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Does wearable fitness tech really work?

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Nike's FuelBand launched in February 2012. Since then it has become more of a fashion statement than a piece of fitness tech. The inclusion of a very cool LED display and clever iPhone integration put together by Nike meant it was one of the most desirable gadgets of last year.

But did it really help get anyone fit? How much weight can Nike make you lose simply by wearing a wrist-band? With competition from the likes of Fitbit and the Jawbone Up, fitness bands are now commonplace. So do they help keep the weight off?

Nike+ FuelBand Ice

© Nike



Having worn a Nike FuelBand for the best part of a year, we can say with confidence, that provided you make the effort, Nike's offering does help.

The whole concept of 'Fuel', which basically uses a bigger set of numbers than calories to incentivise exercise, can become very addictive. Once you set yourself an achievable goal, you find yourself doing things like walking home or running an extra fifteen minutes as you try and collect more Fuel.

While the band can't lose weight for you, it can certainly incentivise a bit of exercise. It doesn't however go anything beyond that.

Fitbit and Jawbone offer much more detailed reports of your general wellbeing. While we are yet to spend a proper amount of time with the Jawbone Up, the Fitbit Flex has been sat on our wrist, opposite a Nike FuelBand on the other, for some time now.

The data the Fitbit app provides is a touch more in-depth, ranging from calories burned, to steps taken and even your sleep pattern and what you have eaten. You do need to enter your diet, but it does mean you can realistically track how many calories you have taken in.

Fitbit allows you to set a weight loss goal and then follow it by controlling eating and exercise levels via the band on your wrist. If you want to lose 5kg for example, then Fitbit might expect you to walk a bit further and eat a bit less.

The problem is that most of what wearable fitness tech does is state the obvious. Doing exercise and eating well can be done without the need for a reminder from an app. Then again, for those who struggle with self-discipline, they can definitely help.


Accuracy is also a problem, as both the Nike and Fitbit failed to produce any genuinely convincing results. A three-hour drive can often result in the Nike being convinced you have done a five-mile run. Results then are always ballpark at best.

Still though, they are at least some sort of results and until now, there hasn't really been a realistic way to track just how much exercise you do.

Runners and fitness freaks can definitely use the fitness bands, in particular the Fitbit and Jawbone, to just monitor the amount of food taken in and calories burned off. It certainly beats keeping a written record.

So then, for those trying to lose weight, they can be an incentive to exercise more. For the training athlete, it's a great way to get a ballpark figure, but go beyond that and there really isn't much more of a solution.

They won't shed the weight for you, but a simple piece of fitness tech could be the gadget that just tips you towards your goal. Ultimately what they do is make exercise more fun, which for many is an important thing. The Nike also makes for an awesome watch, should you not fancy the idea of going for a run.

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