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Using the Nike+ FuelBand to Help You Stay in Shape

Jason R. Rich takes a look at the Nike+ FuelBand fitness accessory and helps you determine if this $149.95 Apple iPhone accessory can become a useful tool in your ongoing personal fitness routine.
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In our never-ending quest to lose weight, gain muscle, reduce caloric intake, run faster, look younger, be stronger, and feel better, Americans spend billions of dollars every year on fitness equipment, personal trainers, gym memberships, and diet plans. Yet, no matter how much we spend and how much time we invest trying to achieve our fitness goals, in many cases our success depends on our motivation and ability to control potentially bad habits.

Meanwhile, one tool in our personal and professional lives that many of us now carry around virtually everywhere is the Apple iPhone. With all of its built-in apps, plus the optional apps available from the App Store, it can serve as a powerful and reliable productivity, organization, and communications tool. However, with the right apps, any model iPhone can also become a feature-packed tool to help with personal fitness, dieting, and fitness-related motivation.

When it comes to personal fitness, Apple and Nike have been long-time partners, developing innovative ways for health-minded individuals and athletes to use Nike sneakers and fitness accessories in conjunction with Apple’s iOS mobile technology. One of the latest offerings is the Nike+ FuelBand ($149.95). It’s available from the Apple Store, Apple.com, and Nike.com.

The Nike+ FuelBand is a modern-looking, lightweight and pretty comfortable bracelet that’s designed to monitor the wearer’s everyday physical activity—from individual steps taken to calories burned. The adjustable-size and water-resistant (but not waterproof) FuelBand has a built-in USB port and multi-color LED display. It’s designed to connect to any PC or Mac, and ultimately exchange data wirelessly with the iPhone.

When used in conjunction with the free Nike+ FuelBand app, the bracelet is designed to be worn throughout the day and during workouts. On an ongoing basis, it measures and displays the NikeFuel points the wearer has earned (which is a motivational reward system created by Nike), along with the number of calories burned and the number of steps taken. It also displays the time and date. This information can be synced with your computer and iPhone, allowing you to measure, track, and share your progress.

Using the FuelBand app, users are encouraged to create a personalized profile, which includes their age, height, and weight, as well as their daily, weekly, and monthly fitness goals. The FuelBand bracelet then tracks daily movement in real time, and shares this information (wirelessly via Bluetooth) with an iPhone. The same data can also be synced with a PC or Mac, and then managed and shared for free via the NikePlus.com website. Both the app and the website allow users to set and keep track of daily fitness-related goals, view progress, record records, and share milestones.

In addition to helping the wearer look stylish and cutting-edge at the gym, the Nike+ FuelBand is designed to help set and achieve fitness-related goals. By constantly displaying how many steps the wearer has taken and how many calories they’ve burned, for example, it can also serve as a motivational tool throughout the day and during workouts. While the FuelBand bracelet and app combo handle the same tasks as an inexpensive pedometer, one goal of the bracelet is to help the wearer stay focused on his or her fitness objectives and serve as a motivational tool by making it easy to share results with others via the Internet.

The Anatomy of the Nike+ FuelBand

The technology that’s built in to the FuelBand includes a USB port, 20 tiny LED lights that continuously showcase daily progress by displaying a colored bar that expands and changes from red to green, and a 100 LED light alphanumeric display. The brightness of the display automatically increases or decreases using a built-in ambient light sensor. The bracelet itself also contains a three-axis accelerometer, which measures the wearer’s motion throughout the day.

The FuelBand bracelet runs using two rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, and comes in three user-adjustable sizes (small, medium, and large). Each battery charge lasts about four days. While the length of the bracelet varies based on the size purchased, all of them are 0.63 inches wide, 0.27 inches thick, and weigh around 1 ounce, which makes it comfortable to wear on either the left or right wrist (the display adjusts accordingly). The free Nike+ FuelBand app operates on any iPhone (or iPod touch) that’s running iOS 5.0 or later.

It’s important to understand that the FuelBand bracelet is water-resistant, not waterproof. Thus, while it’s safe to wear in the shower, for example, it should not be worn while swimming or participating in underwater activities. Then, before connecting the bracelet to a computer via its USB port to recharge the battery and sync data, it’s essential that the bracelet be completely dried off.

Putting FuelBand to Work for You

There is absolutely nothing that the FuelBand does that you can’t do by yourself using a pen and paper. However, when it comes to tracking progress and fitness goals while using an inexpensive pedometer to track your movement, the FuelBand bracelet and app help to transform an otherwise boring fitness plan into a more interactive, game-like experience. During a workout, the bracelet’s wearer can see his or her positive results flashing on the bracelet’s screen and on the iPhone. More than true functionality as a fitness tool, it serves as a motivational “gadget” that techo-savvy people will appreciate.

Once the FuelBand is purchased, the specialized software (available from the Nike+ website), needs to be downloaded and installed on a PC or Mac, and the FuelBand app (available from the App Store) needs to be installed on the iPhone. The setup process takes just minutes. Then, once a profile is set up for the user and the bracelet’s battery is charged, the app or the website can be used to establish a profile and fitness goals.

At the same time, the bracelet itself can be customized via the app to display personalized information, emoticons, and graphics that can be used to show progress and offer rewards for accomplishments. Beyond using game-like elements to reward the wearer for achieving fitness-related results, one of the motivational aspects of using FuelBand is the social element and the ability to quickly share achievements with others via email, the NikePlus.com website, Facebook, and/or Twitter.

FuelBand Isn’t Your Only Option

While Nike has done an excellent job packaging the Nike+ FuelBand and making it appealing to fitness-minded iPhone users, a handful of other companies also offer similar iPhone accessory and app combos. For example, Jawbone offers its Up fitness bracelet ($129.99), which lacks the visually appealing LED display that the Nike+ FuelBand has, but it offers similar functionality, as well as data syncing and tracking via the iPhone.

Brookstone offers the Fitbit One Wireless Sleep + Activity Tracker ($99.99), which is a small device that’s designed to be clipped onto clothing, for example. It too tracks movement, sleep patterns, and other physical activity. The Fitbit has a small built-in display, communicates wirelessly with the iPhone via Bluetooth, and works in conjunction with a proprietary app.

Final Thoughts

So, if you’re already fitness-minded and looking to use mobile technology to your utmost advantage, and don’t mind having to keep the bracelet’s battery charged and your data synced, using your iPhone in conjunction with the Nike+ FuelBand or a similar accessory might provide the added functionality and incentive you need to help achieve your fitness goals.

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