Whether you’re trying to get in shape after the Christmas indulgence, want to analyze your performance in depth or just looking to control your overall health, there’s a physical activity tracker for you. For most people, the Fitbit Charge 3 will be the best option. It is light and elegant, has a lot of resistance and offers smartphone notifications along with all the fitness tracking you need. Best of all, it is also very affordable. However, this is not a unique approach for everyone, and we can suggest some different alternatives for anyone who does not like Fitbit or who is looking for something that is looking for something with more features, something specialized, or something a little cheaper.
After having used, tested and reviewed more than 100 different smart watches and physical activity trackers in Digital Trends, we are well qualified to tell you which ones are the best, and these are the devices that really stood out for us. For a wider selection of recommended wearables, with all wrist-based functions, see our selections for the best smartwatches.
The best exercise trackers at a glance:
Why you should buy this: You want an exercise tracker with exceptional battery life and a slim and elegant design.
For whom it is: People with an active lifestyle who want to track fitness throughout the day and useful smartwatch functions.
Why we choose the Fitbit Charge 3:
There is a reason why Fitbit is the leading brand in the fitness bands market: the company continues to improve its bands by slowly and constantly adding smartwatch functions and speeding up the design. Charge 3 is the epitome of this trend in the Fitbit lineup.
The Charge 3 has an elegant look with a buttonless design that makes the band look thinner than it really is. It is an ideal size that is not too big for a woman’s wrist or too small for a man’s. The concave shape hugs your wrist and is so light that you don’t even realize you’re using it. The band has a grayscale touch screen and a button with touch feedback that serves as a start and back button.
The Charge 3 has the full set of Fitbit physical activity tracking features, including heart rate monitoring throughout the day, step counting throughout the day, SmartTrack to automatically recognize workouts and even tracking the menstrual cycle for Women that can be added as an option to the board. All these metrics can be seen in the Fitbit application, which still has the best application interface for health and wellness monitoring.
The portable device also has a practical automatic stop function that stops the exercise when it encounters an intersection or has to tie the shoe. It also uses new modes of exercise based on objectives that allow you to set a goal and track the distance or time you need to complete it. On the side of smart notifications, Charge 3 can receive and answer text messages, answer or reject calls and even receive notifications from social networks and email. It is the closest thing to a smart watch that you can get in the form of a fitness band.
Read our full Fitbit Charge 3 review
Why you should buy this: You want a comfortable fitness band with a vivid screen and reliable fitness tracking.
For whom it is: Any Android user who falters between an exercise band or a smart watch.
Why we choose the Samsung Galaxy Fit:
The Samsung Galaxy Fit fits the basics absurdly well. As such, it is an excellent option for the casual athlete looking for a reliable tracker. The first thing you notice is the vivid and colorful 0.95-inch AMOLED screen of the Fit. Although small, the use of colors on the screen covered with Gorilla Glass makes it easy to distinguish between metrics while exercising. The Fit has a touch screen interface that responds and is easy to navigate. We wish you can touch the screen to activate the tracker, but that is a relatively minor objection when compared to your strengths. After all, you can easily lift your wrist or press the side button if you need to illuminate the screen.
Fitness tracking is another highlight of the Galaxy Fit. There are more than 90 different workouts that you can add to the watch, and six that you can track automatically. This automatic detection was one of our favorite features. It allows you to start exercising without worrying about the clock and displays the data you need, such as distance, pace and elapsed time. We also appreciate the inactivity reminders that kindly reminded us to get up from the chair and spend some time on the move.
With a price of less than $ 100, the Samsung Galaxy Fit is not only the best sports device for Android users; It is also one of the best values in a sports device currently available.
Read our full review of Samsung Galaxy Fit
Why you should buy this: You want the best fitness tracker and smart watch for iOS.
For whom it is: Any iPhone user who is looking for a full-featured smart watch that also tracks physical activity.
Why do we choose the Apple Watch Series 5?
