So, I’ve found the Apple Watch fitness capabilities a welcome and useful way to track my general fitness activities AND found the entire process it uses to motivate me, especially in the area of consistency. The apps that I use integrate perfectly with the Health app, I’ve had no issue with sharing my Activity data with others, and even with the current Watch OS 3.12, operating everything I need from the watch is a breeze (there a few things I’d like to see changed in future updates but they’re not fitness-related).
That said, it seems like it’s an all-in-one solution for my needs, as I stared using wearable technology to track my fitness data five years before the Apple Watch came along. Why, then, have I developed this fascination for using another unit that once had it’s heyday as a wearable fitness tracker, but met an untimely (some what say timely) death three years ago, one that many lambasted as inaccurate, lacking features that units in co-existence had at the time? Well, it’s simple, it offers and does a few things that the AW ecosystem doesn’t. This fitness tracker is the Nike Fuel Band. I’m going to talk about my personal likes about it and why I enjoy using it in concert with the AW, vice discussing it’s technical drawbacks as a unit and in comparison to where fitness tracking technology has evolved to.
I’m certain that all of you reading this blog post have, at least, heard of the Nike Fuel Band, and probably have an idea what Nike Fuel and the band is.
For those of you that don’t, the Nike website describes the concept of Nike Fuel as follows:
“Nike Fuel is whole integer number that represents your daily activity by calculating your calories burned along with your steps taken, while simultaneously factoring in your age, gender, weight and height. In short order, Nike Fuel is a calculation that allows everyone and anyone to compete regardless of their sex, age and any physical predispositions. Nike worked with some of the world’s top experts in science and sports to engineer NikeFuel algorithms based on oxygen kinetics. Unlike calorie counts — which vary based on someone’s gender and body type — NikeFuel is a normalized score that awards all participants equal scoring for the same activity regardless of their physical makeup. A user can also choose to also receive a calorie count to understand how many calories are burned versus how much NikeFuel is earned. The Nike+ FuelBand SE and first generation FuelBand track activity-based caloric burn (not resting metabolic caloric burn) using an algorithm (a series of mathematical models that link movement patterns to known energy requirements) based on the energy you expend when you move.
The NikeFuel algorithm was developed at the Nike Digital Sport Science Lab (DSSL), a state-of-the-art performance lab located at Nike WHQ in Portland, OR. The DSSL consists of a team of exercise physiologists and biochemists who are constantly working and reworking the science behind the NikeFuel algorithm. Their goal is not only to perfect the accuracy and consistency of the metric, but also to tune NikeFuel for the performance needs of different athletes (Nike says “If you have a body, you’re an athlete”). Our NikeFuel science team has an extensive amount of athlete V02 tests, each consisting of a series of 42 activities that include both lifestyle and traditional sport movements. Our data set grows exponentially every year, and our algorithms get short and more accurate every month.
In addition to the work we do in-house, the DSSL works directly with experts from across the academic and research industries to further perfect the algorithms.”
Popular Mechanics published a 2012 story regarding an inside look of the Nike DSSL, read it here.
The steps and calories are not an exact science but it is a pretty good gauge of how active you have been during the day. It takes into account the amount of movement in a given period of time so assigns a higher “point” value. It also does not take into account heart rate at all. What I like about the Fuel Band is it constitutes itself a motivational tool – you can compare your Fuel score with some celebrity athlete, or to everyday people in your age range, even you know they are more active or less active than you are.
Like many dedicated fitness trackers and mobile phones, motion is key to tracking fitness via use of accelerometers and other motion sensing technologies. Nike+ Fuelband is at its core an accelerometer; it counts the number of steps and calculates the estimated calories consumed. The FuelBand contains a timer, and by taking into account both distance and time, i.e. how vigorous is your motion, the NikeFuel score provides a measure of the aerobic and cardiovascular workout. In addition, Nike Fuel points do not depend on weight as a metric factor (unlike calculating calories burned) and so, again, the score can be directly compared between individuals.
