Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown on his Fitbit: ‘I only have 1,332 steps’

Gov. Jerry Brown’s rejection of material possessions is one of the many literary tropes employed by writers to pad their lists of idiosyncrasies in profiles about him.

In recent months, however, one possession has provided the Democratic governor with an abundant run of public fascination: his Fitbit, a watch-like device that tracks his physical activity and even monitors sleep patterns. Last month in Washington, he checked the Fitbit regularly, stopping occasionally to share his progress.

“I only have 1,332 steps,” Brown, who turned 79 on April 7, said just after 10:30 a.m. during a speech Wednesday.

“It tells you when you (should) go to bed, when you should rest, when you should get up and walk around, take 250 steps,” he explained. “So, I am enjoying it.”

Brown, who aims to walk 10,000 steps a day, or about 5 miles, recently urged the Sacramento audience of mostly middle-aged government officials to go buy one of their own. He said he got his as a Christmas present from his wife. The two also received a pair of red bicycles, which the governor linked to his road repair package by explaining the need for more dedicated bike lanes.

“You got to get your exercise,” he said.

Fitness has been a recurring theme for Brown over his time in office, particularly in recent years. While campaigning in 2010, he boasted about throwing on track pants for evening runs around Lake Merritt in Oakland. In 2012, after Gov. Chris Christie dismissed Brown as an “old retread,” Brown responded that there was nothing wrong with that.

“I hereby challenge Gov. Christie to a 3-mile race, a pushup contest and a chin-up contest,” he said. “Whatever he wants to bet, I have no doubt of the outcome.”

Brown’s office announced early this year that he would undergo further treatment for prostate cancer, with his doctor calling the prognosis “excellent.” Brown’s been spotted at a gym a few blocks from the Capitol, and said he and Anne Gust Brown have been getting into cycling.

Last week, he recalled a newspaper story describing peddling on a bike for four-minute intervals of varying intensity as among the most effective workouts. “It changes the cellular health,” Brown said.

“I didn’t mean to give you a health lecture,” he said to laughter ... “I know you young ones don’t give a damn, but I’ll tell you when you’re my age, it’s damned important how good your cells are functioning.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago