Nike+ FuelBand Review - How Does it Work?

Marianne Plunkert's picture

When my son called and began raving about his newest high-tech toy, the Nike+ FuelBand, I was excited for him.  The demands of his job had caused him to neglect the needs of his body, and the result was a substantial and unhealthy weight gain.  He was now beginning to watch his diet and was trying to fit in more exercise.  According to him, the FuelBand was a great motivational tool.

I was less excited when he began encouraging me to buy one, explaining that we could then view each others’ activity levels and compete with each other on the level playing field of NikeFuel Points. For one thing, I have never felt the need or the desire to own the latest high-tech gadget on the market.  I was among the last of my friends and family to buy a cell phone, and I have yet to purchase a smart phone.  Secondly, I use a heart rate monitor I received as a gift to track my heart rate and caloric expenditure when exercising, and I didn’t see how the Nike+ FuelBand would provide me with anything more.  In fact, my son informed me that the FuelBand doesn’t even measure heart rate.  Still, I responded with the age-old answer, “We’ll see.”  I reasoned that even if it didn’t add any fitness benefit to my life, it was a means to ensure regular communication with this busy son, so I promised to check it out.

What Is the Nike+ FuelBand?

The Nike+ FuelBand is basically a wristband accelerometer that measures your movements--and the intensity of them—throughout the day and translates them into NikeFuel.  Unlike caloric expenditure, NikeFuel is independent of an individual’s physical characteristics, and thus allows women and men, old and young, to compete against each other on an equal basis, regardless of their choice of activity.

The device also tracks the number of steps you take and the number of calories you burn during your active periods.  You can access each of these pieces of data, as well as the current time of day, with the press of a button on the wristband. 

Above all, though, the Nike+ FuelBand is a movement motivator.  You choose your personal NikeFuel goal for the day, and when you begin your day, a red LED light is displayed at one end of the FuelBand and a flashing green light at the other end.  As you earn NikeFuel, more red lights appear, followed by yellow and then green lights.  When you reach your goal, the word “Fuel” changes to a celebratory “Goal.”  If you make your goal on multiple consecutive days, a cartoon character does a victory dance on your screen in honor of your “streak.” 

Nike has also established time and fuel milestones, and you receive a virtual trophy whenever you complete one.  Beat your personal goal by earning 50% more NikeFuel points, and you will be awarded a Water Trophy for soaking your goal; shatter your goal by 100%, and the Ice Trophy will appear on your virtual trophy shelf.  Work even harder to receive the coveted Fire Trophy.

How Does the Nike+ FuelBand Work?

Before you can begin using your FuelBand, you must install Nike+ Connect software on your computer.  This allows you to customize your settings by entering some personal data, such as your weight, height, gender, and date of birth, and establish a NikeFuel goal for yourself.  You can change this goal daily to accommodate varying circumstances if you wish. 

The software also enables you to sync your FuelBand data to Nike+, using your computer.  You can either plug the band directly into your computer’s USB port or use the USB cable that comes with the FuelBand.

If, unlike me, you are the proud owner of a smart phone, you will probably want to download the free Nike+ FuelBand mobile app, which allows you to change your goal, track your progress and sync your FuelBand activity data wirelessly using your mobile phone.

In either case, Nike+ uses the data uploaded from your FuelBand to construct a number of neat charts that display your activity levels during the day and enable you to view your progress over the past day, month, or year. 

 You can also see how you stack up against others in your same age and gender group as well as the entire community of Nike+ users.

“Friending” another user allows you to view his or her data and accomplishments.  For example, I can check to see if my son has hit his daily goal and if he has reached any more milestones and/or earned any more trophies.  I can nag him if he needs to be more active and praise him for his achievements.

My Personal Experience Using the Nike+ FuelBand

I bought my Nike+ FuelBand primarily to stay more connected with my son, but I’ve quickly become sold on it for its functionality.  Today is my 5th day wearing it, and I have to admit, I’ve doubled my activity level every day, and I tripled it on one of the days.  No way will I let my son see that I’ve failed to achieve what I set out to do for the day. 

If the end of the day is drawing nigh and I’m not close to my NikeFuel goal, I will take another walk around the neighborhood, dance through the commercials on TV, and/or shadow box during the evening news.  Which brings me to an aspect of the Nike+ FuelBand that I absolutely love:  I can earn NikeFuel doing almost anything—even emptying the dishwasher, dusting, and folding clothes.  Sitting in front of my computer—not so much.

And the circle of Nike+ friends who can view how I’m doing is soon to be enlarged.  My son has been so happy with his that he bought one for my daughter-in-law for her birthday; a couple of neighbors that I met while walking to earn more NikeFuel the other day became interested in it when I showed them how it worked and they each plan to get one; and one of the ladies in my bridge group, who I judge to be in her late 70s or early 80s, took down the information so that she could purchase one, too.

But even if I were the only one keeping track of my accomplishments—or lack thereof—I would find the Nike+ FuelBand a motivational tool.  I never would have thought it of myself, but I was driven to ensure that I made my goal on Day 3 in order to see the dance that the cartoon character would perform in honor of my 3-day streak, as silly as that may seem.

In addition, I find that my FuelBand counts my steps more accurately than any pedometer I’ve owned--although  I’m not sure how this works since I was never required to enter the length of my stride.  Still, it has been accurate within 1%.  And after walking 1.2 miles, the caloric expenditure displayed on my Nike+ FuelBand was within 7 calories of that indicated on my heart rate monitor.  This being said, prior to purchasing my FuelBand, I read some reviews in which the writers complained that the Nike+ FuelBand step and calorie counts were not accurate.  I can only report on my own experience.

The Negatives

But I would be remiss not to point out some of the negatives of the Nike+ FuelBand, one of which is the lack of directions that come with it.  The device is accompanied by a tiny pamphlet with picture illustrations, but very little text.  While this is probably more than adequate for those who are very familiar with high-tech gadgetry, I prefer more detailed instructions.  I did discover that I could download a user’s manual from the website, but not until after my son had to talk me through how to remove a sizing link that came installed on my FuelBand to make it smaller.

Speaking of which, you do need an internet connection to download the Nike+ Connect software, and you need to create a Nike+ profile in order for your activity data to be saved so that you can track your progress.  Some people may be reluctant to enter their personal information on this website.

An internet connection is also required to sync your data to Nike+.  And, on my computer at least, the syncing process takes a couple of minutes.  While this isn’t a big issue for me, I can see it being a problem for the less patient user.

Another downside is that the Nike+ Fuelband is not waterproof, so if swimming is your preferred activity, the FuelBand is probably not for you.  I don’t wear mine while showering, either.

How Much Does It Cost?

But the biggest downside from my viewpoint is the cost.  This high-tech gadget will set you back $149, plus tax and shipping, if applicable.  This may be way out of range for a lot of people, especially given the current economic conditions.  And, quite honestly, at this price I wouldn’t have even considered purchasing it had it not been for my son.  I’m glad I did, though.  I consider the motivation it is providing me well worth it.  The health benefits are immeasurable.

And staying better connected with my son?  Priceless.

Where Can You Buy A Nike+ Fuel Band?

The Nike+ Fuel Band is available on Nike's official site.  You can buy it from Amazon as well, where you can read hundreds of other reviews.

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