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home : columnists : columnists July 25, 2017

All the news that's fit to sprint

By Dick Wolfsie
Funny Bone

I recently made the biggest gift-giving mistake of my life. I got Mary Ellen a Fitbit for Christmas. My wife has become somewhat of a health nut, which I should clarify, includes eating about six varieties of healthful nuts. She has wanted to keep track of her walking. I am not a walker myself. Truth is, I have walked back several promises I made when we first got married, as well as three 2017 New Year's resolutions. That's about as much exercise as I'm comfortable with.

Wait, I do walk to my office every day (it's not my fault I work from home) and I walk to the pro shop to get my golf cart. Oh, and to the garage to get on my riding lawn mower. Maybe I've never given myself enough credit.

One of the purposes of the Fitbit is to track 10,000 steps in a day, which is what the NASEWA (National Association of Something Else to Worry About) is now recommending. They say that the average person walks only 1,000-3,000 steps; 10,000 steps a day is equivalent to a few miles, something most people won't consciously do. Unconscious exercise sounds a lot less strenuous.

The Fitbit does not come with instructions. The manufacturer assumes you either know how to hook it up, or you can look up the specifics online. Remember, this is not just a pedometer, a simple device that tracks your paces. This puppy monitors your sleep and your food intake, and then rewards you with elaborate twinkling of lights when you have reached that 10,000-step goal.

Mary Ellen and I had a lot of trouble getting the Fitbit and the laptop to sync, so we called Kevin, our tech guy. Kevin is used to dealing with people who sit in front of a computer all day and he feared that helping them set up their Fitbit could lead his clients to begin a physical fitness regimen-leaving less time for them to download viruses and malware, the bread and butter of his repair service.

"I can't find your dongle," said Kevin to my wife as he fumbled though the Fitbit box. "Does your husband have one?" I didn't know what a dongle was, but I'm pretty sure in Yiddish it's a dirty word. I learned that it's a small plug-in that allows electronic devices to communicate with each other. I always called it a thingamajig.

Soon, Kevin got everything to work. Everything.

"Did you get a good night's sleep?" I asked Mary Ellen the next morning.

"I have no idea. Let me check. Well, it says I did, but for some reason I'm exhausted."

I reminded her that the Fitbit vibrated on her wrist as a warning that she hadn't moved for an entire hour. We had no idea how to turn that application off, so I told Mary Ellen that if she didn't want the Fitbit to wake her every hour, she needed her sleep to be more restless. Yeah, I actually said that.

I don't want to own a Fitbit of my own. Instead, I plan to follow my wife around. I'll never reach that 10,000 goal, but it's a step in the right direction.

Dick Wolfsie has written 12 books and has been a television personality for 30 years. His humor column appears weekly in The Times.

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