For iPhone owners who have money to spend, there is no doubt that the Apple Watch Series 5 is the best fitness tracker and smart watch with all the features available. Like the iPhone itself, Apple’s portable device has a lot of support from external developers, and all major fitness applications offer compatibility. The watch also found a way to skillfully mix features and fashion in a single portable device, offering a battery that lasts all day and a number of features that are hard to find on any competing device.
The main update for the Series 5 on Apple Watches of the previous generation is a longer battery life and a screen always on that simplifies the reading of the clock. The latest Apple Watch also offers a faster processor and improved performance compared to the already featured Series 4.
We all know that the Apple Watch offers a lot of features, but its more exercise-oriented features include GPS tracking, an altimeter that records altitude changes and on-board heart rate monitoring. It is also water resistant to 50 meters, offers support for a large number of training types and even reminds you to stop after periods of inactivity. Add Bluetooth connectivity with wireless headphones and greatly improved Siri support, and it has a smart watch that is well above anything else on the market.
All this has a price. The Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $ 399 and increases thereafter based on the size, style of the band and the inclusion of cellular connectivity. For those who already live in the Apple ecosystem, this is just another extension of that platform, which offers versatility and convenience in an elegant package.
Read our full review of Apple Watch Series 5
Why you should buy this: The Fitbit Ace 2 has a high level of fun, making it obvious to children on the move.
For whom it is: Parents looking for an exercise tracker for ages 12 and under.
Why we choose the Fitbit Ace 2:
Fitbit nailed him with his son’s physical activity tracker, Ace 2. We tied two of our children’s fitness trackers, and the couple survived by being dropped, stepped on, lost in the backyard for a week and more . The tracker has a soft band that comfortably fits a child’s wrist and is adjustable to fit a variety of sizes. We had no problems adapting it to children from 5 to 11 years old. The band is available in Night Sky and Neon Yellow or Watermelon Teal and is replaceable if it breaks or if your child wants a different color. The Ace 2 is also water resistant to 50 meters, an essential feature for children who like to jump into the pool, the pond or the ocean.
The tracker has a child friendly interface that tracks steps, active minutes and sleep. You can choose from a variety of different clock faces, from a simple digital clock face to animated faces that change as the child reaches his fitness goal. The animation of the spaceship was my children’s favorite. The watch has several data screens that show the daily step count and active minutes. These real-time statistics allow children to track how much they move during the day and see if they are close to achieving their goals. At night, children can receive reminders to go to bed and see how much time they sleep each night.
The watch is synchronized with the complementary Fitbit application, either using the parent’s device or the child’s mobile device. The control panel is customized for children with an easy-to-use interface that shows the statistics of the child with few or no social functions. Children can see messages from friends approved by parents, but there is no link to Facebook or any other social network. If the child has a phone, then the clock can be configured to receive messages from these reliable contacts.
Read our full Fitbit Ace 2 review
Why you should buy this: The Fitbit Inspire is an exercise tracker under $ 100 that has many features and performance.
For whom it is: Economic shoppers who want a basic physical activity tracker for steps, sleep and general physical condition.
Why we choose the Fitbit Inspire:
The Fitbit Inspire under $ 100 is ideal if you are looking for an economical fitness tracker: few exercise bands on the market offer the same main features at this price. You can use the band to track your steps, workouts, sleep, weight, water and stress (human resources model only). It is a step up from other affordable fitness bands that have limited tracking and a simplistic display. Speaking of the screen, it is a perfect size for an elegant device. It is large enough to allow you to see incoming alerts and exercise statistics, but small enough not to look too big on your wrist.
It is a meaningless wearable that helps you improve your fitness while looking great on your wrist. The tracker is so compact and lightweight that you barely feel it on your wrist. It has a clean and rounded appearance that is a refreshing change from Fitbit’s older square designs. The Inspire model also uses Fitbit quick change bands, allowing you to change the appearance of the device in an instant. Do you want to go out to dinner? No problem. Simply change the sports band for the classic metal mesh band before reaching the city.
