How to Pick a Fitness Tracker
Making a final decision when it comes to buying a fitness tracker can be a little bit overwhelming when you consider all the choices on the market.
And while some companies –such as Fitbit- tend to dominate the subject, you shouldn't overlook other options.
From the design to the alarms to the functions, we’re going to explain everything you need to know and help you make a better fitness tracker choice.
An All-day Tracker or Just for Training?
You can either opt for a tracker that only keeps up with training-related information such as heart rate, speed, pace, breathing patterns, route, altitude changes, swimming laps, and maybe a bonus feature such as controlling music.
On the other hand, an all-day tracker will also let you know the number of steps you’ve taken, steps you’ve climbed, durations of exercise as well as minutes spent active, and some can even track sleep.
Design and Style
Although wrist-based bracelets are the most popular types of trackers, they’re not the only ones available.
There are necklace-shaped, ring-shaped, and clip-on trackers as well.
Moreover, if you pay close attention to style and would like to match your wearables to the clothes you have on, you may want to get a tracker with interchangeable bands.
It’s very important that you feel nice and comfortable in your fitness tracker’s position and if it’s a bracelet-like one, it should fit snuggly and well.
Screen and Display
How you view your information and interact with your tracker can have a major impact on your overall experience and enjoyment of the tracker.
Pay attention to whether your tracker has a touchscreen, side buttons, good visibility in different lighting conditions, color or black and white display as well as its size.
Test the menus and navigation of the tracker before you buy it so that you can be sure that it won’t irritate you to make simple commands.
The most important thing when it comes to purchasing a fitness tracker is to know exactly the features you want.
The type of data and metrics shown contribute to your journey towards better health, lifestyle, and training.
On top of that, the way your tracker delivers feedback and motivation also has an important effect on how often and consistently you reach your goals.
Undoubtedly, this is the most important part of your fitness tracker.
You can settle for the basic step-counting and calorie tracking or push for something more detailed.
Some trackers come with an ability to track multiple sports to cover a wide range of activities such as running, cycling, walking.
You should bear in mind that your tracker will show you the calories you’ve burnt running on average.
But in fact, the actual number can vary depending on your environment.
For example, you’d definitely burn more calories running on a beach than running on the road.
However, your tracker will display the same calories burned for either if the distance covered was the same.
Sleep tracking uses the heart monitoring sensor to determine the stage of sleep you’re in.
So the more important this aspect is, the more you should focus on heart monitoring accuracy.
Generally, the degree of accuracy varies from one device to the other, so do your research well.
And in any case, you shouldn't rely on fitness trackers' information if you're suffering from a sleep disorder. Consulting a doctor is always a safer and more sensible choice.
If you’re a cyclist, runner, or hiker, the GPS feature is essential.
GPS allows you to track your routes, search for new ones, and receive advanced data about your activity.
GPS will be available in either of two forms:
Your device is already equipped with a GPS capability.
You need to connect to your smartphone to extract GPS data.
Built-in GPS will give you more freedom to leave your phone behind and facilitates outdoor activity.
However, it also drains the battery pretty quickly and can really increase the price of your device.
Heart Rate Monitoring
The degree of accuracy of the heart monitoring sensor and data can be very different from one device to the other.
Accurate readings of the heart rate mean accurate information regarding your sleep and the calories you burned during a workout.
Some trackers are equipped with extra features such as VO2 Max to determine the maximum amount of oxygen that you can burn as you do intensive and vigorous exercise.
There's also cardio fitness levels, stress levels, and SpO2 sensors which can detect the amount of oxygen present in your blood and consequently determine how athletic you are.
Apps and Downloadables
Check out the apps that are available for download and use on your tracker before you buy it.
What app you’d like to use is a matter of personal preference, but reading user reviews can help you determine if you’ve opted for the right tracker for your app needs or not.
Waterproof or Water-resistant?
Typically, a fitness tracker will be water-resistant up to a specific level rather than completely water-proof.
This level is measured in ATM ratings or meters. A 5 ATM resistance means your tracker can be submerged up to 50 meters without any damage being inflicted on it.
And while 5 ATM is safe enough to swim with, a tracker with a 10 ATM rating will be the safer –if a little more expensive- choice.
If it’s going to be occasional splashes and some rain, you’re good with a 1 ATM tracker. A 3 ATM is good to last a quick shower.
A 5 ATM tracker will handle accidental submersion or shallow swims.
And finally, a 10 ATM tracker is the ideal one for swimming activities.
Battery and Charging
The number and type of features available on your tracker have a direct impact on battery life.
You’ll probably need to charge a device with built-in GPS more frequently than one without GPS capabilities.
Most trackers found on the market have an average battery life of 4 to 5 days. However, you can still find ones with CR2032 batteries that would run for months before needing a battery change.
Moreover, charging time is also an important aspect here. How long it takes for your device to be fully charged can impact the way you can use it.