Should You Use A Fitness Tracker? Are they Effective and worth your money? If Yes, Which One Is The Best One?
We Have Answers For All Your Queries in Our Complete Buying Guide for the fitness trackers.
So You have finally decided to take care of your health and fitness matters and that is why you are looking for the best fitness trackers so you can take care of your daily activities.
In this busy world, you cannot put your health and fitness matters as a second priority in any case.
But Now that you have decided to buy a fitness tracker or a fitness band which is the best fit for your needs. You are definitely confused and overwhelmed because of the plenty choices.
Two months ago, I decided to take my fitness matters seriously after a short visit to a physician and the first step in this regards was to keep track of my daily activities, sleep quality and other things.
When I went to Amazon to buy the best fitness tracker for my needs, I got completely confused with the plenty of fitness trackers and bands available with different options.
This was the time when I decided to dive into fitness trackers market to learn everything before buying the best option for me.
After talking to half-dozen experts, surveying hundred of users who already are using the fitness trackers and reading every available review over the internet about more than 40 fitness trackers, clip-ons, bracelets and fitness bands, We are able to bring this detailed guide about the best fitness trackers available out there in the market.
What Will You Learn In This Guide
(Click on the respective Link to Jump to the Section)
- Best Fitness Trackers available in the market.
- How Do Fitness Trackers work?
- How to choose a Fitness tracker which best fits your needs?
- How to use your fitness band effectively?
- Conclusion - Does Fitness Trackers Matter?
What does the ‘Numbers’ tell about the Fitness trackers?
Let’s jump into the ‘Numbers game’ before talking about anything else.
According to a survey by MobileHealthNews, 1 in 5 Americans owns a fitness tracker or a smart watch now but surprisingly, only 1 in 10 wears them on a daily basis.
Why is that so?
According to the details, these early adopters are more tech savvy and educated than the general population.
Which means only 21% of the population uses the fitness trackers or any other wearable despite the fact that 80% people know about them.
On the other hand, the survey of Global Web Index suggests that the only 16% of internet users own the wearables like the smart watch and fitness trackers.
But don’t disappoint by these numbers. In 2015 20% people started using fitness trackers as compared to 16% in 2014. Which is 4% growth in a year and it was mainly because of the Apple Watch release in 2015.
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Similarly, Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took a sample of 51 overweight postmenopausal women and offered 25 out of 51 the fitness trackers and the rest were offered the pedometers. The women who used the fitness trackers found themselves more active within a month and started spending one more hour a week as compared to the past.
Cadmus-Bertram who was leading the research concluded it as:
"Fitness trackers combine the key ingredients for motivating people to reach their health goals like setting goals, self monitoring, getting frequent feedback on your progress, revising the goals as needed, social support and developing a sense of self-efficacy." Source
Wow! Isn't this statement itself enough to convince someone to start using fitness trackers?
And what do the people believe who are using the fitness trackers, clip-ons or any other fitness bands? According to the HRI/CIS wearable consumer’s survey in 2014:
- 56% believe that the average life expectancy will grow by 10 years because of self-monitoring.
- 46% believe that the fitness trackers and wearable technology will decrease the obesity. AND
- 42% believe that the average person’s athletic ability will improve dramatically.
And what are the popular brands offering best fitness trackers for you? This completely depends on your needs and requirements. But according to the latest surveys, Fitbit is the leader of fitness trackers market followed by Xiaomi, Apple, Garmin, and Samsung.
Best Fitness Trackers available in the market.
As an activity tracker and fitness band, Garmin Vivosmart HR+ also plays a fantastic job. It displays your preferred bedtime along with how long you sleep. Another interesting feature is the Move Bar. Move bar builds on your home screen and it starts filling according to your inactivity. Therefore, to clear it you need to move. When it comes to sports tracking, Garmin Vivosmart HR+ plays a significant role. All you need to do is press the button, choose activity icon and tap Run to start tracking. It will accurately track distance, calories and time through GPS. But the device does not offer you multi-sports option and thus limited to running and workout only. Garmin’s timely deliver you notifications when paired with your phone.
