Friday, October 11, 2013

Oh, to be Amish...

I freaked DS1 out the other day. I caught him licking his plate out of the corner of my eye. I scolded him for it, all the while looking at his brother across the table. He said, in desperate, astonished voice, "How did you know?! You were looking the other way!!"

Part of me thought this would be a good time to educate him on the science of peripheral vision, how we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that it is NOT ok to engage in such savagery just because you don't think I can see you, etc. What a fine teaching moment this could be!

Then I thought better of it and responded thus: "I have super powers."

Oh, to have had a camera trained on my firstborn at that moment... the look of wonder, awe and new-found respect for his mother!

In truth, I'd be hard pressed to explain the science of anything. I'm really not a science-y person. I'm humanities and liberal arts all the way. Would you like fries with that? Tall, grande or venti?

However, today I am going to try. We are going to discuss NEAT--Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

NEAT is the energy you spend throughout the day on everything BUT sleeping, eating, sitting around or what you think of as 'exercise.' I'm talking about doing the laundry, cooking, walking around your office, breaking up fights between your small people, running for a train, grocery shopping, fidgeting, you name it. That's NEAT. And as it turns out, NEAT is very important for your overall health. A high NEAT really raises your metabolic rate. Sitting for long periods of time is not good for you. You can do all the Physique 57 and Rachel Cosgrove workouts in the world, but if you sit on your bum for the rest of the day, you're not going to be as fit and healthy as you think you are.

This is one of the psychological downsides of hard exercise. People think, 'Man, I just killed that workout! I'm Zena Warrior Princess (or HeMan, as the case may be.) I am now officially an Amazon, and can 'reward' myself by sitting on the couch for the rest of the day!'

EEEHHHH!  Wrong. Your overall movement throughout the day is crucial. Not to mention the fact that if you sit for hours after a killer workout, you will be massively stiff and sore.

This news might be a major downer for those of you who sit at a desk all day, but fear not, faithful readers! Do I have a gadget for YOU!

Meet my Fitbit:
Isn't it cute?

Fitbit is a fitness tracker... it's kind of a glorified pedometer. I've been wearing a Fitbit for nearly three years. This is actually my third Fitbit. The other two fell apart, but I'm happy to say that they have changed the design and the newer models are more durable. And the Fitbit people replaced my first one for free and sold me the third one for 50% off, so I harbor no ill will. Clearly, since I'm giving them a huge plug on my soon-to-be-famous blog.

This is the One model, which is very tiny.
 Here it is compared to my thigh-bouncing quarter. Beside it is the clip you use to attach it to your clothes. I usually clip it to my waistband, like so:

Some women clip it to a bra, but I'm not going to show you a picture of that. This is a family blog. I used to clip it to mine, but I kept wanting to check my step count throughout the day, and it isn't really socially acceptable to keep reaching into your shirt, you know?

In addition to the One, they have models you can wear on your wrist including a fancy new one that sings and dances for you in addition to counting steps (kidding.) I've also heard good things about the Zip, which is bigger than the One, but also cheaper.

The Fitbit syncs to your computer and gives you graphs and charts of your activity. It not only tracks steps but also stairs, 'active' minutes, sleep quality (I never use that) and a host of other things. You can input your food intake and compare it to calories burned... the possibilities are endless!

One of the nice things about being a stay-at-home-mom (from a fitness perspective) is that I naturally have a very high NEAT. Especially since I'm a boy mom. Boys are like puppies--you have to run them everyday. I wonder if I'd clock fewer steps if I were a girl mom? Any girl moms (or dads) want to weigh in on this?

Experts (whoever they may be) recommend 10,000 steps per day. Even keeping up with my little puppies, it can sometimes be hard to get in 10k a day. I have noticed I become less efficient in my chores to eek out a few more steps when I need them. By that I mean I could carry seventeen things upstairs from the basement (remember, I have super powers), but breaking up the load into several trips gets me way more steps.

Other people who get lots of steps are the Amish. A study showed Amish men get an average of 18k steps a day (!), and Amish women, 14k. That's a lot of steps, people. (Note: this is traditional Amish communities, not the ones who work in tourist shops. They're as bad off as the rest of us.) More amazingly, the Old Order Amish clocked these averages during a less busy season of the year, not harvest time, and only on Sundays did their averages dip significantly--down to 10k. (I know you're wondering how they squared using technological devices like pedometers with their consciences... turns out, if they're borrowed, it's ok. You have to read the fine print.) These Amish have very low rates of obesity, which is nice for them, since they don't have Netflix.

If the Fitbit is a little too pricey or too techie for you, a regular pedometer could work, but it's not as fun as a Fitbit. I've heard good things about the Omron brand. In fact, I bought one for my dad for Father's Day. I didn't buy him a Fitbit because he's a little Amishy when it comes to technology, not because I'm cheap. (He is my dad, after all.) A couple of weeks after he received it, he called me at 9am to tell me he had already walked the length of the Gobi desert.

Which leads me to the one downside of the Fitbit. It can be a little addictive. I want you all to know that even if you get all the way downtown and walk around all day, only to realize that you forgot to put it back on after you got out of the shower that morning, the unrecorded steps still count. Though that scenario is most head-wrecking and I feel for you. Really, I do.

Lastly, I just want to say to any Amish people who might be reading my blog on a borrowed computer, you are most welcome to come over and I'll lend you some of my stuff. Just borrow a phone and call me, ok?


  1. I have a girl and boy, and get the most steps when I'm alone. ;) Actually, I often tell my DH that he has to make sure he walks ME because I hate being cooped up. Love my Fitbit too!

  2. Yes, the FB is so fun. And I love all the charts and graphs on the website. Nerdy. I know.

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