Best Fitness Tracker For Weightlifting – Improving your running game really doesn’t need to be so expensive that you blow your entire workout budget on a fitness tracker, alone! From pedometer to different types of activity tracker, these fitness gears are designed to help you stay healthy.
If you’re looking for a budget fitness tracker. There are plenty of decent options out there.
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Last updated: June 12, 2021 5:20 pm
5 Best Fitness Tracker For Weightlifting: Round UP
When you’re on a budget, every dollar counts. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to skip out on owning a fitness tracker.
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1. Garmin Forerunner 935
The Forerunner 935 is much smaller and lighter than the Fenix 5x Plus, but our test results showed it to be just as accurate. The Forerunner 935 does have fewer features and less activity tracking battery life than the Fenix, but it also has a significantly lower price tag, a much lighter weight, a smaller size, and a longer normal use battery life.
- [GARMIN FORERUNNER 935 TRI-BUNDLE] - Garmin Forerunner 935 (Amp Yellow Band) GPS Multi-Sport Running Watch, HRM-Tri Chest Strap, HRM-Swim Chest Strap, Extra QuickFit (22mm) Silicone Band (Black) & USB Charging Cable
- PLAYBETTER POWER BUNDLE] - HD Screen Protector Film (4-Pack), PlayBetter USB Car Charging Adapters & PlayBetter Wall Charging Adapter
- ULTIMATE TRIATHLON BUNDLE] - Prepare for your next triathlon with the HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim chest heart rate monitors plus Forerunner 935's incredible training metrics
- ADVANCED RUNNING METRICS & MULTI-SPORT ACTIVITY PROFILES] - Detailed metrics including running dynamics, wrist-based heart rate, training status, lactate threshold, VO2 max & many more; Custom activity profiles for running (indoor/outdoor/trail), cycling (indoor/outdoor), swimming (pool/open water), skiing, paddle sports, hiking & more
- [PERFECT BUNDLE] - The extra QuickFit (22mm) silicone band allows the Forerunner 935 to match any look while the HD Screen Protector Film will keep it looking brand new and the PlayBetter USB Charging Adapters (not included in original packaging) will make sure you're never without a charge!
Packed full of features, the Forerunner 935 does not disappoint. Comparable to the other watches in our review, the 935 provides pace, cadence, elevation gain/loss, training effect, calories, VO2 Max, stride length, SWOLF, workout alerts, interval training, open water swim metrics, steps and sleep monitoring.
The optical heart rate monitor proved to be more reliable than some of its competitors, such as the Garmin Forerunner 35 but you can also connect to an external heart rate strap, power meter, etc., which communicate using ANT+. It also has smartwatch notifications and music controls for your phone. It does not offer internal music storage.
If we’re out on lengthy, heart rate zone 2, training for an ultramarathon, we could program the workout and sync it to the Forerunner 935 so that anytime we fell below or exceeded the specified heart rate zone, the watch would beep or vibrate. This allows us to stay in our planned zone without having to constantly look at the watch.
For the number of features it provides, the Forerunner 935 is still very easy to use. Navigating through the various features and menus is intuitive. With five labeled buttons around the bezel, learning which button does what is not a problem. The interface is highly customizable as well. The sheer number of widgets and apps available from Garmin can be daunting at first, but if you start by using the native features of the watch, you get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Measuring battery life is a complicated task because different watch features and functions affect battery life in different ways. GPS, for example, really sucks battery juice quickly. Another thing that is a huge drain on the battery is constant vibration notifications or tone notifications. So if you are the type of person that gets texts all day and keeps your notifications function on the watch set to “on,” be aware that your battery will drain a lot quicker.
The Forerunner 935 proved to be one of the most accurate models we tested, and this bore out throughout our training. The accuracy was analogous to that of the more expensive Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire. It is perhaps even a bit better at optical heart rate monitoring. We believe this was because it fit the testers better, due to its smaller and lighter design.
Similar to all of the Garmins, the set up was relatively easy. The nice thing with Garmin products is that they automatically register with the first sync. We did not notice any other manufacturers offering this, so were required to register our devices manually.
Basically, you download the Garmin Connect app and then follow the instructions on the phone and watch. The watch had about 25% charge out of the box, which is more than enough to set it up and maybe go for an hour run.
To top it off, Garmin managed to keep the screen size comfortably large. We had no problems seeing all the data during our activities. Similar to most of the higher-end Garmins, the 935 watch band allows it to lay flat on your wrist. It also has slots all the way around, so even a person with a tiny wrist can tighten the band adequately.
The face design has a bezel made of a fiber-reinforced polymer, which gives it a more finished and high-quality look than the Garmin Forerunner 235. The five buttons are low profile enough that you will not get stabbed doing your push-ups! Wearing the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus Sapphire or the Baro Suunto 9 during push-ups resulted in some bruising on the back of our hands due to their buttons.
Garmin is the market leader in GPS watches, and there are reasons for this. With the Garmin Forerunner 935, they packaged a long list of features into a lightweight, sleek looking smartwatch. Whether you are an Ironman, an ultra runner or a recreational runner, you will not be disappointed in the accuracy, the customization or the performance of the 935. The Forerunner 935 will make you want to up your game.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is a watch that seems to be the perfect balance of everything — features, design, ease of use, battery life and accuracy. All of that packaged into a lightweight but durable housing with an uber comfortable band and fit for all of our testers, whether petite or large. The Forerunner 935 is not the cheapest watch in our test, but if you are a serious athlete looking for a watch that can provide you with the metrics and performance you need, you should look no further.
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2. Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR
Like Garmin and Polar, Suunto has taken its time to introduce heart rate monitoring from the wrist, but now feels it’s got the tech on board to deliver data that might convince you to leave the chest strap behind.
- Battery life up to 12 hours in training mode
- Steel bezel, mineral Crystal Glass, and an outdoor grade color touch screen
- Strong and sleek design with100 meter water resistance
- GPS route navigation
- Sport specific training modes and support for over 80 sports with racing and interval use
Bottom line: If you are thinking of buying one, then you’re probably pretty serious about sports tracking and wouldn’t mind some smartwatch and fitness tracker-like features thrown into the mix as well.
So does the Wrist HR deliver accurate heart rate data? Does it make up for the issues and bugs we experienced using the Sport? We’ve been living with it for the last few weeks to find out.
It still has that big round touchscreen display, three physical buttons down the side and a soft touch silicone rubber strap keeping it around your wrist. It also offers the same waterproofing (100m) so you can take it for a dip. One noticeable change here though is the missing brushed metallic bezel, now replaced with a more subdued black steel bezel. You can pick the Wrist HR up in blue, sakura (pink) or black with interchangeable straps to mix the colours up. Put it up against something like the Garmin Fenix 5 and it lacks character, with a very ordinary sports watch feel about it.
While it looks roughly the same size as the Sport, it’s actually just slightly heavier (74g up from 70g) and thicker, jumping from 16.8mm from 13.8mm, no doubt as a result of the addition of the heart rate sensor. What hasn’t changed is the hulking size of this watch in comparison to its closest competitors. It’s a big ol’ watch, but surprisingly light and comfortable to wear.
The focal point is the 320 x 300 resolution touchscreen, which makes a trade-off between screen quality and power consumption. This the same thing that Garmin and Polar do, so it’s no big surprise. It’s definitely not the sharpest or the most vibrant of displays, but for a sports watch it definitely does the job. Our one main criticism though is that it’s a bit laggy in responding to swipes and taps, but that’s more of an issue with what’s powering it.
If you want to track multiple sports then this watch has got you well and truly covered. There are 80 sports in total that can be tracked, and once you hit the top physical button to jump into exercise mode you’ll be able to scroll through activities that include running, trail running, treadmill running, cycling and swimming (open and pool). There’s a triathlon option, and even something for obstacle training.