Fitbit launched the Inspire as a series that includes both the basic level Inspire and the Inspire HR. The most significant difference between the Inspire and the Inspire HR is the wrist-based heart rate monitor in the HR model. This feature adds $ 30 to the price of the device and allows advanced metrics such as resting heart rate and stress management. With a price tag below $ 100, there is little reason not to recommend the $ 100 Inspire HR or the $ 70 Inspire for someone looking to track their fitness with minimal investment.
Read our full Fitbit Inspire HR review
Why you should buy this: The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is water resistant to 50 meters and can track basic metrics when swimming with the Speedo application.
For whom it is: Exercise enthusiasts who want to jump into a lake or swim in the pool with their fitness tracker.
Why we choose the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro:
Like the previous Fit 2, Samsung’s Gear Fit2 Pro is an elegant and lightweight physical activity tracker that stands out for its water performance and its stellar feature set. The Gear Fit2 Pro connects to the Speedo application that you can use to follow your swimming goals, your swimming time, your pace and the distance of your swimming in a training session. With a good dose of smart watch capability, the option to store and stream music, built-in GPS and water resistance, is a refreshing and cost-effective portable device. It still presents the same design, somewhat bulky, than its predecessor, but that is a small detail in what would otherwise be a power of an exercise tracker.
With a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 320 x 320, users enjoy an impressive crystalline display. This is especially useful when scrolling through the daily metrics of counted step counting devices, calories burned, stairs climbed and the large amount of typical fitness data. It even offers a Google Maps type map after registering a race or bike ride through its built-in GPS, which shows the exact route taken. When you listen to music stored directly on the watch or through Spotify, the interface is easy to navigate, even while on the move. In addition to its subtle thrust function, the Gear Fit2 Pro also offers precise automatic tracking of a wide range of activities.
Physical fitness tracking aside, the inclusion of Samsung smartwatch functionality adds a welcome touch of versatility. Able to send notifications for Facebook and Twitter, phone calls, text messages and phone calls, it even allows quick response actions to be programmed directly on the portable device itself, although this is only compatible with calls and texts. Although it offers some support for iOS, only Android users have the option to send replies.
Priced at $ 200, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is not only the best fitness device for Android users, it is one of the best fitness devices on the market in general. Its minimalist design and comfortable fit perfectly complement the set of physical activity and smart watch tracking functions, allowing you to easily stand out in an increasingly busy market.
Read our full review of Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
Why you should buy this: The Garmin Vivosmart 4 has a pulse oximeter that can help you identify sleep disturbances.
For whom it is: People looking to track the duration and quality of their sleep.
Why we choose the Garmin Vivosmart 4:
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a very capable fitness tracker that stands out from the crowd for its sleep tracking. Like most wearables, the Vivosmart 4 uses motion sensors and heart rate data to divide your sleep into stages. The tracker can tell how many hours you slept and how long you were in REM sleep, light or deep. He also records how restless his dream was and how often he was woken up at night. His precision was amazing; every time we woke up tired, a look at our sleep statistics generally showed several periods of restlessness in which we were waking up in the middle of the night and without even realizing it. The only thing missing was a sleep score, which is a unique number that reflects the quality of your dream and is available on competitive watches.
The Vivosmart 4 not only tracks the stages of sleep, but also has a pulse oximeter that measures blood oxygen levels during the night. These values can be used to help identify sleep disorders such as apnea. For most people, their blood oxygen levels remain above 90% both during the day and at night when they sleep. People with apnea have periods of sleep where their oxygen levels fall below 90% due to an obstruction or other physical condition that affects their breathing. In response to the low level of oxygen, your body shakes them and makes them wake up, change position and breathe deeply. This episode of apnea can occur several times each night without the person noticing.
