Fitness trackers are not exactly new—perhaps the old-fashioned version of it is the pedometer, a device used to measure how many steps the wearer has walked on a particular day (remember the recommended 10,000 steps a day?).
Over the past few years, there have been efforts to make activity trackers look more like wearable fashion accessories or jewelry.
And, of course, when celebrities like Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and Katy Perry were seen wearing thick, rubbery-looking wristbands during Fashion Week, and Vogue magazine calls the Nike + FuelBand the accessory of the fashion A-list, then it’s not just a fitness tracker anymore, but a fashion statement, as well.
Among all the fitness trackers available in the market today, three brands remain supreme: Fitbit, Nike + FuelBand and Jawbone UP. All three look like plain rubber bracelets (yes, rubber), but with the press of a mere button, an array of lights reveal if you’ve achieved your fitness goals for the day.
With the males, the more popular choice is the FuelBand, while the ladies prefer Jawbone’s sleeker design and FuelBand’s more stylish limited-edition rose-gold style.
The three work in similar ways. The FuelBand, for example, converts your daily activity into a Nike-coined term, “NikeFuel.” Every day, the goal is to hit a number of preset NikeFuel points. Nike suggests that the average person set a goal of 2,000 fuel points, while a person who engages in moderate to high-impact daily workouts should set a goal of about 3,000. Athletes should have a higher target of 5,000.
Throughout the day, as NikeFuel accumulates, the band lights transition from red to orange to yellow to—finally—green. When the target is hit, the FuelBand boasts “GOAL” in twinkling rainbow lights, providing instant gratification to the wearer.
Jawbone and Fitbit work with a similar mechanism, but also boast of sleep trackers and even a vibrating alarm to help monitor the quality of your sleep. Jawbone and Fitbit even track your food and drink intake, but Jawbone takes it a bit further—it gives you insights on how you sleep, move and eat.
All three can be synched to most PCs and Smartphones (the FuelBand is compatible with 5th-generation iPods and iPhones, using the app to track your progress).
In a way, wearing such bracelets helps push you to make the extra effort to move. For businessman Quito Lopez, a user of the FuelBand for the past few years, “Wearing my FuelBand is more of a reminder that I need to do anything physical. When I’m lying down eating a bowl of chips and I see my tracker, it makes me want to get up from my bed and walk around the apartment. The tracker reminds me that I have to hit my goals daily to achieve the number of calories I want to burn,” says Lopez.
For photographer Tammy David, who uses a Jawbone UP, it was the case of FOMO (fear of missing out). “I’m a lazy person when it comes to fitness so trackers help me increase my activity and reach my personal goals,” says David.
Ruby Gan, COO of ShopManila, Inc., admits that she has become a “slave” of sorts to her Jawbone UP. “It’s a reminder that I have to walk even for a short while. Admittedly, it can be a hassle especially when I am doing a report and my flow of thought can’t be interrupted. That is the only time I ignore it. Otherwise, I often follow the ‘dictates’ of my band. I move when it’s time to move,” says Gan.
Then there is the social element. The motivation to move is also competitive in nature—all three bands have an online community, where people all over the world can see who tops the list, and in the case of the FuelBand, earned the most NikeFuel. “It motivates you to stay in the top three, if not the top of the list,” adds Gan.
David also decided to buy the Jawbone UP not only because of the design, but because her other friends got the same model as well. “It helps to have friends who have the same tracker so it gets competitive and fun. Right now, I have 20 friends who own one, and some of us call ourselves the Jawboners. We even have silly hashtags like #jawbonecockblocker whenever we eat bad food.
“I hate being the kulelat/loser in the team, so even if I just have one hour to go to up my ranking, I go nuts on the treadmill, park the farthest, or use the stairs just so I wouldn’t place last,” says David.
Whichever fitness band they ultimately choose, fashionistas are opting to stack them with bangles and watches to add to their “arm party.” It helps that it goes right with the trend of piling on bracelets. Gan even covered up her bracelet on one occasion with an Hermés Twilly scarf for a formal event. And just like any gadget, once you start using one, it becomes a bit addicting to keep checking and tracking your progress.
To know more about the fitness bands featured in this story, check www.fitbit.com, www.jawbone.com, www.nike.com. E-mail the author at [email protected]