Also, you can read some full messages. You can retrieve the last three notifications anytime by scrolling down the main menu which is amazing. Lastly, the battery life is pretty impressive. It lasts for around six days along with notifications and workout sessions.
- Garmin Vivosmart HR+ offers automatic sleep detection.
- It timely delivers phone alerts and notifications.
- It tracks heart rate 24/7.
- The device features Move Alert.
- It is compatible with both iOS and Android.
- Move alert cannot be set to custom time interval. It is always an hour.
- It lacks multi-sports option.
- It cannot pair with heart rate monitor or cycling sensor.
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Fitbit Charge 2 provides you the most accurate sleep tracking. It offers a unique guided breathing feature. The guided breathing exercise take your heart rate to find a good rhythm to make sure that you are inhaling not so deeply and exhaling not so quickly. Moreover, it features a heart rate sensor but the performance is not up to the mark. It takes approximately 10-minutes to lock on to your heart rate when compared to a chest strap. Also, it does not give you the most precise accurate measurement. Fitbit Charge 2 deliver you notification of call, text and calendar but your phone must be nearby. Also, you can’t reply r review them. Lastly, the battery life of the device can last up to 5 days.
- The display screen of Fitbit Charge 2 is large.
- It offers a guided breathing exercise.
- It provides the most precise measurement of sleeping tracking.
- The battery life is good.
- The sleeker design and silver body polish makes it a stylish fitness tracker.
- To get back round to a previous screen, you need to keep tapping as the Fitbit Charge 2 has no scrolling feature.
- It does not deliver third-party notifications.
- It lacks waterproof and GPS feature.
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Apple Watch Series 2 is the most divisive smart watch around. It successfully makes a statement which is the primary purpose of any watch. The watch is available in Aluminium or stainless steel edition along with the edition of super new ceramic version. Also, you can find the new strap choices for Apple Watch series 2 including woven nylon. The most significant feature of Apple Watch Series 2 is its waterproof feature. It can effectively withstand the 5TM of water pressure.
The screen of Apple Watch Series 2 is twice as bright as watch series 1 at 1,000 units. Coming towards the features, now you can customize with more complications including small widgets thus making it easier to get your favorite apps from the main watch screen within seconds. Apple Watch series 2 work quite effectively with notifications. Notifications appear on the screen without any issue, therefore you can conveniently read, dismiss or deal with them. Moreover, in the native Apple messages app, you can use voice to dictate responses.
You can easily throw emoji into the conversation. Another interesting feature of Apple Watch series 2 is the scribble feature. By using this feature, you can draw out letters with your fingers to type out messages.
- Apple Watch Series 2 has a built-in GPS which helps you out to keep track of your workouts without using your phone.
- It has water resistant capabilities up to 50 meters.
- The Apple Watch Series 2 processor is 50 times faster than the Series 1 Apple Watch.
- It comes with a sensor that tracks the heart rate and steps thus allowing to measure the daily activities.
- Easy scrolling by the use of digital crown.
- Apple Watch Series 2 still has to slightly struggle while dealing with multiple notifications from the same app.
- The battery life is 18 hours which could be a drawback for some sports enthusiasts.
- The cost of Apple Watch Series 2 is quite high.
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Samsung Gear Fit 2 has a great tracking feature. It can auto detect and track steps, calories and sleep. Whether you are doing squats, yoga, riding a bike or using a rowing machine, it will log accordingly. It comes with inbuilt GPS, heart rate monitor, barometer, gyroscope and accelerator.
Coming towards some of the important features, Samsung Gear Fit 2 has 512MB of ram and 4GB of storage. It is all powered by Samsung 1GHz dual-core processor. The interface is vertical which makes it quite easier to use and read. It delivers you notifications including text, calls, emails, apps and calendar. You can also resize the font to make it more readable. Lastly, the battery life of Samsung Gear Fit 2 lasts up to 4-5 days which is simply amazing for the features it offers.
- An appealing slim design with an AMOLED display.
- It offers you excellent notification support.