We also took the Wrist HR for a swim, and while you won’t be able to benefit from the heart rate monitor while in the water, it does a very good job of recording pool sessions, serving up accurate distance and lap counts.
Suunto should also be commended on delivering a pretty decent treadmill running mode, something that most sports watches really struggle with in terms of accuracy.
We should also say that there was one occasion where it posted a suspiciously high maximum heart rate reading (data below) compared to the chest strap, but weirdly so did the Spark 3 as well. This was during a high intensity run, which is where many other optical heart rate sensors come unstuck. On other high intensity runs, it held up well.
It’s a pretty basic approach and lacks the more motivational features that Garmin offers with its sports watches. There’s also no sleep tracking, although we’re not sure we’d be all that comfortable sleeping with this big watch. Data is added to the Movescount app but overall fitness tracking feels very secondary to the overall experience. There’s certainly potential here to do more on this front, especially with the addition of the resting heart rate data. Right now, it’s not offering anything new or innovative.
The mobile app focuses on showing you totals and workout history, which you can drill further into to see a breakdown of sessions and view graphs for aspects like pace, speed, heart rate and cadence. You can add photos and tags, add a ‘feeling’ and share a Suunto Movie of your sessions that’ll pick out key points of data, like where you hit your maximum heart rate.
It’s shame a lot of these features are not carried over into the mobile app, but it feels like Suunto finds itself where Garmin was a few years ago and where Polar is now – moving a platform predominantly developed for the web to become more mobile-friendly. The good news at least is that it does play nice with third party fitness apps including Strava, if neither the mobile or web app is up to your high standards.
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3. Garmin VivoSmart 4
Fitness trackers are evolving from chunky devices you’d feel comfortable wearing only to the gym to all-day accessories that don’t look out of place at the office or out to dinner.
- Slim, smart activity tracker blends fashionable design with stylish metal accents and a bright, easy to read display
- Includes advanced sleep monitoring with REM sleep and can gauge blood oxygen saturation levels during the night with the wrist based Pulse Ox sensor. (Not a medical device and not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition)
- Fitness and health monitoring tools include estimated wrist based heart rate, all day stress tracking, Relaxation breathing timer, Vo2 Max, body battery energy monitor and more
- Features dedicated activity timers for walks, runs, strength training, yoga, pool swims and others; Lens material: Polycarbonate. Strap material: Silicone
- Get vibration alerts for All notifications, including calls, text messages and more (text replies available for Android device users). Display resolution: 48 x 128 pixels
- Battery life keeps up with you; Lasts up to 7 days (excluding pulse ox sleep tracking) and is safe for swimming and showering, too
- Connect to your compatible smartphone’s GPS so you can get accurate tracking during outdoor walks and runs
Fitbit has led the pack when it comes to turning fitness trackers into fashionable accessories, but Garmin is finally paying more attention to how its devices look. The Vivosmart 4 is one of the better-looking bands around. The one downside is its unibody design, which doesn’t let you swap in other bands to change up your look.
The Vivosmart 4 comes in four colors: gray with rose-gold accents, berry with light gold, azure blue and silver, and black on black. I tested the gray version, which is on trend with its eye-catching rose-gold trim. Several people asked me about the band during the week I spent wearing it (in a good way).
With a slimmer band comes a slimmer screen, and that’s where the Vivosmart 4 falls short for me. This display is seriously tiny — so small that you can’t even read a full word on-screen. Instead, menu text scrolls horizontally on the vertical screen, so if you glance away, you’ll miss the alert. This isn’t a huge deal, but everything takes just a little longer than it should.
The Vivosmart 4 is Garmin’s most basic activity tracker, which means it lacks GPS on the device itself, and you cannot use your phone’s GPS to log mileage. I don’t mind if a fitness tracker isn’t spot-on, but the Vivosmart 4’s estimates were off by a mile (literally).
