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Choosing A Fitness Tracker

Aug/06/2023 / by Brian Sodoma

The right device will help you reach your health goals

Woman in outdoors stretching and wearing a fitness tracker
Photo via Shutterstock

Fitbit changed the health and fitness world when it released its first tracker in 2009. Overnight, we began counting steps, checking our heart rate, and measuring our blood pressure with this slender and smart wristband. Health experts boosted its popularity by talking up the tool’s ability to help us stay on track with fitness goals.

Today, the fitness tracker environment has many players, including brands like Garmin, Oura, WHOOP, the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch, among others. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down which one may be right for you. Here are five steps to help you choose the right tracker for your needs.

Step 1: Assess Your Fitness Routine And Goals

Before you start researching products, do some self-analysis. Ask yourself how you will be training and what your overall health and fitness goals are. Are you a runner? Swimmer? Cyclist? Do you enjoy interval training in the gym? Do you mix up a few different types of physical activities?

If you are a swimmer, a waterproof (not simply water-resistant) product is a must. If you are a trail runner, water resistance may not be such a big deal. If you spend most of your time in the gym, you may need more smartphone functionality and very accurate tracking of a wide range of biometrics. For this first step, however, focus on who you are, your activity level, and your goals, not products.

Step 2: Match Features To Your Needs

With fitness goals and activities in mind, brainstorm which features may help you achieve your goals. Even the least expensive trackers will give you the basics: steps, heart rate, and a lot of daily activity level tracking, but there are other considerations to keep in mind, such as:

  • Notifications, reminders
  • Nutrition tracking
  • Walking, running, elevation (stair steps) tracking
  • Stress level monitoring
  • Smartphone functionality like text and phone capabilities, and Google Assistant
  • GPS, Google maps
  • Sleep analysis
  • Music storage
  • Health and wellness features like meditation and breathing exercises

In addition to features, keep battery life in mind. Most trackers will last 36 hours to two days on one charge. But if you know you will need a charge to last several days or more, plan to spend extra. Products like the Garmin Fenix even bring solar capabilities to help extend the charge.

Another thing to consider is the interplay of the product with your phone. Trackers like the WHOOP Strap, for example, are faceless bands that store all your data in your phone, others store the data right on your wrist, some sync with your phone, while others may not.

Step 3: Style

There are basically three styles: the slender wristband (Fitbits and WHOOP) and square or circular watch styles. The one thing to consider when it comes to style is the size of the face. If you do prefer a watch with a lot of functionality, some are larger.  The Garmin epix, for example, has a 47 mm face. Keep that in mind if you don’t like a bulkier product on your wrist.

Step 4: Price

There are trackers in the sub-$100 category that pack plenty of power, but you can get something that’s very customizable for between $200 and $400. There is also the $400 to $1,000 range. Here you are often paying for durability, incredible battery life (maybe even up to 10 days), waterproofing, or some extremely unique features. Some Oura Ring products, for example, measure body temperature and help women better predict the start of their menstrual cycle.

Memberships are also an important area of research when it comes to pricing a tracker. Many brands sell premium monthly memberships for more data capabilities and access to exercise content. Most cost between $5 and $10 a month. However, some people complain about certain brands upselling too much and taking away from the tracker’s experience. On the other hand, the service may be exactly what you need.

Step 5: Read Reviews And Test Drive Trackers

As you do your research, you’ll encounter many reviews. Give more weight to the ones that align with your goals and the features you need (steps one and two). If many reviews are singing the praises of the features you need, that product can be added to your shortlist. In addition, pay attention to what reviews say about durability and battery quality. Once you create your shortlist, visit a retailer for a test run. This is where comfort and style meet functionality.

If you are new to fitness trackers and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can opt for a sub-$100 option like the Fitbit Inspire. It may not have every feature you want, but it can introduce you to the world of fitness trackers so that you can learn more about their functionality and what features you may want in the future. This allows you to start on your path to your fitness goals; then you can upgrade later without breaking the bank now.

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