How To Choose A Fitness Tracker

How to choose a fitness tracker

If you’re looking to buy a fitness tracker, you’ve probably searched and have been overwhelmed with the number of choices available.

Even though Fitbit tends to dominate the topic, there are many other options that shouldn’t be overlooked.

And in any case, you should know how and what to look for when you’re shopping for a fitness tracker.

If you don’t, this guide will walk you through it all and help you form a better idea about which device would suit you best.

Read more: 8 Reasons You Need A Fitness Tracker

All-day or training tacker?

Trackers are generally divided into two types. There are ones that only track training-related information including heart rate, breathing patterns, speed, pace, route, swimming laps, altitude changes, and sometimes they have music control.

On the other hand, there are ones that track all-day activity including steps taken, steps climbed, exercise duration, minutes spent active, and sleep tracking.

Design and Style

The wrist-based bracelet-like fitness trackers are the ones that prevail in the market.

However, you’re not restricted to them. You can find trackers in the shape of a necklace, a ring, or a tracker that you can simply clip on to your clothes.

If you like matching your wearables to the clothes you’re wearing, you can make use of trackers that can be customized and that come with interchangeable bands.

Moreover, since you’ll be wearing your fitness tracker 24/7, you should make sure that it feels nice and comfortable on your wrist. It should fit you really well as you’ll be making vigorous movements during exercise.

To make sure you get the perfect fit, measure your wrist with a thread and match it to the lengths available for the model you want to buy.

Display

Although you may think the display is a minor part of the fitness tracker, it actually plays a major role in the functionality of the device.

There are a couple of features that you should pay attention to when you're picking a fitness tracker including whether it has a touchscreen, side buttons, color or black and white display, visibility in different light conditions, and size.

Make sure you get a device with an intuitive interface to maximize your utility and enjoy all the features. The worst thing in the world is paying good money for a device that irritates you when you’re navigating through it.

Features

Popular features on fitness trackers include general activity tracking, sleep tracking, and heart rate monitoring.

Of course, these things can either make or break the value of the device. So it’s crucial that you identify the functions that you want out of your fitness tracker before you buy one.

Data and metrics play an important role in your journey towards improving your health, losing weight, or training and losing weight uniformly.

Moreover, feedback and motivation can really help you stay on track and achieve your goals on a daily basis as well push yourself beyond your limits.

Activity Tracking

Without a doubt, activity tracking is the most important aspect of a fitness tracker.

The very basic is step-counting, but you can definitely ask for so much more.

There are activity trackers that have multi-sport tracking to cover different activities and you should know a few things.

If you're looking to track your steps taken, distance, running, walking, or cycling, you'll need GPS for accurate results.

Since not all fitness trackers count the floors you’ve climbed throughout the day, you should make sure you get one that does if this is important to you.

The calories burned count will only be a close estimation based on steps and movement if your tracker doesn’t come with heart rate monitoring.

No matter how accurate tracking is, there will still be some wrong calculations. For example, you’ll probably burn more calories running on the beach than running on the road.

However, for your tracker, your calories burned will be the same as long as the distance covered is the same.

Sleep Tracking

Sleep tracking is mostly based on readings of the heart monitoring sensor.

If sleep-tracking is important to you, make sure you get a fitness tracker with accurate heart monitoring.

Moreover, do your research well that the sleep-tracking statistics are accurate as the degree of accuracy varies from one device to another.

Generally, being aware of your sleep patterns can really affect your overall health.

However, you shouldn’t rely on the information provided by a fitness tracker if you’re suffering from a sleep disorder. Consulting a doctor would be the wisest choice.

GPS

One of the most useful features for runners, cyclists, and hikers is GPS. It allows you to track your routes, discover new ones, and get advanced data about your activity.

Typically, there are two kinds of GPS options for fitness trackers.

Built-in GPS: 

This is where the device is readily equipped with GPS.

Linked GPS: 

This is where the device pairs with your smartphone to extract GPS data.

Of course, built-in GPS is a lot more helpful as it spares you the need to take your phone out with you whenever you do exercise outdoors.

However, a tracker with built-in GPS will probably cost a lot more than one with linked GPS or none. On top of that, it'll probably have much shorter battery life.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Most of the recently-released fitness trackers come with standard HR capabilities.

However, the degree of accuracy of the sensor and the data that you get from it can greatly vary.

How heart rate monitoring works is that optical sensors read the blood pulses in your veins. So the more advanced the sensor technology, the better the heart rate monitoring.

Some trackers step their game up a notch and determine VO2 Max (which determines the maximum amount of oxygen that you can burn during vigorous and intensive exercise), stress levels, cardio fitness score levels, and more.

Furthermore, some trackers come with a SpO2 sensor which detects the amount of oxygen present in your blood and thereby is able to determine how athletic you are.

These extra features are all great additions to a fitness tracker that focuses on your health and improvements to it.

Apps and Downloadables

Before you decide on a particular fitness tracker, you should make sure to inform yourself regarding the apps that are available for this device.

Which app you like is quite subjective, but if you read the user reviews before you make your purchase will probably help you make the best buy or avoid a useless one.

You can use different apps alongside the tracker’s app. So you should check for compatibility before you make your purchase.

Waterproof or Water-resistant?

It’s a fairly obvious point that if you’re buying your fitness tracker to track your swimming activities, you’ll need a waterproof one rather than one that just resists water.

In all cases, a fitness tracker is usually water-resistant up to a certain level rather than completely waterproof.

This level is measured in ATM ratings or meters. So you'll find "5 ATM" or "50 meters" in the information on your fitness tracker.

And although a tracker that can resist water up to 50 meters is generally safe to swim with, getting one with a 10 ATM rating would be better and allow you to swim rest assured that nothing will go wrong with the device.

To give you a better idea:

1 ATM (10 meters) will be splash and rain resistant. 3 ATM (30 meters) will also sustain a quick shower.

5 ATM (50 meters) will also handle accidental submersion or shallow swimming.

10 ATM (100 meters) is the best as you can go swimming without having to take it off or worrying about anything going wrong with it.

Battery and Charging

The battery life is usually closely linked to the features available on the fitness tracker.

A device with GPS capabilities will probably have shorter battery life and will need to charge more frequently.

While most trackers come with a 4 to 5-day battery life, you can find ones with CR2032 batteries that you’d only have to change every couple of months.

Charging time shouldn’t be overlooked. The shorter, the better. And it can compensate for a short-lived battery.

Notification

There are two types of notifications to be considered.

Smart notifications such as calls, texts, and apps on one hand and inactivity notifications or alarms on the other.

Since many devices mix between being a fitness tracker and a smartwatch, you can definitely find a device that will track your activity and still keep you connected to the world around you.

Moreover, inactivity reminders and silent alarms can be really helpful when it comes to sticking to your routines and achieving your activity goals.

These alarms can remind you to take medications, get moving, and drink more water.

Compatibility With Your Devices

A lot of fitness trackers will come compatibility with both iOS and Android operating systems such as the Fitbit devices and Garmin devices.

However, if your watch runs on iOS (like the Apple Watch Series), it’ll probably have more features available for smartphones that run on iOS (like the iPhone).

The same also applies if your watch runs on Android (like the Samsung Galaxy Watch) it’ll perform better with Samsung Phones.

Dustin Mathis