Garmin added an SpO2 sensor to the device, which measures blood oxygenation levels while you sleep. The measurements are graphed as percentages, and the Garmin Connect app shows you the optimal range for those percentages. My average SpO2 reading was 99 percent, which is good. A low SpO2 reading is a sign of breathing difficulties while you sleep, which could be a symptom of sleep apnea. You do have the option to turn off the pulse ox sensor, which diminishes battery life because it remains active the entire time you’re sleeping. I awoke one night to see a glowing, red light encircling my wrist, and in my sleepy state, it scared the daylights out of me.
The Vivosmart 4’s heart-rate sensor also measures stress, as it did on the Vivosmart 3. This metric affects the new Body Battery feature (more detail on that below), but it’s also incredibly interesting to see when your heart rate spiked due to stress. One day was particularly frustrating, with an unnecessarily lengthy commute (thank you, NYC MTA!), deadlines to hit and a trip to plan.
I wore the Vivosmart 4 every day for more than a week and found that it lasted about three and a half days with the pulse ox sensor running all night and daily workouts with heart rate activated. Unless you think you might have a sleep disorder or trouble breathing at night, you probably don’t need to activate the pulse ox sensor; you’ll easily be able to eke out a few more days of battery life.
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4. Fitbit Versa 2
The new $199.99 Versa 2, which hits stores on September 15th, is the company’s latest smartwatch effort. As you can tell from the name, it’s an evolution of the Versa, with a few design tweaks, a handful of new features, and the same price. It is a better Versa and an excellent fitness tracker. But overall, it’s not a better smartwatch.
- Use amazon Alexa built in to get quick news and information, check the weather, set timers and alarms, control your smart home devices and more all through the sound of your voice (third party app may be required; amazon Alexa not available in all countries)
- Based on your heart rate, time asleep and restlessness, sleep score helps you better understand your sleep quality each night; also track your time in light, deep and REM sleep stages and get personal insights
- Control your Spotify app, download Pandora stations and add Deezer playlists, plus store and play 300 plus songs on your wrist (subscription required; Pandora is us only)
- With a larger display and an always on option, your information’s always a quick glance away (always on display requires more frequent charging)
- Track heart rate 24x7, steps, distance, calories burned, hourly activity, active minutes and floors climbed. Syncing range - up to 6.1 meters
- Works around the clock with 6 plus day battery life (varies with use and other factors)
- Get a call, text, calendar and smartphone app notifications when your phone is nearby; plus send quick replies and a voice replies on android only. Works with Bluetooth headphones & 200 plus leading iOS and Android devices.
The original Versa was one of the most comfortable smartwatches you could wear and the Versa 2 is just as pleasant on the wrist. It’s not too large, not too small, and should be fine on a wide variety of wrist sizes. It’s also very lightweight and the tapered design hides the bulk of the watch well. The Versa 2 is one of the few wearables that I’ve been able to comfortably wear 24/7, even while sleeping.
The general design of the Versa 2 is the same as before, but Fitbit has simplified the interactions down from the previous multibutton setup to a single button on the left and the touchscreen. The watch doesn’t lose any functionality, however — you can still do all of the same things with the Versa 2 as could be done with the first Versa.
Fitbit has traded the Versa’s LCD panel for an OLED screen and this is the best upgrade that the Versa 2 brings. It’s bright, colorful, and easy to see both indoors and out. I was able to view the screen with no problem in direct sunlight and through polarized sunglasses. The OLED panel also enables the new always-on display feature, which lets you always see the time or your workout progress. But the always-on feature has very limited customizability (you can choose between digital or analog clocks and that’s it) and it disables the raise-to-wake feature, so you have to double-tap the screen or press the side button to wake the watch.
Fitbit has also added a microphone to the Versa 2, giving it some limited voice control abilities. There’s no speaker, so you can’t use it as a speakerphone, but if you have it paired to an Android device, you can speak replies to messages and it will turn those into text. (Sorry iPhone users, you still can’t reply to messages at all with the Versa 2.) This worked well in my tests, with quick and accurate transcriptions of my voice. It does take two or three taps on the screen to record a voice reply, which is a bit tedious, and you can’t actually initiate a new message by voice — you can only reply to incoming ones, so there is room for improvement here.
