If you are one of those that crave excitement, adventure, and like to exercise in unconventional ways rather than just grinding away on a treadmill, it can be difficult to monitor your fitness level. For that you need a fitness tracking device so that every hop, skip, jump, and stroke is tabulated. Though if you are getting your exercise from hopping, skipping, jumping, and stroking, you could have more issues than just monitoring burned calories.
Anyone can get a cheap ball-bearing pedometer, but for accurate fitness information, you need more than that. A high-quality fitness tracker will store all of your data – not just how many steps you have taken – and it will sync it either with an online database or one on your home computer so you can track your progress. It should be geared to monitor your chosen kind of exercise, be that swimming, rock climbing, pumping iron, or bar hopping. It should be comfortable and easy to wear, and if you’re lazy, it should have a built-in coaching mechanism to help keep you motivated.
Best All-Purpose: As was the case with our GPS running watches roundup, one of the most popular and beloved names in fitness tracking was Garmin. The Vivofit is ideal for the average user looking to up their game. It is wrist mounted and easy to forget once it is on. It uses standard watch batteries which will give you about a year of uninterrupted monitoring without the need to recharge. It even tracks your activity while you sleep so that you get credit for calories burned between the sheets *wink*.
It is also a pedometer for measuring your steps and waterproof up to 50 meters, so you can take it for a swim so long as you aren’t doing any freediving. The activity monitor will flash red if you are inactive for too long, so expect to suddenly be forced to do some office calisthenics or some dreaded desk dancing. It learns from your activity over time and sets daily goals for you, which it keeps track of them through the Garmin Connect™ system. Connects via Bluetooth 4.0 so no cables needed. [Purchase: $130]
Powerful Minimalist: The Jawbone is easily one of the most comfortable fitness trackers you can find. It is also one of the most extensive when combined with the UP App. It syncs to your smartphone or computer automatically and easily tracks your food intake through pictures or barcodes, your daily water consumption, and your sleep patterns, as well as your active vs. passive periods while awake. It suggests milestones and lays out a total body plan that will have you in peak condition in minimum time. It is unmatched for simplicity.
Despite its many qualities the Up24 has two issues that may be a dealbreaker for some. First, it is ugly as sin. It looks like you have a synthetic earthworm wrapped around your wrist. It might as well be a medic alert bracelet saying you are allergic to sex. Secondly, it doesn’t have a built-in screen, so if you are a little OCD and need to check your status on the go, it won’t be able to help you unless you are lugging your phone around. [Purchase: $135]
Simply Stylish: The Shine is the opposite of the Jawbone in appearance. It was brought back from the future by stylish beings just to monitor your fitness levels. The minimalistic silver or colored plate uses a simple light system to let you know how active you have been while it automatically transmits extensive information to your computer. It is waterproof up to 50 meters, so it is another good choice for swimmers. Tracks not only steps but speed, distance, and calories burned. Also monitors your sleep time and the depth of your sleep based on heart rate. It uses a replaceable battery, so no need to charge. This is the smart fitness tracker that you can truly wear out to dinner with the boss. [Purchase: $100]
Top Clip-On: The nicest thing about the Fitbit One is that it clips discreetly to your belt rather than riding around on your wrist. This can interfere with its accuracy from time to time, and will cause it to come loose, but for those that don’t want a gaudy piece of jewelry, this is a smoother choice. For a low-price option, the One is packed to the gills with technology. It gives you charts and graphs to track your progress, monitors your heart rate, stairs climbed, and even lets you upload your information online to compete with friends or strangers. Logs your meals, your sleep, and your water intake to help you set a comprehensive diet and fitness plan. The only downside is it only works with a handful of mobile devices. [Purchase $88]
Withings Pulse O2
Best Bang for Your Buck: There are two things that put the Pulse apart from many of the other devices on the list. First, it not only tracks your heart rate, but also keeps an eye on your blood oxygen levels so you know not only how fast your heart is beating, but whether or not you are getting enough air. For older users or those with infirmities, this can be imperative information. Secondly, the O2 can seamlessly interface with other Withings fitness gear to create a complete body-monitoring system. Add in a heart rate or blood pressure monitor, a body analyzer, or scale and you’ll know everything you need to improve your workout. The wristband is also replaceable to complement your personal style. [Purchase: $120]
Top of the Line: The Basis straddles the fence between being very good at its job and being downright creepy. It monitors your skin temperature. It checks not only your sleep but your sleep cycles. It watches your heart rate, your perspiration, and your every move. Santa doesn’t need a list to know if you’ve been naughty or nice because the B1 will tell him. That being said, if you are serious about changing your lifestyle habits, this is the way to do it. It syncs through Bluetooth to your system and interfaces with the Body IQ system so that it can learn from you and get better all the time.
It has 4 sensors, which is 3 more than most models, so you’ll get redundant feedback for greater accuracy. It will even alert you if stress increases your heart rate so it can prevent unnecessary cardiac wear and tear. The customization allows you to decide how much or how little you want it to remind you to get up and move and determine what fitness goals you want to reach. Since the demise of the Fitbit Force, this is the godfather of the bunch. [Purchase: $200]
Nike Fuelband SE
Honorable Mention: The Nike Fuelband is getting a little long in the tooth, so it isn’t going to be at the top of the charts. It seems to be built for the gamer that wants to get into shape since everything is measured in “Hours Won” or “Fuel Points” both of which are arbitrary designations created by Nike.
The advantage to these “Fuel Points” is they break down any activity into a standard that can be measured, so whatever your workout preference, it can usually accommodate you. The plain black band is reasonably stylish and simple while the scrolling dot display is playful. Rather than telling you you’re being a sloth one day, it will try to energize you with encouraging messages. It’s a good fitness tracker that is also fun. If you buy a WaterFi accessory, it can even go into the pool with you. [Purchase: $146]
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