Today there is no shortage of products that exercisers can use to track the mileage and length of their workouts. There is, however, a wide range of quality and features among the products currently on the market. Choosing between these products, which also vary considerably in price, will depend on your fitness goals and the importance of obtaining accurate data. If, for example, you simply want to track the number of steps you take each day, an inexpensive pedometer may be all you need. More serious athletes, however, may choose a more advanced model that also tracks heart rate and body temperature.
The Nike+ SportBand is for exercisers who fall somewhere in between those two extremes. This moderately priced device allows users to record the length (distance, not steps) and pace of their workouts, as well as estimated calories burned, and upload that data to the Nike+ Web site for analysis and feedback. The device is designed to be used with Nike+ shoes ($110), which feature a slot in the left shoe for the accelerometer. The Nike+ Link is actually a USB drive with a digital display that inserts into a hard-plastic wristband (which can also be attached to a belt loop if viewing the display during the workout is not necessary).
While the product is fairly easy to use, the directions included are less than clear. Once you figure out how to set it up, the Nike+ SportBand should be calibrated for more accurate recordings. Calibration, which involves walking or running a known distance of at least 0.25 mile while in calibration mode, is recommended as individual walking and running strides greatly vary. A Consumer Reports analysis found that the technology utilized by Nike+ products is accurate when the pace is fixed, and less than 90 percent accurate during a variably paced workout.
The Nike+ SportBand records and displays elapsed time, distance traveled, pace, and calories burned, and is capable of storing up to 30 hours worth of data. The added memory is a bonus for those who don’t want to run to their computer after every workout. Instead, weekly (or, depending on your activity level, even monthly) uploads are sufficient. Although Nike boasts that the SportBand features an enhanced display, we were less than impressed with this feature because, unlike a standard watch display, which reads parallel to the forearm, this display reads perpendicularly. In other words, you have to turn the wrist all the way around to be able to see the reading. This could be a significant hindrance to runners on busy streets or uneven terrain. Additionally, the hard plastic band, though adjustable, will feel loose on smaller wrists.
For many consumers, the primary attraction of the Nike+ SportBand is the interactivity of the Nike+ Web site. Not only does the site allow users to track their workouts and set specific goals, it provides an interactive community where exercisers can ask questions, challenge other exercisers and provide feedback.
The Nike+ SportBand will appeal most to those who enjoy tracking their workouts and working toward specific goals. Fortunately, the device makes it easy for even the least tech-savvy person to record and upload their workout data. And if your preferred workout shoe is a brand other than Nike, it is possible to use the device without buying Nike+ shoes as long as you can find a way to attach the accelerometer to the shoe (Chisco sells a compatible pouch for less than $5; a key pouch attached to the laces would also work).
It is important to note that exercisers who enjoy working out to music may prefer one of the other products offered by Nike that interact with Apple’s iPods.
What we liked:
- Easy-to-use device for recording and tracking workouts
- Interactive Web site for uploading and analyzing data
- May be used with or without a Nike+ shoe
What we didn’t like:
- Unclear directions for set-up
- Awkwardly positioned display
- Variable accuracy
March 31, 2010