- It can be effectively used to track the heart rate with lots of fitness metrics.
- Cost effective.
- It has a built-in GPS and capable of playing music to Bluetooth headsets.
- The display may lose visibility in direct sunlight.
- It is compatible with only Android.
- During intensive exercise, the heart rate track may give you slightly inaccurate measurements.
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Misfit move is a nice activity feature in which it will vibrate and alert you if you are sitting constantly for an hour. In case of applications, it is limited to calls and texts. It offers you sleep tracking where you can even edit the sleep awake times in the Misfit App. It enables you to set alarms and movement alerts. Though the vibrations made on every alert are not so strong. The most prominent feature of Misfit Ray is its battery life which lasts up to six months.
- Misfit Ray is an all-day activity tracker as the battery lasts up to 6 months. No charging is required as it runs on three button cell batteries.
- It has a discreet look with changeable wrist-bands.
- It effectively tracks steps, distance and calories.
- It automatically tracks sleep and tag active durations.
- It is water resistant to 50m.
- Misfit Ray lacks screen.
- It has limited functions of Misfit link app.
- It offers basic features in activity tracking.
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It has an inbuilt optical heart rate sensor which gives you an accurate measurement of training intensity. Polar A360 supports display notifications from your iPhone or any other compatible Android phone. You can view your messages, emails and third party notifications on the display screen. Though you can’t read the entire message or an email. As far as the battery life of Polar A360 is concerned, there is a 100mAh battery packed into the tracker’s body that can effectively deliver two weeks of power. But if you are taking the advantage of notification support or heart rate based training then the battery life will be approximately 5 days.
- Polar A360 features a color display.
- It has an inbuilt optical heart rate sensor.
- It can effectively measure steps, active time, burnt calories, sleeping tracking along with the data analysis and presentation.
- If delivers third party notifications.
- Compatible with both iPhone and Android Phone.
- It features a color touch-screen display at 80x160 resolution which is not so impressive.
- The tracking data on Polar A360 is stored only for the day. To view the long term progress, you need to go back to the app.
- Delay in receiving the notifications.
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Fitbit Flex 2 has a simple design. It is capable of tracking steps, calories burned, per hour activity, active minutes and sleep. The Fitbit Flex 2 offers you waterproof feature and thus can be worn up to 50m which also includes sea water. Swimming can effectively auto track with the duration and laps of four strokes monitored including freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke. Though it may not offer you very advanced metrics. The battery life of Fitbit Flex 2 is five days. It can be extended if you turn off the notifications.
- Fitbit Flex 2 is super easy to wear all the time as it is very light and comfortable. Also, it looks quite casual on your wrist.
- You can get it at very reasonable price with some color choice.
- It is water resistant and can be submerged up to 50 feet.
- It gives you notification alert when the battery is low.
- It is swim and exercises friendly fitness tracker.
- It does not include a watch.
- The tracker can be only charged through USB cable.
- The battery life is mediocre.
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It is a perfect fitness tracker for the runners who want pinpoint heart rate accuracy. It can be paired with a chest strap. When it comes to sports tracking, Garmin operates at a more basic end of the spectrum and thus included in the best names. In your daily activity, it can accurately track your steps, distance walked (without GPS) and calories torched along with showing your progress towards daily goals. Another interesting feature of the Garmin Forerunner 230 is the Move Bar. While you are sitting, the move bar fills and in order to clear it, you need to move.
- Garmin Forerunner 230 has a great battery life.
- It timely delivers you notifications including texts, emails, calendar and reminders.
- It offers you music control feature when synced with smartphone hence you can easily skip and select tracks on your smartphone.
- It is compact and comfortable to wear GPS running watch.
- It accurately tracks distance, heart rate, pace, time, calories and sleeping patterns.
- The LCD screen of Garmin Forerunner is very dull that reading in darkness is simply impossible.
- It lacks fun features.
- It has no built-in heart rate monitor.
