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How to Choose a Fitness Tracker

Find an activity tracking device that fits your lifestyle.

  • Consider your workout style
  • Think about function vs. fashion
  • Look at fitness tracker charging options
  • Look for compatibility with your current devices
  • Make sure the tracker is high quality

Tracking your health and activities from day to day can prove tricky, even with modern technology on your side. Fortunately, there are devices that make it a little easier. Depending on the type of exercise you do, it's important that you find a device that works well for you personally. There's a lot to consider when finding a fitness tracker, such as wearability, specific functions and cost. With the help of this fitness tracker buying guide, you can find one that checks all your boxes for solid exercise tracking results.

Consider your style of workout.

Because so many different types of workouts exist, there are specialized fitness trackers that are designed for certain purposes. For example, if you're a swimmer or diver, look for activity trackers for water sports that are made to go past certain depths. If you're a cyclist, consider a tracker that attaches directly to your bike and uses GPS to monitor your course. A tracker whose primary function is a pedometer is ideal if you're a runner or walker. You can even get a fitness tracker for kids, so your children can track their exercise and activity too. The main advantage of specialized exercise tracking devices is that they are more accurate when recording specific exercises than broader, multipurpose ones.

Want a tracker that looks at more than just steps or distance? Select a model that checks for periods of activity and also includes a heart rate monitor. That way, you can switch between lifting weights and using cardio equipment in the gym, and it tracks the total time you stay active. If you have a health condition, you may benefit from models that have other specialized tracking functions, such as a built-in pulse oximeter or thermometer.

Think about function vs. fashion.

How and where you wear your tracker has a lot to do with your daily habits and personal style. Some trackers attach to your exercise equipment, such as your spin bike, but most stay on the wrist with a band like a watch. Others mimic bracelets for a more relaxed feel that blends in with your outfits. High-fashion trackers look nice but may come with a larger price tag.

Consider what features you need as well. If you only exercise one specific way, you can save money by getting a device with fewer features. GPS and distance trackers may seem cool, but if those features are unnecessary for your fitness regimen, they could drive up the cost of the device without being useful.

Many fitness trackers feature some smartwatch functions, such as displaying apps and notifying you of calls and texts. However, most lack the full functionality that a smartwatch offers.

Look at charging options.

Most trackers have very long battery lives, lasting days at a time before they need charging, and some have even longer battery lives than that. You can also extend battery life with models that have battery-saver modes that shut off GPS and other features when not in use. Some models can track sleeping patterns, so longer battery life is beneficial for that specific feature.

How you charge the unit varies as well. Select models have built-in solar panels that allow the tracker to charge when you're running errands or exercising. If you find charging at a wall socket is inconvenient for any reason, some models have replaceable batteries you can buy. Make sure whatever charging method or fitness tracker accessories you pick are reliable and made with quality parts.

Use it with your current devices.

One benefit of fitness trackers is that they offer ways to connect with your computer, tablet or phone. You can set up these devices to show your progress, make activity charts and even offer rewards or congratulations when you hit certain exercise milestones. Pick a model with features like these that sync with your current technology to get the most out of your workouts. For example, some trackers can connect to your already curated music playlists.

Make sure the tracker is high quality.

Given how pricey some activity trackers are, it's important to find a high-quality model that’s built to last. Working out means sweating, so waterproof or water-resistant models work better for vigorous exercise. If you participate in sports or outdoor activities that are more physically aggressive with lots of contact, wearable technology that has a protective bezel might help shield the tracker from damage caused by bumps and falls.

When shopping for an activity tracker, keep in mind that a brand name doesn't guarantee fantastic quality. Based on the reviews you read, you may find that less expensive brands with low name recognition may offer the same quality and features at a fraction of the price of a top-name brand. After you buy a fitness tracker, make sure it always has the latest software to keep cyber bugs away and to give it a longer lifespan.

There are many advantages of fitness trackers, including scheduling your workouts, monitoring them, charting progress and encouraging yourself to do better. Their interactive features can also make regular exercise seem less daunting. Once you assess how you work out and what extra touches benefit you the most, buy a model that suits your needs. Keep it updated and maintained, so it can help you reach your fitness goals.