7 days with... Nike+ FuelBand

Just how healthy do you think you are? With a host of new gadgets coming on to the market in the next few months, I've been living with the new Nike+ FuelBand, due out in the UK in May, to see what wearing it for seven days does. Will it change my behaviour, is it comfortable to wear, does it even work?  

Monday

Monday morning doesn't count. We haven't got the band yet. That's the point of the day and so I head over to Shoreditch in London to the new Nike Fuel Station store to get set up. Pocket-lint and a handful of other journalists from running titles have been invited to check out the new Nike+ FuelBand before it launches in May.

I get to the store and get my introduction. Five minutes later I am wearing the intelligent bracelet and being tracked. The bracelet is matt black, well made, not hugely flexible and features a single button on the top.

Pressing it makes the bracelet come to life and I can check my Nike+ Fuel, the number of steps I've taken, the calories I've burnt, and the time. To help me measure how well I am achieving my daily goal there is a series of coloured lights along the edge that run from red to green.

The daily goal is important because it is what you are striving for, and is where the Nike+ FuelBand brings something very different to the Fitbit Ultra approach - the nearest competitor in this market.

Nike, keen to show us the band in action, has some activity in store for us: 30 minutes of Cardio Tennis followed by 30 minutes of cocktail-making - random, we know. Nike say this is designed to show that you can earn points having fun as well as doing exercise. With that I am already up to 1600 Fuel points for the day and on target to hit the goal of 2000.

By the time I've walked through Soho in London over the river to Waterloo I've reached my target and hit the first dilemma: does that mean I don't have to do anything more today?

Further walking from Ascot station to my house (about a mile) and walking around my house (it really isn't that big) give me a final total of 3,441 Fuel points.

Realising that my target was smashed perhaps a little too early in the day, I set a more realistic target of 3,000 Fuel points for tomorrow via the website and go to bed (you can set it up to 9,999 for the very keen or energetic).

Fuel points earned: 3,441

Tuesday

Wake up, put the band on, and head downstairs to grab a glass of water and let the dog out. It might only be a quick visit downstairs but I am collecting points and I want to make every movement count.

I've got to head into London today for a series of meetings. By the time I am on the train heading into London I've already got 729 Fuel points. Whoop.

A breakfast on the South Bank, followed by a meeting in Soho followed by another in Westminster and then Millbank all help rack up the points.

It's a busy day and one that doesn't happen every week so I take advantage. Because of the close vicinity of the all the meetings and the nice day I opt to walk between them. More points. By 3:30pm I've hit my daily quota, head home and veg on the sofa.

Fuel points earned: 4,012

Wednesday

It's Apple event day today so I'm back in London for a series of meetings, some interviews and some TV stuff.

By 8:30 I am out of the house and walking the dog. I try to walk the dog every couple of days (a duty shared with my wife), but this week it's all about the points, so a quick mile and a half is going to do wonders for my score. It's nothing major, 20 minutes of medium-pace walking down a dirt path near Ascot racecourse. I don't break into a sweat, and normally walk slow enough, as the Pocket-lint team will happily tell you, to talk to them about the day ahead on the phone. It's not even 9am and I've got more than 1000 Fuel points. Today is going to be good.

I get back to the house realising that I've forgotten my keys. A quick phone call to Mrs Pocket-lint in a cry for help is answered, but while I am waiting I notice that I've been pacing up and down the street outside my house. Is this a subconscious ploy to get more Fuel points?

A frantic run to the station to get the train and I'm heading into London for a meeting in St Paul's. Interview done, I find a coffee shop to file some stories, before a friend asks if I fancy lunch in town. "Sure" I say thinking it is not that far I'll walk and earn points at the same time. This is a different way of thinking. Normally I would have jumped into a cab, or looked for the nearest Tube station.

Half way down Fleet Street I realise I've been over-ambitious and hop on a bus only for the bus to get stuck in traffic at Charing Cross. I hop out and again instead of jumping on the Tube to head up to Oxford Circus, I opt to walk to Poland Street. All in all, the decision earns me 479 more points. Result.

A bit of lunch with a friend and he spots the band. After the usual what's that, how does it work, what does it do, I get the question: "So how many points is a wank worth?" It seems to be a theme that I've noticed. He isn't the first to ask. I don't know, but confess that because you are wearing it around your wrist it does capture hand movement rather than whole-body movement. But Nike tell me it is all about capturing movement rather than just steps. The subject changes and I then have to a dash to another meeting and then the long walk up York Road to the Apple event gets me to just over 3,000 points.

I know all this because, while the bracelet doesn't tell you much apart from the number of Fuel points you've earned that day, the accompanying iPhone / iPod touch app and websites do. With the app running and both paired via Bluetooth I can get a range of stats to complement the basic details on the band itself. You don't need a computer. Those without an Apple device aren't left out. While you don't get an app, the band does have a USB plug built into it that can plug into your computer. The accompanying free software does the rest.

Another very active day done and dusted.

Fuel points earned: 4,012

Thursday

Following three days in London, Thursday is my first chance to catch up in the office. I work from home so don't have to travel. That leaves me with having to make my own exercise to earn these Fuel points.

