I’ve been vaguely aware of the burgeoning market for fitness trackers, those wearable gizmos that help you record and analyze data about your health and daily activities, everything from what you eat, to how you exercise, to the duration and quality of your sleep. But until today, I had little interest in collecting all that information about my daily life, and certainly not keen on sharing it with anyone else.
So imagine my surprise when one of the first emails I received Tuesday morning was this cheerful invitation from a company called Jiff offering to enroll me in a program that would reward me for taking “daily actions to manage my health.”
The email began:
“We’re Jiff, a digital health technology company, partnering with [your company] to bring you new ways to be healthy and get rewarded through the Healthy Living 2015 program. Jiff Incentives App is a mobile app where you can take daily actions to manage your health and earn points that you can redeem for entries into sweepstakes for incredible prizes, such as a free vacation to a destination of your choice!”
That sounded great! Jiff would provide me with an app that interfaced with any of the most popular fitness trackers, and I’d be eligible to win INCREDIBLE prizes. Actually, as someone who avoids sweepstakes and lotteries (one of my healthy choices), the chance to win INCREDIBLE prizes didn’t have much appeal, but maybe the Jiff Incentives App would be just what I needed to make healthier choices in general. Of course, I suspected that the real motivation for my employer was to reduce how much it had to shell out for my health care. Sure enough, when I looked at the Jiff web site, their pitch was squarely to the company:
“Your company spends too much on healthcare and gets too little for it. Jiff’s enterprise health benefits platform saves employers money by organizing all your point solutions, curating the relevant ones for each employee, and incentivizing each employee to use the solutions that will drive ROI. The first step is to identify the pain points that are driving cost and poor health. You know your population better than anyone, but Jiff can help you identify those changes to your incentive design that will drive the most savings for you and will most improve the health of your population.”
Fair enough, I thought. Helping me and all of my co-workers make healthier choices not only helps us lead healthier lives, it reduces overall health care costs for the company. It occurred to me that I might benefit most from prodding my co-workers to make healthier choices, but that was an uncharitable thought, so I put it out of my head, and began thinking about all the points I could earn by simply logging activities from my exemplary lifestyle.
I would, I felt sure, have an enviable record of health and fitness:
Thursday, 2/12 – Drove to BU for an indoor workout of 3 x [1200, 600]. Had a second cup of caffeinated tea in the late afternoon to be a little more “up” for this hard effort. For the hundredth time wondered why caffeine wasn’t on WADA’s banned substances list. Felt tired anyway, probably because my legs were still dead from the multiple hours of shoveling done over the past few days. Ran the final interval so hard I almost passed out. Thought about the bogus study linking too much exercise with higher mortality and wondered if it was really all that bogus. After the cool-down, headed home to a late meal. So wired from the workout that I couldn’t get to sleep until 1:30 am.
Friday, 2/13 – Ran with a friend in Concord who convinced me that “the trails weren’t that bad.” Ended up bounding through foot-deep snow before dead-ending at the river. Thought about crossing the ice, but ended up heading back and nearly impaling myself when I lost my balance before we were out of the woods.
Saturday 2/14 – Headed out for a long run before the snow started. Ended up running about 10 miles with the temperature dropping and the wind rising. Spent most of the run trying to avoid cars and other runners who for some reason insisted on running four abreast on the Comm Ave Carriage Road, effectively blocking the entire street. Spent a couple of hours afterwards thawing out.
Sunday 2/15 – Stayed inside until the storm abated and then shoveled for two hours. Recalled that shoveling is one of the most dangerous activities as far as heart attacks go. After shoveling, went for a short run out of sheer stubbornness. Once again, managed to avoid being plowed into a snow bank by the DPW trucks that were everywhere. Later, stayed up late writing Monday’s blog post. Research says that sitting for prolonged periods is deadly. I wonder how many years I’ve lost by writing this stuff?
Monday 2/16 – Ran back and forth (and back and forth) along a mile-long stretch of Comm Ave for 50 minutes. So cold.
Tuesday 2/17 – Brought running stuff to work so I could use (indoor) fitness center instead of placing my life in the hands of snow-crazed motorists. Wondered how often people sustain life-threatening injuries after falling off treadmills?
I’m glad I’m self-employed.
Seriously, your post got me thinking about how the meaning of the work fit has drifted. “Fit” used to carry the implication that one was “fit for” something: prepared and able. Malcolm Butler’s specific drills made him fit to make that play in the Superbowl. Over and above any other reason, I run today (with my pitiably low and excruciatingly slow winter snow miles) because it keeps me prepared and able to run when it gets to be 60 degrees and the roads are dry.
What good is it to be “fit” if one is not fit for something?
Yes, that’s exactly right! Fitness means fitness for some purpose. I would argue that the pursuit of fitness as an abstract idea is pretty meaningless, and not very satisfying.
Maybe that’s why when we have “fitness” we want, maybe even need, to test it.