The Pedometer Contest

Oh, the tyranny of a tiny purple belt attachment.

State of the art pedometer....not.

State of the art pedometer….not.

The health care provider at work was so kind as to give each plan participant a pedometer recently. They also are sponsoring a contest to encourage us to be more active, become more healthy, and thereby cost the plan less to maintain us. I see their point. I personally cost them a bundle last year for my hip and I know a few of my colleagues could use new knees. Replacement parts for aging teachers add up.

So, we have these little purple pedometers to calculate every step we take throughout the day. We write down our daily totals, send them to the office, and see who gets rewarded for taking the most steps.

Here’s the first glitch: the pedometers are, shall we say, not top of the line. They are sooooo not top of the line that everyone in the contest has to use them because using a good pedometer would be unfair. Let’s compare apples to apples, okay?

One contestant has noted that you get about 10 extra steps when you go to the bathroom. This is not a bad thing. She suggested drinking lots of water so that you have to go to the bathroom a lot. That’s a healthy way to let the cheapo pedometer work for you.

Another contestant found that the pedometer wasn’t registering steps at all. She kept attaching it to different body parts to get it to work. I pointed out that putting a pedometer on her wrist was not going to measure how many steps she took. Unless she walks on her hands. Last I checked she had it clipped to her shoe.

She might have been on to something when she had it clipped to her blouse, but jiggling boobs might technically be cheating. However, the pedometer won’t stay straight clipped to a blouse and the gizmo won’t work if it gets turned sideways.
It can also easily get turned sideways when you sit down. A little pudge here, a little pudge there, and next thing you know the pedometer is crooked.

Or it completely falls off.

Pedometers don’t work at all when they are lying on the floor. I would have thought that one’s muffin top would keep the dang thing in place. But when muffin top and tummy pudge meet at the waistband, that pedometer goes flying like a popped zit. Thankfully, this has so far not resulted in any injuries–which would cost the health provider in claims. (Although the most likely victim would be a student, seated at about eye level with a flying pedometer, and they aren’t on our health plan.)

So what’s the protocol for discovering that the pedometer has fallen off? Do you shake it a few times to estimate the steps you’ve missed? Suffer the consequence of an “inaccurate” step count? Or maybe go the bathroom a couple more times to make up for it?

It is actually nice to know how much one walks in the course of the day. The cheapo pedometer says I walk about 5000 steps in the course of the school day. That’s right in line with the bare minimum requirement for being “non-sedentary.” But how far have I walked in 5000 steps? A good pedometer would calculate this for me. In theory my purple pal will too, but I don’t trust it and calculating a stride is a nuisance. One fitness website says that a mile is 2500 steps. Another one says it is 2000 steps. Yet another says it is based on your height, so for me it would be about 2600 steps. On Saturday I walked a mile with my GPS-based walking app and compared it to the pedometer. The pedometer read 3600 steps. It must think I’m Japanese.

There are times I want to press a re-set button on the day, but not while I'm counting steps!

There are times I want to press a re-set button on the day, but not while I’m counting steps!

Another problem I discovered this weekend was the device resetting itself. Gah! I had already racked up about 6000 steps walking outside and trotting around the house doing laundry when I decided to rake leaves out of the flower beds. Raking leaves doesn’t really take you anywhere but it does involve stepping. I was curious to see what it would amount to. When I checked, the blasted gadget had reset to zero. It sat on the kitchen counter for the rest of the day. And all day today.

It’s not like I’m going to win the contest. How can I compete with my colleague who does line dancing on Monday nights? She scored a crazy 18000 steps that day. My big nights out were a singing rehearsal on Tuesday and babysitting grandkids on Thursday. Both were calorie burning and exhausting but did not score me many points. Alas, swaying side to side with a 17 pound baby wailing in your ear does not register clicks on a pedometer.
That said, it is still good to have some silly competitive fun at work and I will dutifully put on my purple taskmaster the minute I get up tomorrow. I won’t want to miss the 10 steps from my bed to the bathroom.

Hmmm…I could add a hundred steps by going downstairs to get my coffee instead of letting my husband bring it to me. Nah….he needs the exercise.

The pedometer doesn't count picture taking, but we are taking steps toward spring at Maywood.

The pedometer doesn’t count picture taking, but we are taking steps toward spring at Maywood.