Technology and fitness

I bought a Nike FuelBand SE this last week. I had been interested in a fitness tracker for a while and, after losing my FitBit One a couple of months ago, I decided to buy something that I could wear around my wrist. The FitBit One was too small for my liking. It did a great job tracking my steps, distance, calories, and even the number of floors I climbed, but, again, it was too small. I’d often forget to clip it on or it would fall out of my pocket when I pulled out my wallet or keys. It ended up falling off my waistband somewhere on a long run, never to be seen again.

Unlike the “One”, the FuelBand goes around the wrist and stays there no matter what. Since it’s water resistant (not waterproof), I can wear it in the shower and not have to take it off to wash my hands. (Can’t wear it to swim, but, then again, I don’t swim much.) What makes the FuelBand different is its “fuel points” system of tracking activity. Unlike other electronic trackers, the main function of the FuelBand is not to track calories. Instead, it uses a proprietary set of algorithms to turn activity (measured by three-dimensional movement of the band on your wrist) into points that are normalized between people. For example, if my wife and I go out for a run, she will burn less calories than I will because she’s smaller than I am. We many both put in a good effort, but my calorie count will be huge compared to hers. To account for these differences in size and intensity between sports, Nike is using the fuel points. That way, our run would be about the same in points, regardless of size. Or, if I go for a run and my wife uses the elliptical machine or a rowing machine, our points will be about the same if we both put in a similar amount of effort.

One thing is for sure with both activity trackers: They both keep me moving. With the FitBit, I actually got up from the couch and went for a walk several times at the end of the day to make sure I put in my 10,000 steps for the day. With the FuelBand, I actually got up from the couch and went out into the cold last night to make sure I got all the fuel points I could get. (My brother-in-law got a FuelBand on the same day I did, and we’re competing with each other on who gets the most fuel points by Christmas.)

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It wasn’t too cold, but it was cold enough to be uncomfortable. I would have much rather stayed in and watched television with my wife. Instead, I found myself grabbing the dog and heading out the door. I ended up earning about 1,600 fuel points, which took me over the goal for the day (2,000) and over the average for men in my age group who use the band. That second measure is interesting because it tells me that a lot of the men 30-39 are not moving a lot per day. Like with almost anything in the world, I’m sure there’s a normal distribution to the average fuel points per day/week/month for any age group. Few of us get very little points, most of us get points somewhere around the average, and a few others get points way above average.

So we’ll see how the next few weeks and months go, and if this “toy”, along with my phone and all it’s fitness apps helps me “get back in the game.” I know one thing… I’m already feeling better about myself for going to the gym and moving throughout the day.

 

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

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