What To Look For In A Fitness Tracker
For many of us, the reclaimed time that coronavirus restrictions have given us is a chance to rethink our routines of self-care. And when that includes exercise, a whole world of gadgetry opens up for us to discover. Exercise enthusiasts can find all sorts of tech to make those all-important goals more manageable, but top of the list are fitness trackers: wearable tech whose primary purpose is logging data so we know how we’re doing.
Such is the demand that the range has surged in the past couple of years. Fitbits are only the starting point: there’s now a slew of new and known brands with funky features and nifty nudges. So when you’re picking one out, it’s good to know exactly what to look for. While design and durability play a major part, we’ve taken a closer look at the functionality of fitness trackers to help you suss out what to prioritise for your budget.
Top of the list of must-haves is accuracy. After all, it’s what makes a fitness tracker worth buying, when most smart phones these days have a basic step counter. Note that for step-counts, wrist fitness trackers without GPS aren’t the most reliable. But many trackers come with built-in GPS (or GLONASS, the slightly less accurate Russian version, or both) so distance can be more precisely measured which is perfect for cyclists, and runners gearing up for their first 5km race. For other measures like sleep and heart rate, there’s no sure-fire way of checking this in advance without the rigmarole of buying, testing, and returning, so check reviews thoroughly before buying.
Range of measures
Trackers have their specialisms: some are perfect for runners, others are made with holistic health in mind – everything from mountain climbing to blood oxygen levels can be measured. So having a proper think about a tracker’s main purpose and what you might need one for in the future will help narrow down your choices. For example, if you know that gyms aren’t for you, try not to get lured by a fitness tracker because of the glowing range of machines it helps monitor. The sleep-deprived might want to prioritise a tracker that offers detailed sleep stats, those at risk of burning in the sun can opt for a one that measures UV exposure, and women can get one which logs their monthly cycle. Too much choice isn’t always ideal, but in this aspect, it’s useful with a little extra planning.
Long battery life
There’s a chasm of a difference between the longest and shortest battery span, but as with phones, it’s not as simple as deciding that the tracker with the longest battery life is the one to get. It’s a question of balancing battery life with budget with the volume of features. For example, because it’s a communication device too, the Apple Watch might only last a day before it needs charging, whereas a dedicated tracker with disposable watch batteries like Moov’s will last months. That’s helpful if you don’t want to interrupt monitoring, or want to wear it overnight for sleep stats. And remember: if the battery is rechargeable, beware the manufacturer’s claims of its battery lasting ‘up to’ so many hours: a full charge of battery life declines over time.
The ability to get a little wet is useful in any tracker. For starters, it means that you won’t have to take it off in a shower, so it can continue monitoring your vital stats. But depending on the intensity of your workout, you’ll want one that resists sweaty skin too. When water sports are introduced, this requires another level of water resistance. You’ll easily find trackers that are waterproof to 50m, so even divers won’t have to take them on and off.
Good user interface
It’s always a blessing to use digital products that have been carefully considered from a user’s perspective. That’s especially the case with fitness trackers because of their miniscule screen size. It means an intuitive interface makes the difference between useful and useless. The better trackers tend to be easy to use, and come with robust apps or desktop trackers that present information in a meaningful way. So while it’s tempting to bag a bargain online, it’s worth going in store and testing out a few screens to see which one suits you better. Truly, it could save hours of frustration afterwards.