From bracelets to shoe clips, from rings to watches, there is almost certainly a fitness tracker out there with the look you’re after. The price points are just as varied—from less than $20.00 to several hundred dollars – but there is a tracker to fit any budget. But, do they really work? And, if so, which is best? Here’s what we found:
For years now, critics have said these trackers pale in comparison to actual medical monitoring devices ( i.e. an ECG for measuring heart rate or a metabolic chamber for calorie counts). However, in a small study recently completed, researchers found that while still not as reliable as ECG measurements, wearable fitness trackers are more accurate now than ever before when it comes to heart rate monitoring. These trackers aren’t medical devices, as their manufacturers readily admit. The consensus among medical and health professionals seems to be that if you need an exact measurement, see a doctor. If you want broad information on your cardio health and encouragement toward healthy choices, a fitness tracker is a great idea. And about those calories burned? Most devices use broad averages based on static information you put in, so the device doesn’t know if you’re 5’6” and 160lbs of muscle, or the same stats but squishy all over. These factors influence your calorie counts significantly. But, as one anecdotal-and-non-scientific quest discovered, the calorie measurements are generally consistent by device for the same activities over time. This general number can be useful as you compare activities or the intensity of the same workouts over time.
So, now that we’re on board with this fitness tracker idea, which one do we buy? The short answer is—it depends. Your budget, preferences, and tracking needs will make all the difference. But, if it’s our money we’re spending, here’s what we’d like to wear:
- Garmin Forerunner 920XT – Yes, this is on the pricier end of the scale. But, for the triathlete, is there anything more useful than more data? This “watch” (it is so much more) comes with a chest strap and can track a myriad of metrics: pace for runners, strokes in the water, and power on the bike! It also has built-in Wi-Fi, so when you pull in the driveway, it starts unloading the information you’ll obsess over as you ice your calves and eat two bowls of pasta primavera.
- Apple Watch Series 2 – It’s been around, but we can’t quit this one. While it is only water resistant, not waterproof (sorry swimmers), it has the bells and whistles we need: heart-rate sensor, GPS, and synchs with Apple’s health/workout apps to provide us loads of information to help us fine-tune our daily health plans. And, pardon our vanity, but it is a nice looking wrist piece, as well.
- TomTom Spark 3 – It monitors your heart rate. It tracks distance, time, and speed. It syncs up with loads of apps. It stores MP3s. Wait, what? That’s right. For the true rebel -- the risk-taker in you—leave your phone on the nightstand and hit the road. Wireless headphones allow you to run and listen to Kendrick Lamar and not feel the need to respond to every text/tweet/snap in real time. And you can plan your route ahead of time and follow the mapped course on the watch! What a fun way to go, especially when you travel or just find a new part of your city to run around. Reviews of this little gem seem uniform—great app, reliable data, and an all-around fun tracker.
Do you need a fitness tracker? Tough question. They can supply more data than you get training without one. Even if the measurements are 100% accurate on heart rate or calories burned, they are close enough to inform and motivate your plans. Our vote? Finding the fitness tracker that measures what matters to you can be one more tool in your training arsenal. And who doesn’t want that?
Which trackers have you used? Any features you can’t live without or wish you’d never see again? Tell us about it! You can also track our activities all over the web: We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And if you think tracking your activity can help improve your game, just wait until you’ve trained and raced cramp free! Click here to pick up your supply of HOTSHOT and see what the only product scientifically proven to treat and prevent muscle cramps can do for you!
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