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 TRACKER DESIGN
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 reading: Garmin 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
DO YOU NEED IT TO BE WATERPROOF
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 this: Fitbit 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
UNDERSTANDING HEART RATE TECH
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
FITNESS TRACKER BATTERY LIFE
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.
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
DATA AND APP
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.