For fitness buffs, wearable tech is not a timepiece. It’s more than a watch—it’s something to wear on your body to track your movement, your heart rate, your body temperature, your perspiration, your location/miles traversed and your calorie intake.
Wearable fitness trackers are wirelessly connected via Bluetooth® to your phone or computer. Using an app, the data that’s collected allows you to see how active you are and whether you’re meeting your fitness goals. Some apps even make you a part of a community so you can share your results for support or competition.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a fitness tracker, pay attention to the features that you’ll use the most. Be sure it fits well and that it’s easy for you to use.
Fitness Band Design Points
The first fitness band was from Nike®, but there have been many upgrades since the FuelBand was introduced, and other companies have refined the technology. Now, according to Wareable.com, the leaders in wearable tech are the Garmin® Vivosmart H2, Fitbit® Alta and Charge 2, Misfit® RAYTM, Jawbone® UP3, Moov® Now, Withings®, Skagen® Hagen, Samsung® Gear Fit2 and Xiaomi Mi Band. Most of the innovations involved making the wearable waterproof (perfect for swimming or other watersports), improving battery life (being able to go up to 12 days without having to charge is convenient), making it easy to read and easy to sync wirelessly (it should not lose data when it syncs or take all night to charge), along with improving the style of the band and the screen (Samsung’s Gear Fit2 was redesigned for easy readability and sleek wrist-fit. The Withings’ analog appearance is classic, but it operates like a smartwatch with fitness-tracking features). Some fitness trackers even look like jewelry with gold, silver and leather bands, crystal and bejeweled bands, and ceramic faces (Skagen Hagen, Fitbit Tory Burch bands)
When choosing your own wearable tech, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:
- What are your reasons for using a fitness band? What features would be best for your style of activity?
- Do you want to be coached during your workout?
- How tech savvy are you?
- Do you have an Android or an iPhone?
- Do you need an easy-to-read screen due to poor vision?
- Do you want it to be like jewelry? Or the bulkier, the better?
- Do you want your fitness tracker to notify you of email and phone messages?
- Do you need an alarm?
- How much are you willing to spend?
All fitness trackers will tally the number of steps you take in a set amount of time. This is important because being physically active is linked to better health. Using the app, you can set a goal number of steps and your tracker can buzz or light up to notify you when you’ve reached your goal. It’s pretty motivating to see the numbers going up as the day goes on.
Fitness trackers can notify you when you’ve been too sedentary by buzzing or lighting up with a message to move. Some even have graphics. It’s a reminder that being fit requires you to get up and walk (or run, swim, skate, bike, dance, row, lift, stretch—whatever moves you).
The Moov® Now goes quite a bit further in motivating you by using actual audio visual coaching to tell you when to speed up, push harder, etc. It can even give you workouts to complete. This “intelligent coaching” feature is designed for swimming, road cycling, boxing, running and interval training.
At the end of a week, the app should compile your data and show you a graphic readout of how active you’ve been and whether you reached your goals. You can see the total number of steps, miles, hours, and calories burned. If you’ve been entering your calories consumed, you can even track whether you’re in the “burn zone” or the “maintenance zone.”
Runners and bikers may appreciate a GPS feature, such as the one offered by Garmin, which tracks the routes taken and elevation gains. This helps analyze the difficulty of each workout session.
Heart rate sensors also indicate intensity of activity. If you suffer from stress-induced anxiety, this feature may be useful in controlling your heart rate as you focus on the screen and take time out to breathe.
Sleep is an essential part of health. It’s when your body heals itself. Sleep tracker features using bioimpedance sensors tell you how many hours you slept, how many times you woke up and how long you were in deep, light or REM sleep. Jawbone was rated as the best sleep tracker since it gave the most detailed info about the quality of sleep.
Cost on Amazon.com
Fitness trackers come in a range of price points, depending on their tech and design features. The following list is based on best-performing wearables in 2016.
Xiaomi MiBand: $20-35
Moov Now: $80
Misfit RAY: $100
Fitbit Alta: $129
Fitbit Charge 2: $150
Jawbone UP3: $180
Samsung Fit Gear2: $180
Skagen Hagen: $195
Garmin Vivosmart HR+: $249