Relax, hyperactivity is a good thing

Commentary by Dick Wolfsie

In order to reach a daily 10,000-step goal, my wife continually checks her Fitbit. The other day she was shaking her arms wildly back and forth while watching TV.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Very unfair…bad,” she said, which sounded just like a Trump tweet. “It only registers steps when your arms are moving. When I pushed the cart around Costco for an hour, I didn’t get any credit. So now I am trying to fool the Fitbit.”

I was shocked. Mary Ellen is the most honest person in America, having nudged an entire convent of nuns out of first place. Deceiving your Fitbit is about as low as a human being can go.

I am one of those lucky people who can eat what I want, lounge around the house all day and not gain an ounce. New research in the New England Journal of Medicine might explain why.

Scientists recruited 10 overweight and 10 lean people and embedded sensors in their undergarments to record their activity. It wasn’t hard to get people to volunteer. Just the idea of sensors in their underwear sounded like fun. The study found that thin people spend a lot of time puttering around, although not necessarily doing anything constructive. That’s me.

My life has always been a moving experience. I eat standing up. I shake my leg up and down whenever I’m sitting. I check my email 20 times a day, going up and down the basement steps each time. I check the regular mailbox five times a day, even on Sunday.

When I watch TV, I never lounge on the couch. That’s when I look for my glasses, my keys or my iPhone. I get up and check the fridge a dozen times, in case any new deli meats have magically appeared. I am the poster child for hyperactivity. Humming birds gather at my living room window for inspiration.

My mother, my wife and my doctor have always told me that my antsy behavior would result in a shorter and less healthful life. “Calm down,” they would tell me. “You’ll live longer.”

When I was growing up, my mother used say: “If you don’t relax and calm down you won’t live as long.” That advice gave me the jitters.