Nike+ FuelBand: real stats or just marketing?

The Nike+ FuelBand is a high-priced, high-tech toy you wear on your wrist to collect data about energy, or “fuel,” that you burn throughout the day. It’s about output, pure and simple — not what you’re eating or how you’re expending energy. While FuelBand data may be imperfect, the concept fits perfectly with the company’s “Just Do It” mantra.

You wear the FuelBand on your wrist.  It has a unisex, sporty look that works with casual attire — although I’ll admit, it’s not the best fashion combination with the bracelets I always wear on my other wrist.  The FuelBand’s clasp is a USB plug, which is how you charge its battery, and also how you sync it to your computer.  If you have an iPhone, you can  sync wirelessly so you are always within reach of your FuelBand data.

One hundred white and twenty red, yellow and green LEDs communicate your progress throughout the day. You press a button on the band to toggle through its settings: Fuel, Calories, Steps, Time. Time is time of day, so the FuelBand replaces your need for a watch. Steps — that’s obvious. Calories are an approximate measure of calories burned through physical activity.

NikeFuel is a proprietary calculation based on Nike’s “sport-tested accelerometer,” whose algorithms translate your movement into “fuel points.” You set your own goal — 2000 for an “average day,” 3000+ for days with greater levels of activity.

In my first three weeks of wearing the band, I’ve found the NikeFuel calculations associated with different activities to be rather misleading. Here’s a sample from my own experience (“fps” = “fuel points”):

  • Ride stationary bike (at target heart rate) 30 min: 145 fps
  • Walk from bedroom to kitchen, feed dog, make coffee, eat fried egg and homemade doughnut: 242 fps
  • Fold 3 baskets laundry 45 min: 400 fps
  • Make and serve dinner 1 hr: 750 fps
  • Walk dog 1 hr: 800 fp
  • Play doubles tennis 2 hrs: 1800 fps
  • Play singles tennis 1.75 hr: 2800 fps
  • Hike 1 hr 45 min at brisk pace: 3000 fps
  • Sex: my husband wanted to collect data here, but sorry, this is a G-rated blog . . .

The band awards more points for moving forward through space than it does for things like riding a stationary bike. If I were to live according to my FuelBand’s data, though, I would spend more time folding laundry, making dinner and eating doughnuts than I do at present.

While NikeFuel statistics may be inexact or even distorted, the Nike+ FuelBand supplies enough data to motivate its wearer to get going. In other words, to “Just Do It.”

The Nike+ FuelBand uses the classic carrot-and-stick approach. Its colored LEDs light up when you reach your fuel goal. You also receive notifications in the accompanying iPhone and computer apps, where a little guy dances around and congratulates you on achieving various milestones. Your virtual awards are stored on a “trophy shelf” in the software.

A competitor of the Nike+ FuelBand is the Fitbit, which clips onto your clothing and tracks your calories and steps — plus your “sleep efficiency,” whatever that means. Additionally, you can go online and log in calories consumed, thus obtaining a complete picture of your inputs and outputs.

I haven’t tried the Fitbit, but it’s clear that the accountability and motivation offered by these devices are primary reasons to use either one of them. There have been days when I haven’t felt up to exercising, and yet I’ve still made myself get out and move — the FuelBand offers me a visual reminder that I need to stop sitting around.

Personally, I’m glad the Nike+ FuelBand lacks Fitbit’s option to log calories consumed, because that would depress me when I filled it out, as well as a nag my conscience when I chose not to log my calories.  It’s enough for me to get moving, and that’s what the FuelBand urges me to do.

That’s why I applaud Nike’s marketing brilliance in creating the ideal “Just Do It” product — in the FuelBand, you wear something daily that reminds you to exercise.  And what company are you likely to consider when you need more clothes or shoes to help you meet your fitness goals?

How do YOU motivate yourself to get out and get moving?  Let me know in the comments!




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