A couple of months ago my wife Sue noticed that her phone had a built-in app which kept track of every step she took while she was carrying it. She remembered hearing about the Ten Thousand Step exercise plan, first popularized by Japanese pedometers in the 1960s under the name “manpo-kei,” which means “Get off your butt pokey old man.” Then she heard Dr. Michael Roizen, the Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic say, “If everyone did just 10,000 steps a day you could probably decrease the healthcare budget by $500 billion a year.” Although she wasn’t sure what we’d do with our $500 billion Sue started diligently walking around the neighborhood, and to the grocery store and her yoga class, in order to try to fill her daily quota.
This worked OK at first when she was highly motivated. But as time went on it became more difficult to get enough steps every day. Her schedule interfered or the weather might be crappy so she couldn’t go outside to get her evening walk in. Then one day she happened to be at home all day carrying her phone with her because she was expecting a couple of important calls. By the end of the day when she checked her step app she was surprised to see that she had well over 10,000 steps. What’s more she had also climbed 30 flights of stairs! She had gotten credit for more exercise just going about her day than she usually tracked with her intentional hikes.
A few days later I decided to scientifically observe how she had accomplished this exercise paradigm without even trying. I did this by putting my phone in my pocket and following her around the house. After Sue made tea she began preparing her breakfast by putting a pan of pine nuts into the oven to toast. Then she took off upstairs. “Where are you going?” I asked.
“I need to put a load of laundry in.” She walked around upstairs in each of the bedrooms and bathrooms gathering fallen clothes. Then she ran up to the attic guest room. “I think there were some dirty towels up here,” she said. She took the load down to the basement to put in the washer. But before she could get started the buzzer started going off on the stove.
“Oh crap,” she said, running back up to the kitchen. “One minute too long and those nuts are going to burn.” She managed to rescue them just in time but then we heard what sounded like a fire alarm going off upstairs. We ran up to see what it was. Apparently our son had forgotten to turn off the last call alarm that gets triggered on his fire truck alarm clock five minutes before he’s due at work. Sue turned that off then went back down to the basement to start up the clothes washer. But before she could finish sorting the whites from the colors the house phone rang upstairs. “It’s probably just a robocall,” I said. But she ran up to answer it anyway because her 90-year-old aunt sometimes calls in the mornings and can no longer hear the phone ringing if Sue tries to call her back.
Unfortunately she got to the phone a few seconds too late, but then we heard the rumbling sound of the garbage trucks coming down the street. We suddenly realized that we’d forgotten to put out the trash the previous night so we quickly ran out to the garage, where we keep it, and hauled it out to the curb, then ran back inside to gather up all the recycling and took a couple of loads of that out, too.
Sue went back inside to finish making her breakfast, some sort of slimy thick blender concoction of yeasts, collagen, unpronounceable powders, fermenting vegetables and greens, but wanted more kale, so headed out to the garden in the front yard to pick some. While she was there she decided the plants needed mulch so she headed back behind the garage to the mulch pile to gather up a wheelbarrow full and then back out front to lay it down, but while she was doing that the phone rang again so she ran back inside to answer it. This time it was our daughter asking if she’d left an important textbook up on our third floor when she’d stayed over earlier in the week. Sue headed up to look.
The book wasn’t there but she did find the foot pedal of her sewing machine that had been missing for months. She had just about given up hope of ever finding this piece and had stuck the machine on a shelf in a dismal corner of the basement which is where she next headed, anxious to reunite it with its missing pedal so she could complete a sewing project that had been caught in limbo. Once in the basement she remembered she still hadn’t finished sorting the laundry but almost as soon as she began this task the doorbell rang. She ran back upstairs to answer it and found it was the Goodwill driver coming for a scheduled pick-up. Some of the bags of old clothes and things were in the basement and others were still upstairs so, with me huffing and puffing a few steps behind, we finally managed to give them all away.
At this point I decided it was time to catch my breath and take a break from following Sue to have my breakfast. It was only 9 a.m. and when I checked my phone app I found we had already covered over 5000 steps and 20 flights of stairs. If anyone really wants to get in shape I welcome you to come to my house and follow my wife around for a few days. As for me, I think I’ll stick to my regular routine at the gym. It’s a much easier workout.