Co.Design

Nike Is Rebranding The Calorie, In A Deal With Xbox

Nike+ Fuel is making its way from armbands to Xboxes, putting a new face on digital health.

This week, Nike revealed Nike+ Kinect Training, an exercise game for the Xbox 360. But it’s an announcement that’s bigger than it may look. With Nike+ Kinect, Nike will begin counting what you do in a video game toward our Nike+ Fuel pool in the cloud, syncing all Nike+ services, including the new Fuelband, into a single measurable value of activity. It’s a digital health coup—a networked database of everything you do in an era when my doctor’s office still updates patient files with a typewriter.


The game itself looks fine—frankly, it’s a spitting image for similar exercise titles we’ve already seen for Kinect with a healthy dose of celebrity branding. But it comes with an interesting promise: Fuel will continue to have deeper integration into different products in different parts of our lives. Fuel is the new calorie, and we’re better off for it*.

*It’s 10 p.m., I’m in my pajamas, and I’m shadow boxing in my living room. I’m not even playing Nike’s new Kinect game yet; it’s all because of this LED-infused black band around by wrist, the Nike+ Fuelband, that tracks all my diverse activities through the day and rounds them into one number: Fuel.

My goal is 3,000—or what Nike labels a generally active lifestyle. I’ve already gone on a 3-mile run, but I’m about 40 Fuel short.

I’ve had a Fuelband for about two months now. That’s long enough for the new-gadget sheen to have worn off, for me to have spotted the device’s sometimes infuriating quirks of measuring certain activities (ellipticals!), yet it continues to modify my behavior for the better. While Runkeeper never acknowledged my life beyond the track, my Fuelband gives me points for activities that are good for me in more ways than cardio. I get Fuel for walking to the store to get groceries, then I even get some decent Fuel for preparing dinner (maybe a bit too much, to be honest, but anything I cook has to be healthier than take-out). I get Fuel for going to baseball games and concerts—for getting out of the apartment and actually living my life.

The interesting thing is, my Fuelband has a calorie counter, too, but I never check it. Burning calories has always been a futile goal to me, a depressing statistic that only serves to remind that I shouldn’t have eaten that extra taco (okay, two tacos) last night rather than encouraging me to do more right now. Fuel is a remarkable psychological trick—I earn Fuel—it’s simultaneously a goal and a reward. And at the end of a run, panting and cramped, I’ve essentially earned more energy to do more things.

So reps? Lap times? The gym? My living room? Shadow boxing? Gaming? It’s not about that complex, diverse data. Fuel is about activity, and a simple, tacit thesis** that comes along with that: Be active. Be healthy.

**And, okay, maybe, just maybe the gamer in me realizes that wearing a Fuelband while playing Nike+ Kinect Training might just score me double Fuel.

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7 Comments

  • sherrykay

    I too have a Nike+ Fuel Band. I am a mother, grandmother, grad student, university instructor...I do weightlifting and dancing for my fitness activities, and I sit and write a lot at my computer everyday. I wore the Fuel Band w/out any fitness work the 1st week to see my baseline without any extra effort. I found that I usually hit around 10k steps (the 'Amish' amount), 3k Fuel, and now I do 4k Fuel, 10k steps and 1k calories as a daily goal. I often go way over, and a couple of days I am under. There are some strange stats-the days I do heavy legs (weights) until I am shaking are the days when I get the lowest numbers. The highest days are when I work out, and then do grocery shopping. So it's movement and not effort; I do not see how Nike can call it the 'new calorie.' If there were one thing I would have on it that is absent, it would be a heart monitor. I don't use social media or compete with others for goals, but for/against myself. It is an ugly black bracelet and although I am wearing except when sleeping (I did it a few times and I really got a lot of calories-all that tossing and turning!), I would wear it just when working out, except i am compelled to check my numbers! I am toying with setting some different goals-like meeting my goals by 10 am, or a certain amount during my workout time, or better yet, per hour-so I remind myself to get up every 50 minutes and run around for 10 minutes. They should target chair sitters, not young athletes-they would make so much more $$$!

  • fred hart

    Nike is on the money in that it's not about burning calories, as people who are already fit probably don't care much about, but rather about being generally active. You can boast about your "fuel", share your number, exercising has now become even more competitive with a social context, and i'm all for a product that supports health...we're far too obese as a scoiety

  • Deanna L

    The Fuelband is interesting, but Fastco's hyperbole does such a diservice to consumers; is the author on Nike's payroll?  ... Nike is marketing a product that uses an invented points system (gamificationforthewin) instead of traditional metrics to encourage people to exercise; re-branding the calorie has nothing to do with it!

  • Mark Rojas

    Nice, I too have the Nike+ Fuelband, it is a nice constant reminder of how sedentary my work atmosphere is... encouraging me to get out and run after work. 

    So will this Kinect game sync to your existing Nike+ Id? I think it can potentially improve the way the online stats are kept as well adding workouts instead of just distance, calories, steps and fuel. 

    Lets hope Nike does upgrade it suitably while adding some cool new achievements and milestones.