Whether you’re running, walking, cycling, or any doing exercise that gets the blood pumping and burns some calories, a fitness tracker is the perfect way to monitor your progress and keep you on track to hit your goals. Apple, Samsung and Garmin are all big-hitters when it comes to fitness trackers, each offering a variety of features to help you reach your fitness goals faster.
With so many different features and functions to choose from, it can be hard to choose which one is right for you - and that’s where we come in! In this guide, we’ll explore the fabulous world of fitness trackers in more detail before offering up some of the best ones you can find on the market right now. So, whether you’re looking to spice up your daily workout routine or you’re embarking on your very first fitness journey, you’re sure to find the perfect fitness tracker for your wants, needs and budget here. All warmed up? Let’s get started!
What is a fitness tracker?
A fitness tracker is a wrist-worn device that can cleverly detect the number of steps you take, distance travelled, heart rate, sleeping patterns, and, in some cases, even how many swimming laps you’ve done! Typically, the tracker connects to a mobile device via Bluetooth, where all the statistics and data picked up is stored on a companion app. From there, you can track many of the intricacies of your workout routine, including your vitals, and use this over time to monitor your progress. Pretty nifty, right?
Although they’ll usually be found in the form of a watch, occasionally some trackers are smaller and can be attached via a waist or bicep strap. Some fitness trackers are specifically designed to record exercise data only, while others double up as a smartwatch with the ability to receive and send messages and calls. If you’re searching for a smartwatch with extensive fitness functions, you’ll want to get yourself a dedicated fitness tracker.
How does a fitness tracker work?
Putting it in layman’s terms - fitness trackers measure motion and movement. The majority of fitness trackers you’ll see on the market today have a 3-axis accelerometer that tracks movement in every direction and a gyroscope that measures orientation and location. Some activity trackers even include an altimeter that measures altitude - clever stuff! From there, the data is converted into calories and sleep quality, as well as various other metrics, however there is a small element of guesswork involved.
When it comes to counting calories, the fitness trackers will need an additional few pieces of information in order to better estimate. To allow for a more accurate count, you’ll be asked for your age, height and weight. The final part that brings everything together is the apps which go alongside the fitness tracker. This is where all of your data is clearly presented and, in some cases, you also have the opportunity to manually input statistics to maximise accuracy.
Ready, set, go!
So, now we’ve laid the foundations of what fitness trackers are and how they work, it’s time to whittle down the list and discuss some of the best trackers available today. We’ve hand-picked six of our favourite models on the market, ranging from smartwatches to exclusive exercise trackers, and discussed everything from their standout features to their flaws to help you make an informed decision. Ready to smash your fitness goals? With a fitness tracker to hand (or to wrist, if you will), it’s easier than ever!
Pros: Large dynamic display with more than 65 themes to choose from, durable waterproof design, ultra long-lasting battery, affordable price
Cons: Basic design isn’t hugely visually appealing, doesn’t feature NFC or voice assistance
Size: H18.15 x W 12.45 x L 46.95mm
The Xiaomi Mi Band 5 Smartwatch is a fantastic option if you’re searching for a waterproof fitness tracker that will get the job done for a budget price. This durable, waterproof fitness tracker watch is perfect for when you’re sweating after a heavy workout, swimming or even wearing in the shower, so you’ll never have to take it off. Also, the superb ultra long-lasting battery gives you up to 14 days of uninterrupted use after just a single charge - it’s very efficient!
This fitness band can measure your heart rate, fitness level, menstrual cycle, and even let you know your sleeping habits, so it’s truly never been easier to keep on top of your health. What’s more, the dynamic 1.1” colour display is premium when compared to its competitors, and it makes it simpler than ever to see your readings and ensure you reach your fitness goals faster. No matter the sport, this smartwatch will still give precise readings due to the intelligent 11 sport modes which understand the type of movement and intensity you’ll be doing in different sports and adjust the readings according to this.
Yes, this fitness tracker isn’t the most visually appealing and it won’t be winning any awards for its exterior, which may be a deal-breaker for those of you looking for a stylish fitness band. Also, NFC and voice assistance isn’t included with this device, meaning you won’t be able to make payments or command the tracker through your voice - however, these are minor drawbacks that won’t affect the majority of people. With a budget-friendly price tag, the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 is a no-brainer for anyone looking for a fitness tracker with a premium display and the ability to track a whole raft of health factors.
Pros: IP68 Waterproof perfect for swimming, heart rate tracker and silent alarm clock, over 10 activity modes
Cons: Battery life lower than many other fitness trackers, tailored for children (not suitable for adults)
Perfect for sporty, active kids, this fitness tracker will allow you to keep track of your children’s health and ensure they lead a happy, healthy lifestyle. IP68 Waterproof resistance allows your kids to freely carry out water-based activities without fear of it breaking. So, whether they’re swimming, showering, or diving in the pool, you won’t have to worry about water damage ruining their new gadget (or the tears and tantrums that would follow!). Even better, the BIGGERFIVE automatically measures your kid’s steps, distance and calories burned, so whatever the sport they’re playing, the tracker will provide accurate readings.
This kids fitness tracker also measures heart rate and tracks how well your kids are sleeping - perfect for working out the optimum time to set their bedtime! What’s more, the fitness tracker charges via a USB cable, meaning no external chargers are needed.
