Are you planning to take a step closer to fitness and better health? A fitness watch or fitness tracker can help you get motivated to create healthier habits. It’s a great tool to help you keep moving and track metrics like steps, calories burned, heart rate, and sleep. And its measuring has a goal – once your data is measured, it can give you a better picture of your overall fitness and health, allowing you to adjust your habits and build positive ones.
If you’re considering buying a fitness tracker – you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably considering owning one because it seems like everyone you know has some sort of fitness tracker strapped to their wrists or body these days. Also, wearable technology has been one of the biggest fitness trends in recent years. So, if you want to understand how it can be helpful for you and how you can shop for one, this guide can help you.
What is a Fitness Tracker?
In the early days, a fitness tracker was a simple step counter. Some of them were designed to attach to your shorts or jeans and not on the wrist. Modern fitness trackers do a lot more. Nowadays, it functions as a decent health and fitness indicator.
A fitness tracker is a device – typically in the form of a wristband– that monitors statistics such as heart rate, the number of steps you take, and how long you spend working out. Depending on the brand or model, they can look like a digital watch or a band with a small digital display. Most fitness trackers have different dedicated modes for recording various forms of exercise, and some also have GPS trackers for tracking locations during walks, runs, hikes, and bike rides. Besides activity, most fitness trackers also monitor how long you sleep in each stage, so you can also know the quality of sleep you get.
The data gathered by the tracker is sent to an app on your smartphone, where you can track changes and progress over time. The apps also allow you to set goals and offer guidelines to help you achieve your fitness goals. Most apps give some virtual “awards” for achieving particular goals, which will keep you motivated to stay active and moving.
Some fitness trackers have a feature that lets you sound an alarm on your phone in case you misplace it. They can also have stress monitoring and guided mindfulness and breathing exercises to help you de-stress.
What are the Benefits of Fitness Trackers?
1. Personal accountability
This is the number one reason and benefits why people use fitness trackers. Moving and exercising without a tracker won’t make you able to track your goals and progress. If you can see tangible stats, it will encourage you to take more steps the day before, run faster than yesterday, or sustain a higher peak heart rate just for a little longer.
2. Helps in setting achievable goals
You will have to set a realistic goal that you can achieve for the best fitness results. You can’t shed weight if you keep leading a sedentary lifestyle and do not exercise. A fitness tracker can help you set and achieve realistic goals within a recommended time frame. For example, if you want to run on a 5k track but have not run more than a hundred yards in the past year, the tracker will set individual milestones for you to reach your goal.
3. Helps you stay motivated
Fitness trackers are designed to help you meet your goals and personal milestones. Seeing records and results can help you stay motivated by encouraging you to achieve your goals and even beat them.
Some fitness trackers come with social features that allow you to share your progress with social media networks, allowing your friends to encourage you. Some have features where you can connect with other fitness trackers in your area, create your workout groups, and challenge each other to meet your goals.
4. Aids in weight loss
When you use a fitness tracker and try to meet or beat your fitness goals, you will inevitably lose weight and shed excess pounds. Having a tracker can help you stay consistent with your exercises, as it shows you stats that reveal results and show if you are on track toward your desired weight. Some fitness trackers can also calculate the estimated calories burned, which is essential when you are trying to lose weight.
5. Monitors your health
As fitness trackers track your daily workouts and record your heart rate, calories burned, and step counts – it encourages you to exercise more, stick to a healthier diet and sleep better. Overall, it would boost your health and keep you fit.
Factors to Consider when Looking for a Fitness Tracker
Fitness trackers are incredibly personal, like every piece or item you wear on your body. Sure, they must be attractive to you, but they must also fit your lifestyle and the things you want to track. No matter what your needs are, here are the things that you need to consider when looking for a fitness tracker to buy:
One of the most important questions to ask yourself when choosing a fitness tracker is the type of design you prefer. Most fitness trackers are wrist-based, though there are also clip-on options and tracking rings. Most trackers are like smartwatches, which you wear on the wrist.
