‘I’ve definitely done more steps than that! This bloody thing doesn’t work.’ Sound familiar? Of course it does. I remember the first day with my FitBit. I went to the gym, I walked around University. I had clearly smashed 10,000 steps. 4,500 YOU WHAT? For a moment (okay, a few days) I lost faith in my FitBit but it turns out it might be us all along… I hate to be the one to have to break it to you guys.
A recent study has revealed that how active we really are is often a fair bit different to how active we think we are. The research showed, a little morbidly, that no one gets it right. Thank god I’m not alone! Actually, peoples ideas about their activity levels vary from country to country – it all depends on your surroundings! This is sounding a hell of a lot like one of my postmodernism seminars…
So, what are the differences? Well, turns out our buddies over the pond, the Americans, think they are as active as the Dutch or the English when they are actually much less (this is all on average of course, if it was between myself and Serena Williams I am pretty sure she would probably take it…). This doesn’t mean to say that all the Americans who took the questionnaire were lying and the British were just being humble. Believe me, when I go to the gym I make sure everyone knows about it…. I have a blog dedicated to the fact I lift for god sake. That is not being humble about my activity levels. What it does mean, however, is that our perceptions of our own activity levels are impacted by a number of different factors – culture being the obvious one here! The study’s big boss and lead author, Arie Kapteyn said “it means people in different countries or different age groups can have vastly different interpretations of the same survey questions”. So, for example, statistic show that the Dutch are less reliant on cars than those in the US and therefore do more exercise simply running errands, which they probably would not take into consideration.
So if we look back to my example with my FitBit, hey, I go to the gym 5 times a week. That must mean I have high activity levels. Turns out it is not as simply as that and I ignored the fact that for the rest of the day I sit at a desk exercising my thumbs and little else.
The results were also impacted by age group, which is unsurprising. What would be considered as very active for a 20 year old is different to what you might consider as very active for a 70 year old. Essentially, not only do we have different idea of fitness depending on our culture and environment but also depending on us as an individual and the expectations we hold ourselves to.
So, what was the point of the study? Basically, this study reveals that our reliance on self reported data to judge people’s lifestyles and general levels of health might be way off. It also shows that I might owe my FitBit an apology… Fitness is not just about putting hours into the gym or fitness classes. Leading an active lifestyle does not have to be hard, expensive or time consuming but it can be something we all have. I am not saying that all fitness trackers are completely accurate but I am also not saying that all of us are completely honest with ourselves regarding our levels of fitness. It might be time for us to face the facts, put on our FitBit’s and face the stats…
Hate to be cliched but, FitBit, it’s not you… it really is me.