Three best fitness trackers

Kristin Yarbrough

Much like fitness trackers, all fitness apps are not created equal.

In one year alone, consumers worldwide spent more than $26 billion on wearable devices, and fitness trackers make up a sizable slice of that pie. More than just glorified pedometers, many of these units can wake you up for your workout, calculate mileage, compare stats with yesterday's, and get you to work on time.

All of these cutting-edge features come at a cost that some people are willing to pay. Others just want to know if they're meeting their goals -- or not. This simple guide can help you find the right fitness tracker for you.  

Considerations when choosing fitness trackers

The style of tracker you choose makes a difference in the functions available. Most attach around the wrist. Some clip to a collar or pocket, and a few hang around your neck. Consider your primary form of exercise when choosing a fitness tracker.

Fitness tracker features

Steps: Virtually all fitness trackers count steps. While this won't give you a full picture of your health, you can see how much you move each day. Many units translate your step count into mileage and calories burned.

Heart rate: More advanced models measure heart rate, both during exercise and at rest. Budget-minded individuals may find this unnecessary, while others have conditions that make knowing their heart rate essential. Heart rate can be a health indicator, since your resting heart rate decreases as your health improves.

Sleep: Many trackers measure your movements during the night to determine how restful your sleep is. Health declines when sleep suffers, so this function can shed light on an area that's often hard to measure.

GPS: GPS-enabled fitness trackers let you know how far you walk, run, or bike so you don't have to depend on your smartphone's GPS to determine your distance.

Screen: Nearly all trackers have touchscreens, but these vary in quality. Many higher-end models show real-time fitness data on a large display. Others have narrower screens that provide limited information.  

Fitness tracker prices: Fitness trackers vary greatly in price, mostly depending on their functionality. Once you've determined what features you need, it's time to decide what fits your budget. Trackers between $15 and $50 provide basic functions like step counts, calories burned, and sleep tracking. Trackers in the $50 to $100 range give you basic functions, and many add water resistance and relay notifications. A handful of models offer GPS functionality. Higher-end trackers range from $100 to $500. Most in this price range offer GPS functionality and heart rate monitoring. Nearly all have touchscreens, activity reminders, and exercise tips. The most advanced models cross over into smart watch capabilities.  


Q. Do I need a waterproof fitness tracker?

A. Yes, if you're a swimmer or athlete who trains and competes regardless of weather. Otherwise, most trackers in the middle price range and above resist sweat, light rain, and splashes. Some you can even wear in the shower.

Q. Is the calorie burn count on my fitness tracker accurate?

A. It varies by model. Lower-priced models calculate it based on step counts and weight data you enter into the app. Higher-end models can calculate calories more accurately because they often measure things like heart rate, altitude, and other variables.

Fitness trackers we recommend

Best of the best: Fitbit Versa Smart Fitness Watch 

Our take: It's the total package -- a fitness tracker and a smart watch all in one -- and it's waterproof to boot.

What we like: Reminiscent of the contemporary styling of the Fitbit Blaze, the Versa tracks heart rate, activity, and sleep. It comes loaded with more than 15 exercise modes and can play offline music during your workout.

What we dislike: All these features come at a price that's significantly higher than the Blaze. Initial setup can be tricky, thanks to firmware updates. Reviews are mixed on whether the tracker is fully waterproof.

Best bang for your buck: Lintelek Fitness Tracker Watch 

Our take: Offers many of the same features as better-known trackers without paying extra for the name.  

What we like: Accurately counts steps, calories burned, distance, sleep, and heart rate and syncs them effortlessly.

What we dislike: May be too small for individuals with larger wrists. Occasionally loses data due to unplanned resets.

Choice 3: Garmin vivofit 3 Activity Tracker 

Our take: If you hate recharging, you'll love this tracker's convenient yearlong battery life.

What we like: With its waterproof construction and long battery life, you'll never need to take it off. You might not even want to, thanks to its array of colors and lighthearted designs.

What we dislike: Compared to other brands and models, the vivofit 3 is a bit lacking in features. You need to download the Garmin app for full fitness tracking and monitoring.

Kristin Yarbrough is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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