The microphone also comes into play with the new Alexa features. Long-press the side button and Alexa will open, from which you can ask it questions or tell it to do Alexa-related tasks like control smart home gadgets, set timers, or show you the weather. Since the Versa 2 doesn’t have a speaker, all of Alexa’s replies are displayed on the screen and it can’t do things like play music or any other audio-related task. Alexa also can’t actually control the watch — everything you ask Alexa to do is contained within Alexa’s interface, including timers, alarms, and other features.
There’s also a new Sleep Mode for the watch that disables the display from lighting up or notifications from buzzing while you’re sleeping, which seems like something that should have probably been available on last year’s model, but I’m glad it’s here now. You can initiate the Sleep Mode from the quick settings screen on the watch or through the smartphone app, where you can also set it to turn on and off automatically based on a schedule.
Of course, you can get all of those same fitness tracking features in one of Fitbit’s other products for less money, so the main reason you’d spring for the Versa over a Charge 3 or Inspire HR is for its smartwatch features. And that’s where the Versa 2 runs into many of the similar problems as its predecessor.
Watchfaces are a particular sore point. The Versa 2 can only store one watchface at a time, so when you want to try a different look, you have to replace the watchface through the mobile app and send it to the watch. If you want to switch back to the watchface you were just using, you have to go through the whole process of searching for it in Fitbit’s app and redownloading it to the watch — there’s no way to even store a set of favorites in the app for quick access, much less multiple looks on the watch at any given time.
The Versa 2 is indeed a better product than the Versa, and the design changes and new features are mostly welcome. But it’s not any more compelling of a device than before: it’s an excellent fitness tracker, but if you’re looking for a smartwatch, you can be better served by an Apple Watch or one of Samsung’s offerings for Android devices.
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5. Apple Watch Series 5
The Apple Watch Series 5 has been eclipsed by the Series 6, but it’s still packed with useful features and was once the best smartwatch you could buy.
- LEAVE YOUR PHONE AT HOME: Apple Watch Series 5 GPS + Cellular LTE Model lets you call, text, and get directions without your phone present. It offers multiple connectivity options, including: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, and 4G LTE to suit your needs, whatever they might be.
- ALWAYS-ON RETINA DISPLAY: You no longer need to raise your wrist or touch the screen to see the time or other information on your watch face, because the display never sleeps. All you need to do is glance to find the time or your workout metrics right there where you want them.
- ECG ON YOUR WRIST: With the ECG app, Apple Watch Series 5 is capable of generating an ECG similar to a single-lead electrocardiogram. It's a momentous achievement for a wearable device that can provide data for doctors and peace of mind for you wherever may be during the day.
- WORKOUTS THAT DON'T QUIT: Cycling, yoga, swimming, high-intensity interval training...the list goes on. You name it, Apple Watch measures it. Set workout-specific goals, see full summaries when you're done, and track how you're trending over time in the Activity app on your iPhone.
- GET LOST IN YOUR MUSIC: With Apple Music on your wrist, you've got 60 million tracks of musical motivation to take you places. You can also catch up on the latest podcasts or listen to an audiobook if that's your thing. Stream everything you need right from your watch, even without your phone
The Apple Watch Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to sport an always-on display — and what a difference it makes. In previous years, the Apple Watch’s face remained dark until you raised your wrist. Now when you glance down at your wrist, no matter what position it’s in, you can see the time, and whatever other information you’ve configured.
You don’t need to upgrade your Series 5 to a Series 6. While the newer watch’s upgrades are welcome, they’re incremental. You’ll enjoy more improvements if you’re upgrading from a Series 4 or older.
That said, if you’re itching for an Apple Watch 6, you may be able to trade in your Series 5 for a reasonable sum.