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TomTom Spark features a heart rate monitor which monitors the heart rate by using LED light along with measuring the changes in your blood flow. The device offers you multiple heart rate training zones which mainly includes sprint, fat burn, speed, endure etc. that can be selected according to your preference. The GPS of TomTom Spark works with only outdoor activities such as running or cycling whereas gym, treadmill or freestyle are tracked by hand movements using 3-axis accelerometer present in the watch. The battery life of TomTom spark lasts up to 5 days depending on your usage.
- TomTom Spark Cardio+music has built-in storage for music.
- It can easily pair with Bluetooth smart sensors.
- The slim design offers multi-sport functionality.
- It has a built-in heart rate monitor and GPS.
- It offers wireless music streaming.
- TomTom Spark Cardio+music lack GPS when swimming.
- It has an average battery life.
- It can set only one alarm.
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- Featured rich fitness tracker with most of the features in modern trackers.
- Reliable heart rate monitor with resting heart rate monitoring and 24/7 monitoring.
- Compatible with all platforms like Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
- Supports third party apps like MyFitnessPal.
- Big Fitbit community to go social and compete with others by accepting challenges and getting Badges.
- Not waterproofed, so cannot be used in the shower or when swimming.
- A little bulkier and heavier as compared to other trackers.
- Less accurate in extreme workouts.
- No GPS.
Fitbit is among the best brands for fitness trackers and Fitbit Charge HR is still its best fitness tracker with most of the features available in the modern fitness trackers these days. With continuous heart rate monitoring and 3 axes accelerometer and altimeter, it provides very accurate results and helps you stay fit. The Fitbit Charge HR not only tops the competition with its features but it’s easy to use companion app available for all platforms and its strong social community helps you stay social, motivated and in the competition.
On the other hand, it lacks the GPS and its sleep tracking feature is not as accurate as others. Similarly, it is not waterproof so you cannot use in showers or while swimming but it is water resistant (up to 1 ATM) and some users used it in showers as well despite it is not advisable.
If you are a casual user and you need something for all-day activity tracking. Fitbit Charge HR is the best fitness tracker for you. The Fitbit Charge HR is available in black, teal, tangerine, plum and blue colors. Additionally, the screen matches the color of the band making it part of the band.
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- Featured rich fitness tracker with most of the features in modern trackers.
- Accurately measures intense activities like intense workouts as well as routine activities.
- Completely waterproof fitness tracker and can be used in showers and swimming.
- Supports Android and iOS Platforms and third party Apps like MyFitnessPal.
- Online Community to connect with others and compete.
- Requires proprietary charge for charging.
- Companion App is little complicated and less accurate as compared to Fitbit and Jawbone apps.
- Online Community is not as active as of Fitbit.
- Does not support Windows Phone.
The Garmin Vivosmart HR is the best fitness tracker for those who are involved in intense workouts and exercise on regular basis. The featured rich fitness band stands tall in the competition and beats others like Fitbit Charge HR and Jawbone Up3 by its waterproof design and touchscreen with smart notifications feature. The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ (Not the Vivosmart HR) also features the GPS, which provides more accurate results for distance traveled, steps count and other activities. The optical heart rate monitor allows 24/7 heart rate monitoring as well.
On the other hand, the companion app for Garmin Vivosmart HR is not featured rich and little complicated to use as compared to Fitbit Charge HR. Similarly, its social community is not as active as of Fitbit.
If you are looking for a tracker which can track your intense activities and lets you have an eye on notifications without touching your phone, Garmin Vivosmart HR is the best fitness tracker for you. Not only the Garmin Vivosmart HR provides all the features of any modern fitness tracker, it also shows you weather details and allows you control music player and camera remotely.
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- Equipped with all the modern sensors being used in fitness trackers more than any other fitness tracker.
- Easy to use and works impressively with Microsoft Health App.
- You can participate in ‘guided workouts’ designed by fitness professionals.
- Compatible with third party apps like MapMyFitness.
- Touchscreen AMOLED displays with voice assistant Cortana.
- Short battery life (48 hours) which makes sleep tracker useless as people need to charge it at night.
- Bulkier design and can create problems especially when typing etc.