You may pick one design over another based on preference, but each has advantages and disadvantages. Watches and bracelets are hard to lose and more convenient to use, but they can make you feel uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time or even interfere with your other activities. Meanwhile, a clip-on or ring is a better alternative if you don’t like wearing a device on your wrist.
2. Tracking capabilities
Fitness trackers are equipped with a host of different sensors. Generally, the more sensors, the more factors it can measure. Wearables usually track heart rate, step count, speed of movement, hydration, body temperature, blood oxygen, sleep, calories burned, and more. You need to know your fitness priorities and needs to identify which device would be your best option.
For example, if you are taking a diet while increasing your activity to lose weight, you may look for a fitness tracker that tracks the calories burned. If you are troubled because of poor sleep or if you want to learn more about your sleeping habits, then look for one with a sleep tracker. If you want to keep track of how many steps you take every workday, then you don’t need to buy an all-around tracker that is usually expensive. Sometimes, you won’t even need a fitness tracker as your smartphone can be able to do what you need.
Fitness trackers use different mechanics to track activity levels. Sadly, fitness trackers and smartwatches are not medically-certified devices, so you can’t expect 100% accuracy. It can only give you an estimate or a close number, but it cannot provide exactly accurate measures at all times. However, you can try to check scientific reviews of different fitness trackers to see how accurate they are compared to medical-grade devices. Sometimes, the manufacturer provides this information, though it’s often found in fine print or deep in user guides.
If accuracy is a priority for you, then choose a tracker with built-in GPS. GPS is the most powerful tool that a fitness tracker can have. It triangulates your position with the help of satellites and produces records and maps of your runs, hikes, and rides. Also, accurate distance data can affect so many other readings. For instance, if the recorded distance is too low, the tracker will think you are slower than you really are, and vice versa.
Your exercise habits will also play a factor when choosing a fitness tracker. Generally, fitness trackers are more resilient than a common watch or an average smartwatch. They can typically handle the bumps, shakes, and sweats that come with a workout. But you probably don’t need a durable tracker if you want to use it to track your steps for your walk around the neighborhood. But if you spend your weekends climbing mountains, participating in triathlons, or swimming, then you need an extra durable fitness tracker.
5. Water resistance
Any fitness tracker If there’s a chance that the tracker could become immersed in water (especially if you plan to use it for swimming), don’t settle for a splash-resistant tracker – go for a waterproof model.
Splash-resistant or water-resistant devices can handle rain, sweat, and even faucet or shower pressure. But just because you can wear it in the shower doesn’t mean you can also wear it the next time you swim a few laps in the pool. If you plan to use a fitness tracker for swimming, choose one that is waterproof because they are sealed, submersible, and designed to survive consistent soaking.
6. Smartphone or computer integration
Though fitness trackers usually come with screens to display information, they are often small and won’t give you a full picture of your statistics and progress. You can get a more in-depth look at the measures tracked by using a tracker that comes with smartphone or computer integration. Ensure the tracker is compatible with your phone or computer’s operating system.
To make the most out of your fitness tracker, you must ensure that it fits well. A snug fit can help the tracker gain more accurate measurements. Wearing it all day will allow you to take advantage of all its features, so make sure it’s comfortable enough even when you’re not exercising or even while sleeping.
8. Battery life
Since a tracking device is best used as an everyday companion, it must have excellent battery life. Fortunately, tracking devices are designed to have a long battery life. Generally, smartwatches have less battery life compared to dedicated fitness trackers. Smartwatches typically trade for longer battery life for better displays and advanced functionality, which you may not need with a fitness tracker. The more features you use, the easier you’ll drain the battery.
Fitness trackers can be availed at prices as low as $25 to $400 or more. The simplest and least expensive trackers lack ample display, and the metrics they can show are often limited, so you will need to look at your smartphone most of the time. Meanwhile, more expensive trackers typically include built-in optical heart rate monitors and GPS, which are meant to tempt athletes and fitness enthusiasts. But don’t buy a costly tracker if your primary type of activity is walking in your daily commute to work or the neighborhood. But if you work out a lot and want great tracking features, you might want to spend at least $100 to get the tracking capabilities you need or want.