The Series 5 doesn’t simply show you what time it is. When inactive, the display shows you a dimmer version of all the information on your watch face. I usually use the Infograph Modular watch face, which has six complications along with the time, so I have access to my most-used apps (Workout and Messages) as well as bits of information like the weather and battery percentage. I can still see all of that when the display dims.
When you’re using an app, the always-on display dims and blurs the background to show you the time when it’s inactive. This applies to all but the Workout app, which still displays all of your metrics even when you’re not actively looking at the watch.
It just didn’t thrill me the way the FDA-cleared ECG app did when the Series 4 was announced last year. But I realized just how useful the Compass app could be when I wore the watch on a 2-mile hike through Runyon Canyon. I’m a new transplant to Los Angeles, where dozens of urban hiking trails are just a few miles from my doorstep. A compass isn’t really necessary on these trails, because I can usually see L.A. landmarks like the Hollywood sign to orient myself. If I can see Griffith Observatory to the east and the ocean to the west, I’m set.
I can see this feature being even more essential when camping or hiking in more remote areas. Thinking back to a time I got lost hiking in Sedona as a teen in the pre-smartphone area, this feature would’ve been a life-saver. (Not literally for me — I clearly survived — but for someone else.)
It should be noted that certain watch bands will interfere with the Series 5’s built-in magnetometer. Basically, any band with a magnet in it will throw off the compass’s ability to perform, so if you’re heading out for an adventure, leave the Milanese Loop or Modern Buckle at home.
My favorite new features include the new Cycle Tracking app for logging period flow and symptoms (more on that in a minute), the Calculator app, which will save relationships with a built-in tip calculator, the Noise app for monitoring decibel levels and the new independent Watch App Store. And that’s not even half of the improvements Apple delivered in this release. There’s a lot to love about watchOS 6.
The Watch App Store is perhaps the most obvious game-changer, because you no longer need to install watch apps from your iPhone. This means that app developers don’t have to create iOS apps first and then make watch extensions, which should make watch apps more useful and specific. I wonder when Apple will allow Apple Watch buyers to set up the watch without an iPhone, too, which is now the biggest thing keeping the watch from being a completely independent device.
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Before you buy, consider your fitness goals. Are you trying to jump-start a lapsed fitness routine? Fine-tune an exercise regimen? Train for a triathlon? The right fitness tracker can help you achieve your specific objectives.
Fitness trackers range from simple to sophisticated, with prices to match. Here’s how to find the right tracker to fit your budget, fitness goals, lifestyle, and fashion sense.
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Finally, price is one of the key categories of fitness trackers. You can spend anywhere from $40 to several hundred dollars depending on the features you want. If you are on a tight budget, you can still find something that will give you the basics like tracking your steps. Spend a bit more and you can get heart rate tracking, spend even more than that and get GPS or a higher water rating.
It’s worth it to save up to get the device you really want, if that’s a possibility for you, and if you truly see yourself getting a lot of use out of the device. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best fitness trackers you can get for more budget-friendly prices.
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How to Shop for a Fitness Tracker
Simply plugging in “fitness trackers” to a search engine produces mind-boggling results. The reality is you have to think through what you want and need before you get started. You’ll need to ask yourself whether you want things like heart rate monitoring or GPS, and what sorts of activities you usually do.
Here are some of the initial things to consider when you begin your search.
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The wrist fitness tracker is the most popular, but it’s not the only option. If you’re not sure if you want to wear something around your wrist all the time, it’s worth it to look at some of the other options. You can get trackers that are rings or necklaces you can even find trackers that just clip on to your clothing.
If you do want a wrist activity tracker, you still have some great style options available to you. Several devices look great and can be customized through changeable bands. Other devices are low profile and don’t look like a flashy tracker.
Another consideration is whether you want a smartwatch, which will likely focus less on fitness and more on keeping you connected. However, many new models are hybrids of fitness trackers and smartwatches, which means you have more options than ever.