- Not waterproofed, so cannot be used in showers or while swimming.
- Expensive as compared to other top fitness trackers.
- No social connectivity which means no motivation, no challenges etc.
Microsoft Band 2 is a lot more improved fitness tracker as compared to the Microsoft Band, the very first fitness tracker by Microsoft. It is equipped with all the sensors, actually more than any other fitness tracker, and supports most of the activities to track. The Microsoft Band 2 provides GPS connectivity and can easily compete any other GPS running watches in the competition. This makes it perfect for runners, Golf Players and other sport tracking activities.
Similarly, the heart rate tracker of the Microsoft Band 2 is also very accurate and gives results near to the chest straps used for heart rate monitoring. It's sleep tracker is also featured rich and provides details like deep or light sleep and measures resting heart rate accurately as well.
On the other hand, despite improvements as compared to the first model, Microsoft still needs to work in different areas like Battery Life and the bulkier design. The Band 2 only provides 48 hours of battery life which means you can miss the sleep tracking feature if you prefer to charge it in nights.
If you are looking for fitness tracker with smart notifications and other smart watch features, you can go for the Microsoft Band 2. You will enjoy its impressive Health App, accurate fitness tracking but for some extra bucks as compared to other activity trackers.
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- One of the most elegant fitness trackers and comfortable to wear.
- Advanced and accurate activity tracking.
- Tracks the sleep with light vs deep and use multiple sensors to track accurate results.
- Longer Battery Life of up to 7 days with one and half hour charging cycle.
- Jawbone companion app for its fitness trackers is one of the best apps.
- Not waterproofed despite the promises.
- No continuous heart rate tracking.
- No Display for quick notifications.
- No Built-In GPS for activity tracking.
- Requires its own Charger to charge the battery.
If you are looking for a fitness tracker which can add some style to your fashionable outfit along with accurate activity tracking and can advise you about your activities, the Jawbone UP3 should be your first choice. Jawbone used its all experience and all the modern trends to bring Jawbone UP3 fitness tracker in the market. And after its last firmware update, the Jawbone UP3 has become more accurate with additional features.
If you are planning to work on your sleep disorders and need an activity tracker for the purpose, the Jawbone UP3 can be your first choice as it tracks your sleep very accurate with details of deep vs light sleep using its complex algorithm which lacks in most of the other fitness trackers. It uses your bpm, body temperature, respiration rate and galvanic skin response along with other things to track your sleep quality.
On the other hand, you can easily disappoint with the Jawbone UP3 because of the lack of some important features like real-time heart rate monitoring and GPS tracking which are becoming standards more and more in all the best fitness trackers. Similarly, the Jawbone UP3 is also not waterproofed so you can not wear it in showers or when swimming.
When talking about the companion app of the Jawbone UP3, you will find it one of the best apps in the competition. It provides all the necessary details along with charts and graphs which are easier to read and understand.
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- Featured rich, inexpensive and stylish clip-on
- Silent Alarm Feature
- Compatible with both iOS and Android
- Long Battery Life of 2 weeks.
- No Continuous heart rate monitoring
- Lack of Built-In GPS
- Difficult to configure settings like Wireless Syncing.
If you don't like to wear anything like watches or jewelry on your wrists and prefer simple designs over the more complex ones, the Fitbit One clip-on is the best fitness tracker for you. Unlike other fitness trackers which are wristbands, the Fitbit One is clip-on which you can clip to your pocket, shoes, wristbands or any other place on your clothes and it will work perfectly. Despite its simple and elegant design, the Fitbit One is a featured rich fitness tracker and does all the activity tracking jobs, you expect from other fitness trackers like step count, calories burned, floors climbed and distance traveled.
The clip-ons are also more convenient in the situation where you are involved in different team activities and wear a wristband can be dangerous and not allowed. The Fitbit One will do its job perfectly in such situations. But unlike other best fitness trackers, the Fitbit One lacks the continuous heart rate monitoring and if you want it to use for sleep tracking you will have to use a band which comes along with the tracker. Another cool feature of the Fitbit One is its battery life. It remains charged for almost 2 weeks as compared to other fitness trackers which have an average battery life of one week at maximum.
