Not too long ago, the term “fitness tracker” most likely referred to a handwritten piece of paper that hung on your fridge to track wellness fitness goals. Did I work out today? Yes, check it off on the fitness tracker!
Now, fitness tracker is a household name with a very different meaning.
Companies like Fitbit, Apple, Garmin (and others) have developed some pretty effective little tools for tracking and managing our fitness and other health metrics.
Do you need a fitness tracker to get or stay fit?
Of course not!
But, there are some benefits to using a fitness tracker to monitor your daily activity and achieve your overall health and fitness goals.
The benefits of using a fitness tracker
Some people like them for their smartwatch capabilities, some people enjoy the hottest new gadget—we like fitness trackers for their behind-the-scenes work tracking health metrics and reminding us to do something that doesn’t come so naturally in our modern lifestyles: move more.
Depending which particular fitness tracker you’re using (and there are a lot! Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin just to name a few), there are actually many health benefits to these special little fitness-tracking watches.
Regularly wearing a fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Apple Watch means you’re more likely to:
Reach daily movement goals (like the 10,000 daily steps we recommend!)
Achieve larger fitness goals (like losing weight or running a marathon)
Stand up more throughout the day (a simple but hugely important wellness “activity”!)
Though a fitness tracker is certainly helpful for measuring and monitoring your daily activity or tracking workouts, it doesn’t actually do those workouts for you—so why are they so helpful for achieving our health and fitness goals?
We give energy to that which we think about.
Wearing a fitness tracker and receiving the information and reminders/notifications from it keeps our fitness and wellness goals top of mind—meaning, we’re more likely to remember to stand up from our desk each hour, or get out the door for that scheduled training run, or build the habit of taking an afternoon walk.
Another reason fitness trackers are helpful in achieving fitness goals:
You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
Fitness trackers are also helpful because we tend to struggle to manage things we don’t consciously measure. It’s really hard to say “I want to be more fit” and just go for it. There’s quite a bit of evidence that goals of any sort (and especially fitness goals) are more likely to be achieved if they’re tangible and measurable (learn more about setting and achieving S.M.A.R.T. goals).
Fitness trackers allow us those helpful, measurable details that make our goals more successful.
So, we can start with “I want to be more fit”—but that becomes “I’ll walk for 30 minutes today.” And we can then measure whether (or not) we walked 30 minutes that day. Our wristwatch gives us reminders if we haven’t done it yet. (Accountability!) And we can start to see and connect how our daily walk contributes to other health metrics, like our weight, resting heart rate, BMI, etc.
Are the fitness trackers worth the cost?
Health coaches are perhaps a bit biased, because we’re all about helping people make “healthy living” easier, but we’d say: Yes, if you can afford it, a fitness tracker is a helpful way to reach your fitness goals and stay more active overall.
How to choose the best fitness tracker for your needs
There are a wide range of fitness trackers easily available, most with very comparable functionality, though there are some key differences to note too. Choosing the best fitness tracker for your needs depends on a few factors, like:
What you’re going to use it for (and the features you’ll need to do that)
The type of smartphone you have (many of the features will be managed or connected via your smartphone, and some fitness trackers work better with certain smartphone operating systems—more on that below)
With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at the most popular fitness trackers available to choose from!
The best fitness trackers for staying active in 2021
Each year, there are more and more fitness trackers becoming viable options for tracking a range of helpful health metrics. (In the early days of Four Wellness Co., Fitbit was the primary option available, and really the only one we spoke about—but there are now many more!)
Below, we’ll chat through our favorite fitness tracker smartwatches, specific details on each, and how to determine which is best for you.
Here are some of our favorite fitness trackers.
Features to look for in a smartwatch fitness tracker:
Workout tracking: Look for a watch that recognizes and tracks the types of workouts you’ll be doing (e.g. walking, running, cycling, swimming, HIIT training, etc.). Bonus points if it has helpful features like workout detection (so it will remind you if you’ve forgotten to start logging a workout).
Built-in GPS: We look for watches with built-in GPS to accurately record activity when you’re outside the Bluetooth range of your smartphone (in other words, that give you the option to leave your phone at home while using your watch to record a workout).
Health metrics: Today’s fitness trackers are capable of recording a range of health metrics, so keep an eye out for the metrics you’re interested in knowing. For example, if you’re focused on heart health, you may want to look for an option with ECG measurement.
Battery life: We look for a watch that reasonably lasts a full day between charges, and could be used to track a marathon-length activity.
Durability: A durable fitness tracker should be water (and sweat! resistant. Fortunately, most options today are just that.
Connected apps: Smartwatches can include many helpful features besides tracking health metrics and workouts—we look for one that can play music, receive text messages and calls, and serve as your digital wallet.
However remember the golden rule to staying active and fit! Walk/ Run/ Exercise more!