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home : columnists : columnists June 22, 2017

Ants in the pants

By Dick Wolfsie
Funny Bone

I gave my wife a Fitbit this past Christmas. In her attempt to reach that 10,000-step goal, she is continually checking the wristband and monitoring her progress. The other day I walked into the living room and she was shaking her arms wildly back and forth while watching TV. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Very unfair...bad," she said, which sounded just like a Trump tweet. "It only registers steps when your arms are moving. When I pushed the cart around Costco for an hour, I didn't get any credit for my effort. So now I am trying to fool the Fitbit."

I was shocked by this. Mary Ellen is the most honest person in America, having nudged an entire convent of nuns out of first place. Trying to put something over on your Fitbit is about as low as a human being can go.

Now, I am one of those lucky people who can pretty much eat what I want, lounge around the house all day and not gain an ounce. How could that be? Well, some new research in the New England Journal of Medicine may explain it.

Scientists recruited 10 overweight and 10 lean people to wear special underwear incorporating technology originally developed to monitor gyrations in jet control panels. Sensors were embedded in the subjects' undergarments that recorded their activity 24 hours a day for a month. Apparently it wasn't hard to get people to volunteer for this. The very idea of having jet controls in their underwear was one of the attractions.

This apparatus is called a "movement monitor," which intrigued members of AARP until they found out what it was really measuring. The study found that people who are thin spend a lot of time puttering around. Apparently, we can be divided into two groups: those who love to sit and those who are constantly moving, although not necessarily doing anything constructive or aerobic-just, well...puttering around. That's me.

My life has always been a moving experience. I eat standing up; I shake my leg up and down while waiting for appointments or having a conversation with my wife; I check my e-mail 20 times a day, going up and down the basement steps each time. I check the regular mailbox five times a day, even on Sunday.

When I watch TV, I never lounge on the couch. I use that time to look for my glasses, my keys, or my iPhone. Also, during most shows, I get up and check the fridge about a dozen times, just in case any new deli meats have magically appeared. I am the poster child for hyperactivity. In the summer, hummingbirds gather at my living room window for inspiration.

When I was growing up, my mother used say: "If you don't relax and calm down you won't live as long."

That advice gave me the jitters.

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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