Fitness trackers have so much to offer, but with so many products on the market, how can you decide which you would get the most out of? We’ve looked through some of the top fitness trackers and compared their key features to help first-time buyers make the right choices.
Heart Rate Monitors
A huge number of fitness trackers measure heart-rate during exercise, but if you need to measure your resting heart rate throughout the day, you will need a heartrate monitor, or HRM. Some HRMs do nothing other than record your heart rate, and although older models frequently used an uncomfortable chest-strap, modern technology has opened up a range of subtle techniques for HRMs. For instance, the Basis continuously monitors heart rate at the wrist with an optical sensor, while the Withings Pulse O2 reads the pulse through the fingertip.
If you want to get more than just a simple step tracker, think of stepping away from activity trackers and towards sports watches. While activity trackers often contain pedometers, sports watches can also measure cadence and pace, and can track cycling, swimming and running. However, this additional power consumption means smart watches won’t be able to measure every footstep you take all day – something an activity tracker can usually cope with.
Once you have your tracker up and running, you’ll want to link it up to an app on your PC or smartphone to get the most out of it. Some apps are only made to sync with desktop computers, and others require a certain type of phone, so before you buy your fitness tracker, make sure it has the compatibility you need.
Apps are absolutely vital for activity trackers – many only work through apps. FitBit and Withings’ apps are particularly smart, and Withings can also give you a total body analysis, glucose readings, and plenty of other information.
Some fitness trackers can even record your sleep. This will let you know how many times you moved enough to be considered awake, and some devices, such as the Basis and the Jawbone UP24, even monitor your motion to tell you when you are in light sleep and deep sleep. The Jawbone UP24 will monitor your caffeine intake, and the Basis can even determine when you are in an REM sleep cycle. If you’re having trouble dropping off or staying asleep, these apps could help you pinpoint what the problem is, so you can start finding the right solution.
Most fitness trackers have some water resistance, although they don’t necessarily promise accuracy at high depths. If you’re a keen swimmer, you might want the Misfit Flash or the FlyFit, which have enough water-resistance for almost every circumstance. The Finis Hydro Tracker GPS has a lot of features for competitive swimmers – it attaches to goggle straps and monitors your performance through Google Maps, and even provides a time-lapse replay of your workout.
Some water-resistant fitness trackers address particularly important needs – the iSwimband sends parents an iPhone alert if their children are under water for too long.
Written by John Corwin, a self confessed fitness fanatic.