Exercise never makes it onto my list of things to do.
I never have to write down “play video game.” When I am obsessed with a game, I play instead of checking things off my ‘to do list”
It began with a portable game of PacMan followed by a used Atari and games at a yard sale, which mandated breaking our “No TV” rule just so I could play.
For weeks PacMan and Frogger consumed my time as I worked my way through the mazes.
Exercise never captures my attention like that – not even after reading how a half hour of walking each day improves your mood, decreases the odds of developing various physical disorders, improves back strength and overall health.
Sounds good, but really – a half hour a day!? I always find something else to do.
Then I got a smart phone. It obeys voice commands, responds to the wave of my hand, tracks eye movements so I don’t even have to lift a finger to scroll to the next page, takes pictures and provides Internet access. It saves me so much time and effort that the makers included an app called “Walking Mate.”
I ignored it until the day I had nothing to do but open apps to see what they did.
The Walking Mate wanted health-related information and then it told me my goal was 10,000 steps per day.
I decided 5,000 would do just fine until my husband and I took a walking tour. I chalked up 10,718 steps in four hours and the screen declared, “You have reached your steps goal.” It even gave me a gold star.
OK, so I could do 10,000 steps. But four hours of walking every day?
No, thank you.
Yet, when I remembered to carry the phone over the next few days I did check my steps and usually recorded about 2,000 steps.
But ever the optimist, the first of September I decided to try to achieve 10,000 steps. I took a walk around the block and consciously moved around the house doing chores. Late in the day my counter registered 9,800 steps. I decided to walk around the dining room for a couple of minutes and earn a gold star for my efforts. A couple of minutes later, my phone startled me with a short trumpet call.
I looked at it.
I had completed 10,000 steps and my phone had noticed.
I had done it.
I loved that second of auditory recognition. Liked it so much that I began stepping up my walking game, hoping to hear the trumpet play “You did good today.” I began grabbing the phone as soon as I awoke and checking the step counter throughout the day.
A busy morning of chores before work could easily net me up to 2,000 steps.
The day my daughter and her children visited we went to yard sales, I took the grandchildren to play, fixed meals, grabbed breakables out of their path, cleaned the house, saw them off in the early evening, collapsed on the couch and checked the step counter.
It was 7 p.m. and my step counter said I had 9,312 steps – without even trying.
I commented on Facebook, “Having young children around is very healthy for old people for many reasons. I only need 700 steps to go to make 10,000.”
I began counting steps. In September I hit the goal about half the days. I averaged 7,498 steps per day. (My phone figured out the average for me.)
I sat down and calculated that if I would just try to take 600 steps per hour, I could achieve 10,000 steps a day. Of course that would also include hauling me off the couch in the evening to walk up and down the hall during commercial breaks.
Nothing new about either idea. I have promised myself for years I would do both.
But this month as I salivated at the thought of hearing the trumpet play when I reached 10,000 steps, I consciously grabbed the cell phone, walked up and down the halls taking care of clothes, straightening the kitchen or reading a book before collapsing on the couch.
A couple of times I enjoyed the triumph of getting my gold star by 6 or 7 p.m. I immediately flopped on the couch for the rest of the day.
I have become obsessed with my newest electronic game: Walking Mate.
This time I am the Pac-lady running around in circles, gobbling up ghosties of exercise (I only burn 500 calories a day) and smiling triumphantly when I hear the tootle announcing “goal achieved.”
I do not celebrate the goal of improving my physical health. I just want my phone to give me a gold star for completing 10,000 steps – even if I it means I have to run the furniture maze to get it.
(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and Other Columns from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org)