How to choose a Fitness watch or a fitness tracker guide 2017

How to choose a Fitness watch and tracking?

Picking a fitness tracking can be a daunting experience for some with all the different options you can get and brands on the market. This buyers guide will help you through that process and we break down the best fitness trackers of 2017.

There are few wearable categories that offer up such a dizzying number of options as the fitness tracker. The number of models and brands is ever increasing, from Fitbit, Garmin and Misfit, picking between them is getting increasingly tricky.


While the previous crop of activity trackers just offered step and sleep tracking, newer bands include built-in heart rate monitors, increased sensors, waterproofing, GPS and smartphone notifications – making the latest bands hybrids between fitness trackers, running watches and smartwatches.

Checkout this video on YouTube that takes you through the buying process


Why buy a fitness watch or tracker?

While the fitness tracker has exploded in popularity, it’s well worth taking a second to consider what you want from it. Many of the enquiries I get at Active JR from readers looking to buy a fitness tracker are around features and what it offers in terms of ease of use

Fitness trackers, by and large, will track your daily activity in terms of steps and calories burned through movement. You set a goal of how active you want to be and they will give you a rough guide as to how successful you are. The more advance fitness trackers offer better activity tracking and the fitness watches such as the Garmin Fenix 5 offer a great deal more. SO what you need to decide is what you are looking to track and what type of activities you are looking to complete and find the right fitness tracker for you.
Just a general rule a fitness tracker like the Fitbit Alta HR will serve you well to track steps, calories and automatically track activities such as running or cardio and is aimed at someone wanting simple easy to use device. If however you are looking for something more advanced then the Fitbit Charge 2 or the Garmin Vivoactive might be a good choice with advance fitness activities and data.


While most trackers wrap around your wrist in a band design like the Fitbit Alta HR you have also got the option to have a watch style design. Designs from Garmin with the Fenix 5 and Fitbit with the Blaze are a prime example.

Essential readingGarmin Fenix 5x review

And while the choice used to be about what colour band you went for, or whether it had a screen, smart analogue watches are now offering even more choice. Fitness tracking smarts packed into normal-looking watches is a big trend, Withings leading the way. The Withings Steel HR is especially strong, with continuous heart rate monitoring and 28 days of battery life.

Fitbit Alta HR

Garmin Fenix 5x

Fitbit Alta HR with Coral band


There are a handful of fitness trackers that can be taken into the pool and report on your swimming sessions. The Misfit Shine 2 (and its Speedo Shine brethren) will track lengths in the pool, while the Withings Go can record duration and calorie burn. If however you are wanting serious swimming features the Apple Watch 2, Suunto Sport HR or the Garmin Fenix 5 are fully waterproof and great for this activity

Read thisFitbit Alta HR review

The Garmin Fenix 5 will detect strokes and offer data on your technique, offering a lot more for obsessed swimmers.When wearing a HR monitor such as the HR TRI from Garmin you  can detect heart rate in the pool –

What you need to look out for is the difference between splash and waterproof. Splash will do you ok around the shower or washing hands, but will fail in a pool and then a fully waterproof watch is something you need for open or pool swimming

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Garmin Vivosmart 3 band



Heart rate tracking on activity bands is now commonplace and provides a big boost in accuracy in terms of the calorific burn from your day. However, the type of tracking differs hugely. The Garmin Fenix 5 which is a fitness watch offers 24/7 tracking along with resting heart rate and so does the Fitbit Alta HR and charge 2.  So what you need to decide is what type of heart rate monitoring you need, do you need 24/7 or do you need monitoring when working out?

Something else to consider also is that wrist based Heart heart monitoring is pretty new tech and is not accurate when it comes to activity that involve the wrist such as cycling, boxing or weight training. So if you want accurate HR readings then you should consider a external heart rate monitor and you would need to connect this via bluetooth or ANT+

Sunuto Sport HR

Garmin Fenix 5


Garmin Fenix 5x activity profile


Battery life is an important factor to take into consideration, as having to charge your band every few days can be a real thorn in the side of your attempts to track your fitness regime, and crucially can mean you need to leave it at home or it runs out during a working day.

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Bands now fall into two camps: those that require charging every five (ish) days via a USB cable and devices that use a watch battery that lasts around six months.

The Garmin Vivosmart and the Garmin Fenix 5 all require regular recharging, but offer the most comprehensive metrics. However the Apple watch requires charging almost every day

The Misfit Shine 2, Misfit Flash, Withings Activate, Jawbone UP Move and Moov Now all use watch batteries that will need changing every six months.

Garmin Vivosmart 3

Nokia Steel HR


Opt for a band with a built-in display and you can keep an eye on the time and your fitness goals without firing up a phone app.

Fitbit decided to add an OLED to display to its Charge 2, while the the Fitbit Blaze got a tidy 1.25-inch colour display, which pays off when it comes to guided workouts and notifications. The likes of the Garmin Vivosmart and Gear Fit 2 offer curved OLED displays, but information is limited.

The Apple Watch 2 and the Gear 3 offer great colour displays and so does the Fenix 5 and Suunto Sport HR

A display usually adds a few pennies to the price-tag, though, so think long and hard whether you actually need one.

Samsung Gear Sport


withings activite pop strap


Steps taken and sleeping are the two main areas of focus for the majority of trackers, though each band’s relative accuracy is difficult to assess – these fitness trackers weigh up your movement during the day and the night and try and guess how far you’re walking and how well you’re sleeping.

The bottom line is that the technology in today’s trackers is good but not perfect. Until GPS tracking becomes the norm in fitness trackers, use them as motivational aids rather than scientifically accurate monitors.

Many trackers can also make note of your workouts, swimming sessions, cycling and other types of exercise, though you’ll typically need to tell your tracker what you’re doing each time. The Misfit Shine 2, for example, which can be worn on your clothes or your wrist, needs a triple-tap to enter activity mode.

If you are wanting to really track fitness and activities then a Fitness watch is the way to go

The mobile app that comes with your tracker is a vital part of the equation, letting you crunch through your data, set goals, challenge your friends and so on.

First and foremost, check that your tracker works with your mobile phone of choice – most now support both Android and iOS.

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Jon Ratcliffe
I have a huge passion for technology having worked in the sector for over 18 years in a variety of roles. I cover Wearables, tech and smart home. My reviews and information will talk about how the product works in reality and not just what the marketing departments want you to think.

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