Also, keep comfort in mind! You’ll probably want to wear it 24/7, so it should be comfortable enough to sleep in and wear with different sleeve lengths and so forth. Some bulky trackers are very uncomfortable for those with smaller wrists or for those who wear long sleeves. Others might just not feel right to you. Definitely try on devices with long-term wear in mind.
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The display is an important part of your fitness tracker, and it’s well worth it to check out the style and functionality of the devices you’re interested in. Displays have a range of options and specs including:
- Touch screen
- Side buttons
- Color or black and white
- Visibility in various light conditions
- Size of screen
In addition to the looks of the display, it’s important to find one that has an intuitive interface. There’s nothing worse than spending the money on a fancy tracker only to struggle with using it. Some devices have a steep learning curve but are still useable once you get to know it, but others are touchy, buggy, or overly-complicated and simply not worth it. User experience is absolutely key in your enjoyment of your device – otherwise it will probably end up in a drawer sooner rather than later.
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The features of fitness trackers include things like activity and sleep tracking and heart rate monitors, which we’ll cover next. The features of fitness trackers usually make or break the decision for you. It’s a good idea to establish early on in your search just what you want out of your fitness tracker.
Part of the features consideration might also include data and metrics. If you are seeking a tracker that will play a pivotal role in training, improving your health, or addressing concerns such as weight or sleep issues, the data and tracking that accompanies it should be fairly high on your list.
Related to data (and also user experience), another feature you might be interested in is feedback or motivation. Some fitness trackers and their associated apps do a great job of keeping users motivated by letting them compete with other users, offering virtual rewards, or providing words of encouragement. If this appeals to you, there are plenty of trackers that offer a really positive experience for the user.
Next, we’ll break down some of the most popular features of fitness trackers.
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Activity tracking is, of course, the most important part of a fitness tracker. Most will track steps first and foremost, and if that’s the main thing you want, you have a lot more options. If you’re looking for trackers that differentiate between different activities and/or actually track different activities, you’ll want to pay particular attention to the different trackers’ abilities.
A few things to understand regarding activity tracking:
- Without GPS, your steps, distance, and other running/walking/cycling data might not be completely accurate
- Not all trackers count flights of stairs – if this is important to you, make sure your device has an altimeter and will log that info
- If the tracker doesn’t measure heart rate, the “calories burned” count will only be an estimate based on steps or movement
- If you are a swimmer, make sure your device is both waterproof and capable of tracking swimming
Trackers cannot gauge things like exertion, so, even though most companies’ algorithms are top quality, your tracker will never be able to tell you exactly how many calories you’ve burned, or even differentiate between a harder workout (say, running on the beach) versus a standard (running on the road). However, many apps will let you update that information, and some trackers allow you to do that from the display (before or after the activity).
The best advice we have in this category is to make sure the tracker you’re eyeing can track the activities you want it to. Whether you want it to track reps, your golf game, or rowing. Typically these are called multisports devices.
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Most wearable fitness trackers track sleep. However, they can be very different in quality and accuracy. If sleep tracking is important to you in your fitness tracker, it’s definitely worth doing some research on which devices are the best and most accurate.
What you’ll notice in different trackers is that some claim to know when you fall asleep, while others require you to press a button when you go to bed. Some are pretty accurate but many have to be updated through the app in order to have the right data about when you fall asleep or wake up. The best sleep tracking will be able to determine sleep stages by studying your heart rate and your movements during the hours you sleep.
It can be incredibly useful to have a sense of your sleep patterns and behaviors, especially if your focus is on overall health. However, if you have a sleep disorder or suspect there might be more going on, it’s best to check with your doctor or find a dedicated sleep tracker for more nuanced information.
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Whether or not the device has GPS is a significant factor for many future fitness tracker owners. It can be very handy, especially for runners. You can track your routes, try out new routes, and get more advanced data about your runs or cycling.
There are two types of GPS options in fitness trackers:
- Built-In GPS: The device comes equipped with GPS
- Linked GPS: The device pairs with your smartphone to extract GPS data
Having built in GPS means you don’t have to take your phone with you. However, if you want GPS, it will cost you. Fitness trackers with GPS capabilities cost significantly more – especially built in GPS. They also tend to have a much shorter battery life.
