Nike+ FuelBand Review

I love birthday’s and I love Christmas. Frankly I love giving gifts – but I’m not ashamed to say I love getting them too. The gift’s kept coming this January as my wife proceeded to present me with one amazing gift after another. But the final gift was one I had been looking to get for a while, a Nike+ FuelBand.

To those of you who don’t know, the FuelBand is a beautiful piece of technology. To the untrained eye, it just looks like a classic black wrist band with a metal clasp. A nice one. On the front of the band is a single button, that when pressed reveals a selection of LED’s that would otherwise have been hidden in this piece of art-meets-technology-meets-fashion.

The band’s purpose is to motivate me to achieve FuelPoints. I set goals for myself using the computer software or the iPhone (and presumably android?) app. The band then shows me on a scale of red-to-green how well I have done at any given time – as well as toggling the number of FuelPoints, Calories burned, Steps taken and even the time (making this a handy wrist-watch too!).

What’s in the box? Not a lot actually. It’s well packaged and it’s all pretty self explanatory. You get the band, the extra size segments, the tool for adding and removing the extra size segments, USB cable and a USB stand for charging (if desired – the band itself is a USB so the stand and cable is by preference). Plus obviously the manuals. It basically points you to the website, download updates, then plug and play with the band!

The device syncs with my iPhone via Bluetooth beautifully and updates my Nike+ account whenever I sync it. So no need to constantly plug it into a computer each night. I can sync it wherever, whenever. The battery life is fantastic too. Bearing in mind, I have had it for about five days and I have been playing with it CONSTANTLY- I got just over three days use out of it from its first charge. I suspect, when I’m not checking it every five minutes, that battery life will increase to four days (as suggested by the manual). To charge, I simply loosen the band to reveal the built-in USB stick that plugs into any USB charger (when fully drained you need to plug it into the computer to sync the time).

It was possibly the easiest thing to set up and has been so simply to use. But the best bit, is the motivation. As you probably would have guessed from my Nerd and Lego themed posts, I do a lot of my work at the computer and around the house. I’m not the sporty type. Sadly, my health has arguably suffered. I am a little over-weight and have a dislike for any physical activity (I managed to get out of about 9 out of 10 PE lessons as a kid). So this band has really helped the gamer in me to overcome my disklike for exercise. And here’s how…

The band allows you to set the goals. It’s done in FuelPoints – which is a clever way to keep you motivated. They are easier to gain than burning calories as the numbers go up faster – giving you the feeling that you are achieving something each time you do an activity. I used to sit on my exercise bike watching the calories SLOWLY burn away. And after half-an-hour getting disheartened that I’d only burned a crisp-packet amount of calories. That’s not the case with FuelPoints. They are calculated by entering in your height and weight – which helps the device work out how many calories I would burn doing everyday tasks. So for example, yesterday I earned 3,131 FuelPoints which worked out at 1,224 calories. You can do the math- but I guess it’s different for different people’s dimensions.

Though I loved the idea as soon as I heard of it – I did have my reservations – and I suspect some of you are thinking them now. How can a wrist-band accurately calculate steps or movements. What’s to stop me shaking a ketchup bottle for half an hour to up my points? Well here’s the beauty of it. After I did a tiny bit of research (and I, by no means claim to have any kind of grasp of health and fitness – that would be plain ironic… but) I found that even shaking your legs under your work desk while you work is costing you energy. Makes sense. So in actual fact, if you are moving at all, you are burning calories (just slowly!). So if the band registers that you are vigorously gear-changing in your car – that really does count for something. If you’re really concerned about the way the points are collected, switch hands…

Which hand? I’m right handed – so to accomodate for all the mouse-moving and pen-pushing less-active movements I make, I use my left-hand for the FuelBand. This tends to balance out my movements in my opinion. While we’re on positioning, let’s talk fitting. The band is remarkably comfortable. It’s not as bendy as you would imagine, having a curved battery and LED board underneath the rubber is probably the cause here. That said, it fit’s me perfectly – with room to breathe. The band comes in three sizes: S, M/L, and XL. Each (I believe) come with extra elements to extend or retract the size of the band. The band also comes in three colours. The classic black (mine), the transparent black and the completely transparent one.

What about non-arm activity? I learned something cool yesterday. I do most of my exercising walking the dog and peddling my exercise bike. Riding the bike failed to conventionally register the appropriate amount of calories (based on the comparison on the bike digital screen) – so I came up with two solutions. The first a bit more dramatic than the other (seriously – you will look like an ape doing this, so not recommended for the gym!), put your hands on your legs as you pedal. You can even help you legs out when they get tired by pushing down on them (could also help build your upper body – free exercise tip there). The simpler solution, put the band through your laces on your shoes. It picks up the calories a lot better and helps give you the boost of FuelPoints legitimately. Admittedly the calorie count didn’t quite match the bike’s, and came in at about a third less. But a lot more accurate than the wrist.

Overall, after a week with the little wonder, here’s my thoughts. In short, here’s where I think the band will work or fail: it really depends on the user. If the user is an active swimmer and cyclist who trains like an olympic athlete – this probably isn’t going to give you an accurate breakdown of all your sporting successes and failings of the day. Whereas, if you are like me, who needs to be motivated to keep active – in whatever way possible – this FuelBand is quite possibly the greatest invention ever. The trophies and goals that you can gain through the app really do make me want to continue achieving my goal on a daily basis.

I’ve been off-work on holiday this week. Normally that would involve sitting around eating tons and watching loads of TV. And while I’ve been able to do just that… the Nike+ FuelBand has made me got me off the sofa to keep active to achieve my daily (and weekly) target. I’d never do that normally. So it clearly works for me. And personally, that seems like a better investment in a Gym membership. But like I say, it’s all down the user. And this user hates Gyms!