Friday, 14 July 2017

A craze driving me round the bend, that may not be so crazy

A girls’ school in England has decided to impose a ban on fitbits and mobile phones from next term.

While it’s generally to do with the damaging effect of social media on girls at an impressionable age, it is also more specifically concerned with how it drives anxiety over body image into bad behaviour. Some girls, it seems, have been counting steps and calories in the mornings and, if they have too few of the one or too many of the other, skipping lunch. Now, that’s a tyranny I understand from personal experience so I sympathise with the school authorities.

Not that I miss lunch or anything. I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy. Not, it’s the way the craze has taken over other aspects of my life that gets me worried.

Recently my colleagues have been taking part in a ‘fitbit challenge’. They record their steps, their flights, their anything else that seems to contribute to fitness, daily, with the hope of winning, at the end of a period – you guessed it – a fitbit. So they can keep on doing the same thing, I suppose. Just as well they’re not at a girls’ school in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

I’m not taking part in this challenge. Oh, no. But its mere existence has somehow influenced me, to no small harm to my quality of life.

I need something from upstairs? Why, I have to look for my phone before I go and fetch it. Can’t miss out on getting another set of stairs counted.

Phone fitness tyranny:
got to do more, got to do more
There was a time when I would blissfully drive to the station if I needed a train. Wow, the joy, the comfort. But – that’s 2500 steps. I can’t forfeit that number. Got to walk. I need my 10,000 steps.

I don’t have to go to the office too often, which is just as well. It’s on the fifth floor. If it were on the eighth, I’d take the lift. But five floors? I can manage that. And if I pop out to lunch – I don’t do missed lunches – why, I have to climb five floors again. I couldn’t take it if I had to do that more than three or four times a month.

Recently, by one of those strange series of coincidences that sometimes happen, I’ve had to go down to the Docklands area of London. Way out to the east. It means changing trains at Stratford International station. Ever seen the steps up from the platform? Let me tell you, they’re impressive. And these days I feel obliged to use them to build my count of flights.

Appalling, isn’t it? Gone is all trace of comfort. Of my pleasant life where what mattered was the gentleness of the moment. Now I too am counting all these senseless measures. And like the authorities at the Stroud school, I’m far from convinced that it’s doing me much good.

Well, I wasn’t convinced. Until, that is, I read an article about Big Sur in California. This is a picturesque but isolated part of the state’s coast, more than usually cut off by the fact that storms have left it completely cut off by road. The result? Residents use a mile-and-a-half long path cut for them to get to schools or shops.

And what has been the effect? Why, a noticeable improvement in health. Including, it would seem, reductions in diabetes. Walking, it appears, really is good for you.

A galling conclusion. It make me feel that, for anyone other than adolescent girls at least, getting those steps taken, those flights climbed really is actually quite a good idea. Which means that the agony must continue.

Oh, Lord. Why don’t I nip upstairs for something? But where did I leave my phone?

1 comment:

Awoogamuffin said...

Yeah, an interesting conundrum - is it bad if the behaviour it encourages is good? It's a bit like back when "Pokemon go" was a thing and kids were spending much more time out in parks and woods. Glued to their phones, but at least they were walking and seeing nature through the corner of their eyes.