If you are shopping for a GPS-equipped fitness device, be sure to check for those two features (built in versus linked) and consider the battery life. This is particularly important if you are a long distance or trail runner who wants a GPS device that will last your entire run.
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Heart Rate Monitoring
While many fitness trackers now come standard with HR, if this is a key feature for you, you should consider both the accuracy of the monitor and the data that you get from it. Heart rate monitoring comes from optical sensors that essentially read the blood pulses in your veins. The best HR fitness trackers have the most advanced sensor technology, but heart rate monitoring – like sleep tracking – can be touchy.
Some of the best ways that your HR data is used in various trackers is to determine things like VO2 Max and cardio fitness score, stress levels, and more. It’s an excellent addition to devices that are used for a holistic health focus. Most of the newest devices can track your heart rate pretty accurately. Of course, do remember that this information shouldn’t take the place of a visit to your doctor, nor should you use your data to make any huge lifestyle changes without consulting with a medical professional.
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Having a fitness tracker means interacting with an app of some sort, so it’s a good idea to know what the app is like before you commit. Fitbit is widely considered to be the best in fitness tracker apps – it gets consistently good reviews and offers regular updates. Even so, it can be buggy and plenty of users experience dissatisfaction with it. The app you’ll like will definitely be subjective, but reading user reviews and trying it out whenever possible is a good move before you buy.
Some people who use fitness trackers use other apps in conjunction with their tracker’s app – MyFitnessPal is one example – so if you are interested in doing that, check for compatibility before you buy. Additionally, there may be some specific features you want, like the option to track food, so make sure your research takes into account as much of your wants and needs as possible.
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Waterproof vs water resistant
Having a waterproof device might be important to you, in which case it’s good to understand what names like “waterproof” or “water resistant” actually mean. This designation matters if you intend to swim, shower, or run in the rain with your fitness tracker.
No device is completely waterproof. Instead, devices may have some level of water resistance, and your device’s specs should tell you exactly how resistant it is. This measurement is usually an ATM rating, so you’ll see trackers listed as something like “5 ATM,” but it might also be explained in meters: “water resistant to 50 meters.” Those ratings are exactly the same.
When it comes to water ratings, higher numbers are always better. That rating of 5 ATM/50M means that the device will resist water up to 50 meters below the surface if you are not moving. Thus, if you want a fitness tracker that can be fully submerged and that you can swim laps with and not sorry, you’ll want at least 10ATM to be safe. (Yes, you *can* swim with a 5ATM/50M device, but we highly recommend going higher.)
Here are some general guidelines for water ratings:
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- 1 ATM/10 Meters: Splash/rain resistant
- 3 ATM/30 Meters: Splash/rain resistant; quick shower okay
- 5 ATM/50 Meters: Splash/rain resistant; showering and accidental submersion okay; light, surface swimming okay
- 10 ATM/100 Meters: Splash/rain resistant; fine for showering and swimming
Battery + Charging
The battery life of your fitness tracker will depend heavily on its features. Devices with GPS will usually have a much shorter battery life, for example, and you’ll need to charge it much more frequently. Many fitness trackers last 4-5 days with a single charge. Still, others use standard CR2032 batteries and only have to be changed every few months. Consider charging time, too, as you make your decision.
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When it comes to notifications on your device, there are two kinds you might consider: smart notifications from your phone (texts, missed calls, apps, etc.) and inactivity notifications or alarms. Many of today’s fitness trackers blur the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker, so plenty of devices can keep you connected. The nice thing about those kinds of devices is that it is another reason to leave your phone at home when you work out.
Inactivity reminders or additional silent alarms can be really useful to help you stay on track. Some of the devices that offer those kinds of notifications will also let you set alarms to remind you to be somewhere, to take medications, or to get moving at various intervals. There are plenty of options in this category, so it’s worth checking out if having reminders or alarms is important to you.