The battery should last for about a week on a single charge, which isn’t the most desirable life span when compared to some of its competitors. Also, this tracker is designed solely for use by children and therefore isn’t suitable for adults. On balance, this kid’s fitness tracker is a good option if you have little ones who would like to track their steps and distance, or if you’re a parent wanting to keep an eye on your kids health and sleeping habits.
Pros: Tracks heart rate as well as blood oxygen level, water resistant up to 50m, Apple brand exudes premium quality
Cons: Price is very high, battery life considerably shorter than many other trackers, solely designed for fitness
Size: H40 x W34 x L10.4mm
When it comes to smartwatches, Apple has been at the forefront of the scene in recent years and continues to evolve their smartwatch fitness trackers and add additional features. In fact, the Apple Watch Series 6 comes with a striking new addition - the ability to measure your blood oxygen and even conduct a self ECG (echocardiogram)!
Water resistant to up to 50m, you won’t have to worry about water while wearing this smartwatch fitness tracker. Take it for a swim or wear it in the shower, the water resistance will mean no damage will occur. The always on retina OLED display gives stunning visuals and a bright, clear screen to navigate through the various options and look at the different readings and statistics the watch is giving you. You can also pair your Apple Watch up with your friends’, so you can stay in touch even without your phones.
The battery life lets this smartwatch fitness tracker down a little, with the 18 hours from one charge meek compared to the multiple days and in some cases weeks that other fitness trackers can boast. Of course, as with many Apple products, the price is on the more expensive side, but some may overlook this for the quality and additional features on offer. For those on a tighter budget, you’ll certainly want to be looking elsewhere for a fitness tracker. However, for those with a little more disposable income to play with, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a top choice.
Pros: Built-in GPS and navigation tracking, 24/7 heart rate tracking, smart design
Cons: Monochrome display, FitBit premium needed to get the most from the device and app
Size: H3.56 x W2.29 x L1.27cm
For those who are searching for an activity tracker watch that aids navigation, the FitBit Charge 4 is the one for you. FitBit are the pioneers of the fitness tracker phenomenon, and always provide quality devices that are sure to help you reach your fitness goals. The built-in GPS allows you to see your pace and distance when working out, as well as a map of your workout. Also, over 20 goal-based exercises are at your fingertips, so you’ll never get stuck doing the same workout over and over again.
The smart 24/7 heart rate monitor tracks calorie burn and can cleverly identify when you’re in fat burning, cardio, or peak heart rate zones. What’s more, with this fitness tracker watch, you can receive alerts and notifications from your phone and play your favourite workout tunes straight from Spotify.
Unfortunately, this smartwatch comes with a monochrome display which lacks vibrancy and doesn’t catch the eye in the same way many other watches with colourful displays do. Also, to get the most features from this watch and the app, you’ll need to subscribe to FitBit premium which requires an extra payment. On the whole, this fitness tracker provides a great fitness experience and, if you’re not overly fussed about the exterior and extra features, it’s a fantastic option.
Pros: Sleek and stylish design, customisable always on display, impressive one year battery life
Cons: No GPS, heart rate tracker not included, no ability to receive phone notifications
Up next is the Vivofit 4 from the tech giants at Garmin. This fitness tracker is designed with comfort and convenience in mind, perfect for anyone who wants to wear their gadget wherever they go. It takes note of your steps, distance and calories burned, and even gives you a daily personalised step goal! The integrated Move IQ feature can detect a whole range of movements and will always automatically start a timer when you begin your workout. With a battery life that lasts a year, there’ll be no need to ever take it off!
The lack of GPS and a heart rate tracker is clearly disappointing and makes it much less desirable than many of the other options outlined in this guide. However, it still represents a good option for the price and the long-lasting battery is certainly a standout feature. If you don’t want to worry about charging your fitness tracker often, the Vivofit 4 is a great choice.
Pros: 24/7 heart rate tracker, smart design, simple to use
Cons: Small screen, no built-in GPS
Size: H13 x W17 x L37mm
Our final entry is yet another standout product by FitBit. The simplicity and efficiency of this fitness tracker are its biggest strengths and, with a year of FitBit premium included, this watch provides a brilliant option for those on a budget. The Inspire 2 tracks your sleep and gives you a ‘sleep score’ aimed at helping you better understand your sleep quality, meaning you can work towards better rest. The 24/7 heart tracker helps you uncover trends that may help you improve your workouts and the cool Active Zone feature informs you which heart rate zone you’re in, so you know if you’re working hard enough to reach your goals.
The small screen makes it harder to see your statistics at a glance, so it may not be suitable for those with poor eyesight. Also, the lack of built- in GPS is a shame and doesn’t allow you to track the routes of your workouts. Despite this, this fitness tracker offers simplicity and efficiency and, with a pocket-friendly price tag, you really can’t go wrong.
Time to get your pump on
With the new knowledge you now have about the ever-expanding world of fitness trackers, it won’t be long before you’re starting your fitness journey and smashing your goals! So, kit out your wardrobe with a range of activewear (for him and her), put on those running shoes, and prepare to get your blood pumping!
Searching for some fitspo? We’ve got a whole host of blogs relating to fitness and health that are packed with an array of ideas to breathe new life into your fitness routine. What’s more, for those who can’t help but blast out some tunes while getting a pump on, one of our latest buyer’s guides will help you understand which headphones are the best for running.
We hope our hand-picked selection has piqued your interest, but if you’re keen to see more, check out our whole range of fitness trackers here. Regardless of the one you choose, it’s sure to be a HIIT (see what we did there?)...
The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.