Did I Say That? Stepping for supremacy

My family says I’m obsessing, which is nothing new. I’ve been known to succumb to obsessions that would have delighted or frightened, Sigmund Freud and Dr. Phil, not to mention Jerry Springer.

I floss several times a day even though a recent study says flossing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t believe it. You can never floss enough. Just ask your teeth.

I’ve also been known to rewrite a paragraph 30 times until I get it just right, but this paragraph isn’t one of them, so forgive me because I’m in a hurry. I’m on an urgent mission.

What really drives my family nuts is my obsession with China and Russia. It’s not a geopolitical, post-Cold War obsession though. And it has nothing to do with election tampering or one-sided trade agreements or the Chinese buying up Manhattan.

The Chinese and Russians are whupping us in other ways. You see, they’re more physically active and they eat right, whereas our diets generally consist of Big Macs and Dunkin’ Donuts.

In the words of a USA Today headline writer, “The U.S. is one of the world’s laziest countries — and it’s made us fat.” At this rate, we’ll never make America great again.

A study by Stanford University, the largest ever conducted on human activity, tallied the steps of more than 700,000 people worldwide by monitoring their cell phones. You probably didn’t know your cell phone has a sensor called an “accelerometer” that records stepping motions.

China and Russia put America to shame. We came in 30th place and averaged a mere 4,774 steps a day. I like to think that’s because we’re chained to our desks, doing a lot of work, but somehow that doesn’t seem plausible.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature, concluded the Chinese, especially those in Hong Kong, are the most energetic worldwide, averaging 6,880 steps a day. And the Ruskies were near the top with 5,969. But things got decidedly worse in Indonesia, with the population averaging 3,513 steps daily. The global average was 4,961 — almost 200 more than the U.S.

Researchers said America suffers from a serious case of “activity inequality,” which means there’s a huge gap between very active people like say, The Rock who spends his entire day and night in the gym, and people whose only exercise is walking to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. As a result, Americans ranked fourth from the bottom in overall activity inequality.

On the other hand, Sweden which averages 5,863 steps, has a small activity inequality gap and one of the lowest rates of obesity because their general population is active.

Among the worst performers were Mexico, 4,692; Greece, 4,350; India, 4297; Brazil, 4,289; South Africa, 4,105; and Saudi Arabia, 3,807. Why is this important? Consider that an estimated 5.3 million people die each year because they aren’t physically active enough.

So what do we have to do? Instead of the motto “Make America Great,” we have to adopt a new national slogan like the one used by my junior high gym teacher — “Get the lead out!” Although he seldom did. I’m convinced the only time he burned calories was when he walked up and down the gym, yelling at us.

In his memory, I started wearing a fitness tracker to monitor my steps, heart rate and activity level, and I’ve succeeded at hitting the 10,000 goal, even though it requires me to do some pretty strange things, such as strutting in place in front of the living room window. My neighbors probably think I’m the reincarnation of Jack LaLanne, but their ridicule is a small price to pay to outdo the Chinese and Russians.

During my routine, I resemble the color guard of the Ohio State Marching Band, and the dog runs for cover under the bed. OK, I admit it isn’t entirely normal behavior but extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.

Nevertheless, I’m a bit troubled that Stanford is monitoring our activities through cell phones. This could have disturbing consequences. The university is also looking for new ways to leverage smartphones as a research tool. Next, they’ll start watching our spending practices or our sexual activity or our sleeping habits. And what will happen when they discover we text-message more than we walk? That’s one study where we’ll take first place.

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