It's 8:30am and I'm back out with the dog again. I haven't done this much routine dog walking for ages and it is starting to grow on me. It also means a good start to my Fuel points tally.

But after my morning walk, sitting at the desk in the office and little else quickly starts to have a negative affect on my points tally. I'm not earning enough. I might be getting lots of work done, but I am not moving. According to my graphs, sitting typing at my desk earns me about 95 points an hour. If I am to make my 3,000 Fuel points goal, I had better do some exercise.

Thankfully a neighbour knocks and asks if I fancy going for a run. With all my meetings I haven't been able to get out for a run yet this week, and having worked until 2am on the new iPad launch, I jump at the chance (jumping equals more Fuel I've found).

We do a quick but leisurely run around Virginia Water (4.55miles) and my fear of not hitting the goal soon disappears when I realise half way around the run that I've smashed it.

The evening finishes by meeting some friends in the pub. Again the masturbation question is raised.

The walk, combined with a run, combined with a jaunt down to the local pub means that I finish the day on 4,492 Fuel points. As a reward I get video animation telling me I'm "Making Waves. You Soaked your goal by 50 per cent"

This feels good, even if the accompanying fuzzy head the next morning doesn't.

Fuel points earned: 4,892

Friday 

Turns out I didn't leave the pub until after midnight. I know this because the FuelBand has me active between the hours of 12am - 1am. Clearly the time I walked back from the pub. It also shows me that I forgot to take the band off over night and that between 5am and 6am I was restless as I earned myself 15 Fuel points.

For many the idea of being tracked by Nike is going to be a scary one. While it doesn't have a GPS to tell them were I am, the longer I wear this, the more the company is going to have a pretty good profile of the type of person I am when it comes to being active. Just think about what that could mean and you'll either not care, or think it is the most frightening thing you've ever heard.

By now the band is starting to show me a pattern of my week. A decent spike in the morning as I walk the dog followed by a sedentary period at my desk most of the afternoon. Not having to head to the local cafe but just the kitchen in the house clearly has an affect on my movement.

By 5pm I'm only half way to my goal. While I don't want to admit that it is starting to affect my behaviour, I convince the kids that we should go out to the park and play some football. That helps, but it's still not enough. A mere 400 Fuel points. A bout of cleaning (Mrs Pocket-lint is pleased) and I finish the day on 2,449 Fuel points. I've broken my four-day streak. For all of .5 seconds I am disappointed.

Fuel points earned: 2,449

Saturday

No chance to walk the dog this morning, instead I am out with the kids to a Saturday morning playgroup for dads. That combined with a fairly active, but not overly strenuous day visiting Legoland, helps me reach my goal by 5:45pm.

Once the kids go off to bed I manage to get in my second run of the week. It's fast and the FuelBand shows me that with a big green spike in my graph, however, and this is where the band shows its weakness, I earn only double the points running than I do cleaning my office for the same amount of time. Movement is movement, but clearly the calorie count of one is vastly different from the other.

Fuel points earned: 4,258

Sunday

No run or dog walk today, but still it seems plenty of movement. The first spike I see is a trip to the supermarket. Turns out a weekly shop equates to around 500 Fuel points. That's followed by an afternoon in the garden. I'm not going far or digging up a massive flowerbed, but I somehow manage to reach my goal by 4pm. It surprises me, because I don't think I've been doing much, but I've been moving around a lot and picking up things quite a bit so maybe it is that.

An evening of telly beckons, after all I think I've earned it. According to the FuelBand I've earned more than 27,000 Fuel points, supposedly taken 102,840 steps, burnt 11,015 calories, and walked almost two marathons - no really. It also tells me I've been active for 66 hours and 24 minutes.

According to the data it has captured for Men 30-39, that puts me above the average and that makes me happy, but I know it has been a busy week and I've got to keep this up if I am going to reach my targets next week.

Fuel points earned: 4,573

Conclusions

With the final hours of Sunday dwindling, it's been an interesting week. Like any piece of clothing I was very conscious of wearing the FuelBand to start with. It felt uncomfortable, it was awkward, and I wasn't too sure. But as the week has gone on I've become less and less aware that I am wearing it. Because of the Time feature I also found myself ditching my regular watch. This has become my watch, something I wasn't expecting.

It's also become apparent that by wearing the FuelBand on your arm you are sending a very clear statement to others that spot it. You are saying: "Yes I like exercise, I am trying to make it fun, I need the extra help and push."

That's a very different approach to the competitor Fitbit whose device you hide on your waistline underneath your belt, but it does mean you are more aware of it, keener to check your progress, and motivated by how well you are or aren't doing.

So the big question, has it made me want to do more exercise?

I would say yes, but only in a slight way. I like to think that I am a fairly active person, at the moment, and I've tried not to be overly active this week to make out I am better than I am. But I can easily see how, if you needed the extra push, something like this would give it to you, especially as you can link in Facebook and challenge other friends.

Who has done the most exercise this week could be a really strong motivator in the right hands.

Oh, and it is 100 Fuel points... allegedly.