we’ll stick together.

In the first few weeks, when I was too tired to go for a walk, I sometimes felt like chucking it against a wall. Why was I voluntarily wearing a device, which NAGGED me to exercise, around my wrist? Was I trying to ruin my life? But then, the next day it would tell me I’d reached 10,000 steps and I’d feel absurdly chuffed.


Now I feel like it’s the perfect combination of a trainer and a counsellor; “Well done for trying so hard and now let’s get up and do it again!” If only my old PE teacher had been so understanding …

Watch the ad for Fitbit below. Post continues after video.

Video via Fitbit

If you need to dress up your Fitbit, there’s now plenty of choice. I don’t mind it’s utilitarian looks which, like a Kabbalah red string around the wrist, quietly signals membership of a cult. But if you are going out for a big night and want to wear it, just put it inside the Misfit Swarovski Shine, which adds a touch of sparkly glamour. Designer Tory Burch has also produced a line of metallic bracelets which, according to a friend of mine, are the perfect way of hiding your wrist tattoo from your mother.

If you are really crazy and read Fitbit blogs, you’ll quickly discover that the device has spawned a tribe of obsessives who are keen to test its limits. Any possible activity you could dream of has been done in a FitBit, to see if it activates. Cycling? No. Hangliding? No. And, unless you have developed a sexual position that involves swinging your arms, sex is also no – although my trainer friend does refer to it as “incidental exercise.”

It turns out that walking or running is just right.

Writer, Margot Saville.

Sometimes, if I haven’t walked enough steps, I load up a podcast after dinner and head out for a stroll. And, as I’m a hypochondriac, I find myself listening to lots of medical programs. Just last night I learned that experiments have shown that blood transfusions from a young rat can reverse the effects of aging in older rats. Which means that, now that I’m in the “not a minute to lose” category of cognitive decline, I could be eligible for a state-funded vampire infusion.

And a new Fitbit.

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