You can still enjoy the Fitbit community with Fitbit One and it's companion app which is also one of the best fitness trackers companion apps in the competition. For the price tag of just $75, the Fitbit One is one of the best fitness tracking clip-ons.
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On the other hand, you will find the UA band more expensive as compared to other fitness trackers like Fitbit Charge HR and Garmin Vivosmart HR. Similarly, despite the band is durable, its plastic body is prone to scratches and can look bad after some time of use.
If you are looking a complete package for your fitness tracking, the Under Armour Band along with UA HealthBox and UA Record app is the best choice for you. HTC and UA both are planning big in this regards.
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The Jawbone UP Move does not have a heart rate monitor so if you want something with heart rate monitoring, it is not for you. Similarly, it misses the vibrant alarm which is one of the best features of clip-ons. You will find the tracker useful, capable of what it does and the companion app adds good value to it as well.
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The Withings partnership with MyFitnessPal adds more value to this stylish fitness tracker. The calories burned, food lodging and other functionalities are managed by MyFitneesPal and the meters on your watch dial adjust accordingly to give you an idea of your routine activity.
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So if you are looking for a fitness tracker, which is focused on workouts, can guide you and is not heavy in your pocket, you can try the Moov Now. According to the company, some more exciting features like spinning and other high-intensity training measurements will be added to the Moov Now. On the other hand, it does not track sleep and other activities, so it is not for everyone.
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The Basis Peak adds more value in gyms where you workout or in exercises to track your activity. The tracker comes with all the modern sensors for fitness trackers and beats original Microsoft Band in the competition as well. But in general, you will find it the best pedometer which performs some other features like heart rate monitoring as well.
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If you are looking for waterproofed fitness trackers, Misfit Shine 2 is one which must be in your considerations list. But it does not support heart rate monitoring, the strap misses the details of the design to fit nicely on wrist thus insecure to wear and can be lost easily.
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As we have emphasized and focused on the importance of app and social connectivity for fitness trackers, the Fitbit Alta tops the competition especially for its under $100 price tag with the best fitness tracker companion app and a large social community. If you are more of a casual user and do not focus more on hard-core gym activities, Fitbit Alta is best for you.
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One of the most important questions is How do the fitness trackers, clip-ons, activity bands and other fitness wearables work? How do they count the steps and how do they track the quality of sleep. Let discuss this in details.
Fitness Trackers are all about Sensors
Fitness trackers are nothing but the pack of different sensors to do their job. Different fitness trackers use the different number of sensors to track the activity accurately. While most of the fitness trackers have three to four sensors, Microsoft Band comes 10 sensors as advertised by the company. The latest models of different fitness trackers offer different functionalities thus the number of sensors varies as well.
Most of the fitness trackers have these main sensors.
- Optical Heart Rate Monitors
- Bio-impedance sensors
- Ambient light Sensors
- Galvanic Skin Response Sensor
- UV Sensors
1. Accelerometers track your movement
Accelerometers are part of almost all the fitness trackers and use to track the motion. If you were wondering about how do the fitness trackers count steps? The simple answer is with Accelerometers.
The Accelerometers measure the acceleration in different coordinates depending on the type of Accelerometer. If the accelerometer used in the tracker is two-axis, they will be less accurate as compared to the three-axis accelerometers. Along with Accelerometers, gyroscope and altimeters also help to measure the altitude, orientation, and rotation to accurately count the steps in different conditions like when climbing mountains or while walking in a park.
This data is converted into steps and then on the basis of steps count, calories are calculated. You can understand there is some sort of guess work involved in this whole process.
Ever Wondered Why Different Fitness Trackers Come With Different Results?
Every fitness tracker processes the data using its own algorithm.
Let's take the example of Step counting. When counting the steps, one fitness tracker can ignore a slight movement whereas another fitness tracker can consider it as one step. The Threshold for defining the step varies from brand to brand thus the accuracy varies as well.