A blog post from Quantified Health states “…Taken together, the Nike Fuel score probably correlates closely with the number of calories burned but it also contains a component that is orthogonal (distinct) to this count relating to the briskness of the exercise. It would be helpful if Nike could provide more information about its Fuel score and how it is calculated to enable a more accurate physiological interpretation.” That said, Nike’s formula for calculating Nike Fuel points is “proprietary”. I’ve read two web references where a runner conducted some experiments to determine that one Nike Fuel point is equal to 2.79 calories burned. You can read the entire post here. Another reference aligns with this in that a user contacted Nike and their reply was the ratio of of calories to Fuel points is “roughly 3-to-1” Yet another user compiled a month’s worth of data to try and determine this, you can read about that here. I’ve started conducting some experiments to see if my findings show. A reader commented to the Quantified Health blog post by saying: “What SHOULD have been used, both by Nike and here in your article discussing it, is how there Nike Fuel points are related to METs which are the universal measurement of activity and caloric expenditure. I suspect Nike Fuel is either based on or directly correlated to METs in some way.” Again, many have been interested in trying to crack the code of Nike’s proprietary formula.
Back to why I use the Fuel Band in a few short reasons:
1. Where Nike Fuel really works for me is as a personal motivation tool. At any point during the day, I can push the button on the band to see where I am in relation to my goal. I don’t need to pull out my cell phone to bring up the app (which obviously has much more functionality in a number of ways), because, for one, mobile phones are prohibited where I work, but the like the Apple Watch (also prohibited), the band is connect via Bluetooth to my phone, so as soon as it reconnects, I can see all the extra data via the app, data which is essentially synced to my Nike+ fitness account online. I’ve never been one to enjoy having a phone strapped to be to measure my physical activity when exercising or otherwise.
My first introduction to trophies (or achievements, as the Apple Watch world calls them), came via the use of Nike Fuel. For a list of all the trophies, go here. For a list of Nike and Nike + Fuel badges, you can view those here. I’ve gotten a number of achievements via use of the Apple Watch fitness tracking, but the Nike Fuel ones seem more…..exciting…for lack of a better word.
2) There’s a certain “cool/wow factor” with this band – the LED lights, the progression of color (red to green) as I reach my goal. it’s definitely an attention-getter if seen in public today. I like that, it’s simple and to the point. While the Apple Watch gives data (currently) on 58 types of exercise activity, Nike designed the band to track 88 different types. A lot, but not near the 200+ types the Polar fitness trackers are designed to measure.
3) It’s any inconspicuous wearable that gives me a different metric of my physical activity.
4) Nike, being the juggernaut of the company it is, got every aspect of advertising and social media dead on for me, everything about it is still attractive (even though the band itself and it’s social media activity is dead and discontinued)
In short, it’s convenient (no phone needed), simple (though the Fuel points concept is unlike most common fitness data tracking methods), it’s cool looking, provides the motivation I need, and they just got me with everything they put in to this now dead platform.
Yes, I have the NRC app on my phone and watch, as well as the NTC app on my phone – both generated Nike Fuel points when used to the Nike Fuel app, but for some odd (I guess) reasons, I like the physical and tactile aspect of wearing the band.
Nike did end up settling a lawsuit regarding misleading advertising about the accuracy of the fitness tracking of the band, resulting in refunding users $15 USD or a Nike gift card, if they purchased the band within a certain time period. They also eventually released their API to the public so developers could integrate the software into other applications.
Why did Nike can the development of the Fuel Band? In short, the company decided it eventually did not want to invest resources in a dedicated fitness tracker, but otherwise license and integrate that technology into mobile devices. At that time, the FitBits and Garmins of the world exceeded the features that the Fuel Band offered.
Well, there you have it. I did an Instragram hashtag search on #nikefuelband and was surprised to see how many people are still using it in 2017. I think that, in itself piqued my interest more, aside from the reasons given above.
Thanks for the read…