N.C. ó If youíre anything like me, youíve awakened this
morning to discover a belly shaped into a half-globe by a
monthís worth of eggnog and gravy, seized by an annual
pledge to walk, pedal, jog, swim and pogo-stick back into trim
youíre fortunate, your loved ones have provided the tools to
carry out this January promise: gadgets that track every step,
measure every mile and calculate each calorie treadmilled off
probably even got some kind of a notebook to make each dayís
progress, charting inches and pounds like a prisoner counting
out a life sentence with hash marks on a cell wall.
a free piece of resolution-keeping advice: Stop.
University study, soon to be published in the Journal of
Consumer Research, suggests that all this achievement tallying
is folly, even counterproductive. The more you jot down your
gains and losses, mark days as triumphs or duds, the more the
exercise turns to drudgery, and the more you avoid it.
has these pernicious effects," said Jordan Etkin,
assistant professor of marketing in the Fuqua School of
Business. "Enjoyable activities can become almost like a
job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be
Christmas Day, the digital business journal Quartz reported
that Fitbit topped the list of free apps downloaded for Apple
devices ó a sign of the fitness trackerís dominance. In
the last quarter of 2014, the cursed electronic nagger sold
5.2 million units. Millions more since then have strapped on
these little schoolmarms, obsessing over personal metrics.
Etkinís work makes me less likely to join these hordes. She
conducted six experiments that measure productivity and
enjoyment when mixed with record-keeping.
one of them:
students spent 10 minutes coloring simple shapes. One group
got progress reports while they worked, and they finished the
most shapes. But they reported enjoying it less, and their
coloring looked more drab, than those who worked without a
constant update on their headway.
students wrote down their thoughts while walking, and almost
all of them wore a pedometer. One group was instructed to
check the pedometer as often as possible, and the other group
had the display taped shut. Who walked more? The
mileage-watchers. Who liked it more? The blissfully ignorant.
measurement can increase how much people do while they are
tracking their behavior," Etkin said, "it can
negatively affect how much they do in the future."
this seems moot to me. Most exercise for fitnessí sake is
tedious whether you record it or not. Thatís why gyms have
TV sets mounted on the wall. Thatís why runners wear
headphones. In the pre-parenthood days when I ran regularly,
my biggest motivator was adding another mile to my
longest-ever total. Today I reach three miles. Four miles. Six
actually found inspiration in logging statistics. That said, I
donít really run anymore. And with research in hand, Iím
making plans to attack the gravy belly with renewed vigor,
writing down none of my breakthroughs, recording no evidence
of the hard work. Itíll all get done, though. Really Ö