Stop calling them fitness trackers

April 3, 2014

I’ve held my tongue for too long. I must speak.

I implore you: stop calling them fitness trackers.

It’s such a 21st century upper middle class thing to do, to strap a $100 device on your wrist and call it a “fitness tracker.” Subscribers of the Quantified Self mindset—”self knowledge through numbers”—jump on things like this. Measure it, improve it. Measure your steps, take more steps. Be fitter.

Except, what is fitness? Are you a casual CrossFitter who defines fitness as “broad, general, and inclusive”? A powerlifter obsessed with maximal strength? More likely,  you’re an average American who defines fitness as “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” You follow the blanket recommendations of government agencies—you know the ones: 20-30 minutes of aerobic activity 2-3 times a week, or something. You might not follow them, even; but you believe them. When you do go to the gym, you’ll hit the bench press and bicep curl machine. Or instead, you go to a yoga class every other morning, and heel-strike your knees to death on a treadmill afterwards. Or you do nothing at all, and dismiss anyone interested in “fitness” as a “jock.”

No matter what the case, no matter how you ultimately define fitness and its role in life, you have no business calling your Nike+ Fuelband, your Fitbit, your whatever The Wirecutter currently recommends, a fitness tracker. Because walking is not exercise. It is locomotion.

You’re a human being, a living, breathing, moving sack of flesh, bone, and meat, evolved over the course of hundreds of thousands of years to  walk. Your ability to walk 10,000 steps a day does not define fitness, it defines your ability to achieve evolutionary status quo.

Besides, if you walk like a duck, feet pointed out, arches collapsed, or “supported” by the equivalent of two inches of bed mattress, adding more steps to your day does more damage than good.

Your haste to quantify yourself with gadgets and misguided assumptions is a haste to self-destruction, to early genetic expenditure. It’s the conscious choice to achieve less than your potential. In the end, you’re  not just simply a living, breathing, moving sack of flesh, bone, and meat. You have evolved over the course of hundreds of thousands of years to think, to be introspective, to problem solve and to learn. You owe it to yourself to define your health and fitness by more than an uneducated acceptance of status quo.

Perhaps what I speak of is merely semantics. But semantics, to me, defines mindset, and mindset defines unconscious choices and decisions.

You, as a human blessed with the gift of life, a life of relative luxury compared to everyone who’s ever lived before you, owe it to yourself to be the best possible version of yourself.

Some of you might read this and think, “Well okay, Mr. High Horse, so what  should we be doing?” That’s not for me to decide. In the end, your decision to set standards and goals for yourself is exactly that: your decision. If you ask me, pick up a book and learn to squat. Learn a movement practice of some kind, learn to do it safely and well, and move forward from there.

Never stop moving forward—as long as you do more than just walking.