Setting work out goals and accomplishing them has never been easier with the introduction of wearable technology. While working out, we can now track a variety of fitness and health measurements, allowing fitness gurus and amateurs alike to personalize their workouts like never before. Have you taken enough steps today? Is your heart rate reaching the ideal BPM? We can all become experts at health and fitness now with the help of fitness trackers.
In doing a quick Google Shopping search for "fitness trackers" (also called “activity monitors”), I found that there are over 15 different brands offering about three different models each. This means that your average shopper has over 45 different wearables to choose from. How do you know which fitness tracker will best suit your needs? There are a few important factors to look at before choosing the right one; price, data, design, compatibility, and battery life.
It’s always important to set a budget before you shop so that you are not easily wooed by fancy, high-tech add-ons that you really may not need. Most fitness trackers fall into the following categories: under $50, $50 to $100, $100 to $200, and $200 & up. It's important to note, however, that your budget may change depending on what your goals are. If you are looking for something simple, then you can save money by purchasing a less expensive device.
Knowing what data you are looking for is important to your decision. The most basic devices will provide you with data on main features like steps taken, calories burned, and distance. The more comprehensive ones will provide the basic features, as well as heartrate monitoring, sleep tracking, and even smartphone notifications. If there are any of the advanced features that you do not need, you can plan to save some money on your wearable.
Not all trackers have screens. If you’re anything like me, you need to see your progress to stay motivated. It’s not an essential feature, however, because most trackers sync wirelessly with their compatible app, allowing you to check results on your smartphone. If it comes with a screen, your device may have the capability to alert you of smartphone notifications like text messages and music controls.
If you’re a gym rat, this is something you’ll really want to think about. If you plan to work out very often with your tracker, you’ll want to choose one that has a long battery life. The average battery life is about one week, but some can last up to 6 months. Check the product specifications or ask a retail associate what the average battery life is to find out more.
A less important factor, but still something to consider, is the product design. Not everyone wants to wear a fitness tracker around their wrist, and that’s ok! Trackers like the Jawbone UP MOVE and the Misfit Flash can also be worn on clips or in pockets. Another important spec to look for is if its waterproof of not. Some devices can be taken for a swim, and some should remain far, far away from any moisture. And if you are still looking to dress up your wearable, Tory Burch has wraps and bracelets to make your device into a chic accessory.
Is your desired tracker compatible with your phone? Most sync with iOS and Android, but Windows phone compatibility is more rare. This is hugely important to your fitness success. Take a few minutes to actually check out the app design and functionality. Some have extra add-ons that may sway you like food logging and diet tracking, or integration with other tools like Map My Run. It's also important to be sure that the app is easy for you to understand and use. Check out the reviews for second opinions!
Now that you are familiar with some of the features that vary from one fitness tracker to another, here are some examples of popular models in each price range mentioned earlier.
Misfit Flash - $29.99
A great wearable for any beginner who is just starting to explore the world of health and fitness. It provides data on steps taken, distance,calories and sleep, the standards features for most trackers. While it does delivery the main data points that most trackers provide, there is no heartrate monitor and it does not have a screen. All of your results and tracking will be reported in the accompanying app. In addition, the plastic design makes this tracker a bit cheaper, although it is surprisingly sleek! It's also water resistant, adding to the value. Battery life has been reported to last up to six months, and is easily replaceable.
Jawbone UP 2 - $99.99
For under $100, you can expect to get most of the basic data like steps, distance, and calories tracking, automatic sleep quality monitoring and wireless syncing. Key features that are missing from this device are a screen, heart rate monitoring, time, floors climbed, and GPS. Still a pretty good deal as you get the key features, and this device is easy to wear with a super slim design.
FitBit Charge HR $149.99
The Fitbit Charge goes for $20 more than the regular Charge, which has no heart rate monitor. Depending on what you are looking for, they are both great trackers. They encompass all of the standard tracking features including floors climbed, plus show the time and smartphone alerts. The heart rate tracking is a great add-on for those who are looking to monitor their resting and active heart rates.
Fitbit Surge - $249
The Fitbit Surge is certainly on the higher end of the fitness tracker spectrum. It boasts all of the features mentioned earlier, including GPS to track runs, and an always on display. However, seeing as there are so many feautures, the battery life is lower than average at just 3-5 days. Its also a larger, bulkier band which might be uncomfortable for those with smaller wrists.
Are you looking for text notifications and other smartphone features, and want to be in the loop at all times without having to look at your phone? Maybe a hybrid is what you need, a smartwatch that tracks activity and supports smartphone notifications.The Apple Watch comes complete with an accelerometer and heart rate monitor, and the Motorola Moto 360 Sport has all of that, plus GPS capabilities. These devices will cost you a pretty penny, but both smartwatches boast some of the most high-tech functions available to the public.
All in all, most of the fitness trackers on the market right now are pretty fantastic. As technology advances, functionality and design will only get better. If you are still unsure about which to purchase, (we know, there are a lot of choices) reading product reviews is a great way to see how some of these factors play out in real life. Ask around, too. You’d be surprised how many people actually have a fitness tracker already!
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