The Best Wearable Fitness Devices



Wearable Fitness Technology

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The old-fashioned way of tracking your vital signals as part of a healthy lifestyle involves a stopwatch, heart rate monitor strap and notebook. It’s time to step into the digital age, where your wristwatch-like device acts like a trainer – and can synch with your phone to record your every step in graphic color. It’s sexier, in a galactic superhero kind of way and it could lead to unexpected discoveries about how active you really are.

“Wearable” fitness technology continues to evolve in the pursuit of accuracy, cross-platform communication of data and the cool factor. But every wearable should have some basic functions. Find out what they are – and what gadgets fitness buffs are using, from the Fitbit Zip to the Withings Activité. Then join the fitness tech craze.

LOW TECH WEARABLES

Pedometers:

  • Fitbit One: In addition to counting the number of steps taken, distance traveled and calories expended, this newer version of the Fitbit Zip records stair climbing and hours of sleep. All Fitbit models sync wirelessly with Fit bit’s website and smartphone apps – however, the One is also water-resistant and has a vibrating alarm. This clip-on device is about the size of a quarter and has an easy-to-read display. It can be worn in a fabric wristband or in a pocket.

A Training watch without GPS:

  • Nike+ SportBand: Slightly more complicated than a pedometer, the SportBand uses a sensor in your shoe that pairs with the band to record pace, distance, time, and calories burned during land activities. It can be paired with a Polar chest strap to track heart rate. The bulky band has a large LED display, which allows you to see the time and your metrics as you exercise. Sync it with your computer to compete for Nike Fuel Points to help set goals and share your runs with others.

MEDIUM TECH WEARABLES

Another feature of wearable fitness technology to consider is GPS tracking. A GPS global trainer watch can record off-road, through the woods or on mountainous terrain where your stride is constantly changing, where as read-outs on other devices suffer a reduction in accuracy. GPS running watches communicate with 24 NAVSTAR Global Positioning System satellites. These watches offer interval training and challenges to split your run into zones.

GPS Watches:

Mostly used by runners, these watches can track biking data too. They are weaker with water-based sports. Complexity of the menus for use vary, but athletes who want to train in specific heart rate zones while tracking their distances and pace have a number of options in this category.

  • TomTom Cardio Runner: With an optical heart rate monitor, no chest strap is required for this run tracker, which reports pace, distance and speed on an easy-to-read face.
  • Garmin Forerunner Series: Uses external sensors including heart rate monitors, cycle sensors and foot pods to measure steps taken and calories burned, whether on a treadmill or on the road. It can be used for swimming, too, since it’s waterproof. Your stats can be synched to your phone or computer with the Garmin Connect app.
  • Timex Ironman One with GPS and 3G: This waterproof watch can be used to track runs, swimming and biking. The watch offers a digital compass mode too. It compiles data on cadence, speed, distance, power (with the ANT+ Power Meter) for biking; pace, distance, time and calories burned for running outdoors; and speed/time info for swimming. It cannot track treadmill distance, though, since you don’t actually move anywhere and it doesn’t pair with a foot pod. GPS and heart rate monitor strap do not work in water. With GPS and 3G, it receives smartphone notifications, but to review your data, you need to synch with a PC.

HIGH TECH WEARABLES

Smart watches:

Great for receiving notifications when your smartphone isn’t handy, these watches become fitness trackers with when used with fitness apps. You can listen to music, track activity, and even tell time. They are all bulky and some are harder to read than others. Swype, swiping and voice command capabilities on the Samsung, helps avoid micro-keyboard frustration so you can answer email or a phone call. Not all have built in heart rate sensors and they aren’t very sensitive. None are waterproof.

  • Pebble and Pebble Steel: Its built-in sensors use the Up app to track steps, calories burned and sleep. You can easily check the status of your goals on your wrist. The data is also stored on your smartphone device for more detailed analysis.
  • Samsung Gear S Collection: With a 3G modem, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, this watch is also a wearable phone. Unlike most smart watches, it has a tiny onscreen keyboard. It’s very bulky, but curved to fit the wrist and it has a heart rate sensor. When paired with a Samsung phone, download the Health S app for access to the pedometer, heart rate monitoring, and GPS tracking for your runs, walks, bike rides, or hikes. It has been reported that the app and HR sensors are not consistently responsive, though.
  • Sony SmartWatch 3: This waterproof, Android-compatible device comes with GPS, and the Lifelog and Walkman apps make it a nice accessory for the active user who wants to listen to music while logging miles on mountain trails (you will need Bluetooth headphones).

Other Fitness Trackers:

These devices contain motion sensors to record your activity level. All synch wirelessly with apps on smartphones to help track and analyze fitness levels.

  • Sony SmartBand SWR10 (Core): A simple activity tracker in colorful, waterproof rubber wristband with no lights or buttons. The Lifelog app on your phone receives data from the band about your activity. The band also vibrates when your phone receives notifications.
  • Fitbit Charge HR: Tracks steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed, and active minutes. Real-time run stats (time, distance, and pace) are visible on the display, along with the time of day and call notifications. Stats are synched automatically to your computer or smartphone. Routes, split times, and workout summaries can be shared to compete with friends and family in Fitbit challenges. This device also monitors sleep quality and has a vibrating alarm. Though water-resistant, you can’t swim with this device.
  • Jawbone UP3: Wristband has buttons to switch to sleep and one to start tracking. There’s no screen, but colored lights indicate functions such as sleep, activity and incoming calls. Pairs with your iPhone and uses apps to track your activity, meals, sleep. You can set alarms with apps, too. Gives more detailed info about workout tracking than Fitbit because it can sense the resting heart rate, which helps with working out in various zones of intensity. HR monitoring also allows calorie consumption tracking. It’s water resistant to 10 m, so you can it while swimming.
  • Withings Activité: This analog stylish watch is actually wearable tech in disguise, like a Jawbone UP, for the incognito fitness fanatic. It pairs with the iPhone to download health data tracked.
  • Basis Peak by Intel: Accurately measures HR during sweating and at rest, calories burned, skin temp, and perspiration. Determines activity type (sleep, wake, walk, run, bike). Provides phone notifications. Waterproof up to 5 atm.
  • Asus Zen Watch: Tracks a variety of wellness statistics such as heart rate, step counts, and relaxation levels, using a biosensor. The watch face style is digital and there are 100 to choose from. The watchband is leather with a nice quick-release clasp. The face is rectangular and curved. Allows you to view incoming calls, messages, notifications, and other important information, as well as get straight answers to spoken questions and take pictures if your phone is nearby.

DESIGN

If you’re fashion conscious, you don’t have to settle for ugly rubber wristbands or chunky wrist computers. Stylish wearables that look like jewelry are now available. The Tory Burch Fitbit bracelet and necklace bear the recognizable Tory Burch design while encasing a fitness tracker. Genuine leather watchbands on the Withings Activité and the Asus ZenWatch smart watches are perfect for dressy occasions without sacrificing comfort. If sporty is more your look, then the simple rubber wristbands or clip-on trackers may be what you’re looking for.

Jodai Saremi

Jodai Saremi, DPM, BS , is a freelance writer, AFAA certified trainer, and fitness model. She has written for American Fitness, SPIN fitness, Your Health Connection magazines, and other online publications. Her articles have also been featured in textbooks. She enjoys an active lifestyle and lives in Ventura County, Calif. with her husband and two children.

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