The Vivosmart 4 tracker can detect both this movement and low oxygen levels. The tracker is not sensitive enough nor does it track the other parameters necessary to diagnose sleep apnea. To get a medical diagnosis, you need a deep sleep study. However, Vivosmart 4 can provide you with valuable preliminary data that you can take to your doctor. He or she can decide if it is indicative of a sleep disorder and if it is worth continuing to receive treatment.
Read our full review of Garmin Vivosmart 4
Research and purchase advice
Now is a good time to buy an exercise band. Battery life is improving, built-in GPS tracking is much more common, and heart rate monitors are reaching more devices to ensure accurate measurements. Technology is not likely to advance too drastically, for now, so it is likely that you will get several years of the options listed, if you stick to them.
A lot depends on what you want to get. If you don’t have any motivation and goals to accompany your new fitness tracker, then it can be difficult to justify spending money on more expensive options such as the Apple Watch. These more expensive models are recommended for physical activity enthusiasts who will use them to analyze workouts and train competitively for races such as triathlons or 5K. The rest of the bands on the list are better suited for a more informal crowd that seeks to monitor their fitness levels and perhaps lose some weight.
One of the biggest complaints that people have with exercise trackers is their accuracy. Wrist trackers are not 100% accurate in step counting or tracking heart rate. Physical activity trackers use sensors such as an accelerometer or an altimeter to calculate the step count and climb stairs. These sensors are not fail-safe; They can make mistakes and they do. Any movement of the wrist, when driving, for example, can cause the tracker to stick to the steps or stairs when not walking. Sometimes you will miss steps, especially when your feet move and your hands are still. We encounter this problem with the missing steps each time we use a tape desk. Ultimately, steps and stair counting should be used as a flexible guide to measure your overall activity level and not a step-by-step evaluation of your day.
The same principle applies to monitoring heart rate. Compared to a heart rate monitor with chest strap, wrist-based monitors fall short. They do a decent job of measuring their average heart rate, but struggle to detect rapid changes in heart rate. If you go from a neutral to a sprint, the chest strap accurately detects the sudden increase in your heart rate. However, a wrist-based monitor struggles to keep up with rapid changes and is often delayed, showing the increase in heart rate a few seconds after it actually happens. For most people, this delay will not be a decisive factor, but it is a concern for athletes who use heart rate tracking to measure their effort during an exercise.
Yes and no. Almost all physical activity trackers require that you synchronize the tracker data with the application that collects the data and analyzes it for you. Most people synchronize with their tablet or smartphone, but it can also be synchronized with their computer. Connecting to a computer is not as convenient as synchronizing with a smartphone, but it can be done. Some smartwatches such as the Apple Watch have Wi-Fi and cell phones and can perform most functions without a smartphone. In the end, you’ll want a smartphone for your convenience, but you don’t necessarily need it.
Physical activity trackers can measure your heart rate, but most cannot measure your blood pressure. There are a handful of portable blood pressure devices, but none of the leading manufacturers such as Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Polar or Apple have integrated blood pressure into their products.
Exercise trackers can last up to five years. Problems with the battery charge and broken parts such as the strap and the screen eventually lead to its disappearance.
While most smartwatches are equipped with GPS, only a few physical activity trackers have GPS built into the tracker. The GPS allows you to record the route you run, ride a bike or walk without needing your phone. Instead of on-board GPS, physical activity trackers use a connected GPS that relies on your phone to record your route. With the GPS connected, the tracker connects to the mobile application on your phone and uses that application to track your GPS coordinates during an outdoor activity. If you forget to connect your watch to the application, your distance and pace will be estimated using motion data and not the most accurate GPS data from your phone.
How do we test
We try fitness bands just like we try smart watches. That means using them every day and trying all the marquee functions. We tie them to our dolls (no matter how silly they look) and we walk through the city with them, we take them to bed with us and go to the gym to test the training characteristics. It is also key to pair them with different phones and test the experience when the band is connected to different phone operating systems.
If an exercise band is water resistant, we submerge it in water, and if it has GPS, we go hiking. The complementary application of an exercise band is also essential because it can mean the difference between getting fit or throwing your new band in the trash.