For Example: 0.25 miles are 540 steps for a Jawbone UP, 538 steps for FitBit One and 552 steps for Nike Fuelband.
2. Optical Heart Rate Monitors measure your heart rate
The Optical Heart Rate Monitors use the light to measure your heart rate. All the fitness bands which support heart rate monitoring have an optical heart rate monitor on their back which intact with your skin to measure the pulse rate. The LED shines a light on your wrist and illuminates the capillaries which help sensors to measure the blood pumping rate which in turns tells us the heart rate.
The optical heart rate monitors are less accurate than the Bio-Impedance sensors but help us getting the heart rate especially when doing an exercise or work out.
3. Bio-Impedance Sensors measure your heart rate in more complex but accurate way and help in tracking sleep quality as well.
Some of the fitness bands and trackers use the Bio-Impedance sensors instead of heart rate monitors to measure the heart rate. Jawbone UP3 is one of them. The Bio-Impedance sensors measure heart rate, galvanic skin response, and the respiration rate and are more accurate than the normal optical heart rate monitors. The Jawbone UP3 according to the official post uses the impedance changes created by the volume of blood flowing in the Radial and Ulnar arteries.
These Bio-Impedance sensors not only measure the heart rate sensors but also tell existing respiration and hydration conditions by measuring the oxygen level in the blood. To this, it uses the four electrodes which inter-transmit an electrical impulse for the purpose.
4. GPS are a must have in your fitness tracker if you are a professional runner
As we discussed above, the Accelerometers are used to measure your step count but the bands with GPS sensors are more accurate and provide better results. The GPS technology uses the low-power, high-frequency radio signals from different satellites orbiting around our globe. This mechanism calculates the precise distance by getting the data of your starting and ending coordinates.
Unfortunately, the GPS sensors drain the battery too quickly but still with the improvement in technology, more and more fitness trackers are offering the built-in GPS.
5. Ambient light Sensors track the sleep quality by combining different factors
The fitness trackers with a display screen use the ambient light sensors to maintain the screen readability in different light conditions. They work same like they work in our phones for managing the screen brightness. The Ambient light sensors are also used to check the darkness in your room.
The ambient light sensors only detect the light which is visible to the human eye for this purpose, which is then sent to the processor after converting into a digital signal to measure the sleep quality and other factors.
The other sensors included in different fitness trackers are thermometers to check your body temperature; UV sensors are used to detect other light wave and their impact on your body and the Galvanic Skin Response sensors which are used to detect any change in your skin like sweat while doing exercise.
How Does Fitness Trackers Track Your Sleep
Fitness trackers and activity bands use the accelerometer to measure the sleep quality. Most of the fitness trackers have the 'Sleep Mode' which tells the tracker when enabled, that the person is now sleeping.
Measuring sleep quality is a complicated process and not all the fitness trackers are best at it. To check the sleep quality, there are a number of lab tests used for the purpose which measures brain activity, eye movement, heart rate, muscle tension, oxygen level and breathing as well.
Some of the fitness trackers claim to measure the different states of sleep like Deep Sleep and light sleep. They use heart rate monitor, body temperature, and pulse oximetry along with accelerometers for this purpose and give more accurate results as compared to normal fitness trackers.
How the Data is Processed
If you have used a fitness band earlier or if you have read anything about them, you will be aware of the fact that different fitness trackers give different results in same conditions. Many bloggers did the tests by wearing the multiple trackers at the same time and they got the different results.
The Data Accuracy of the fitness trackers depends on the two factors.
- Number and quality of Sensors Being used in the fitness tracker you are using AND
- Algorithm which is used to process the raw data into information.
We have discussed the different Sensors and their usage in measuring the activities above. Now we will look at the algorithms used to process data.
Once the band or tracker you are using has collected your activity data, it now starts processing it to give you results. Every brand uses its own algorithm to process the data and bring the results in front of you. Because the way of processing data is different for every brand and usually brands do not share their algorithms, it is the main reason; we see different results on different fitness trackers.
Let's take the example of Step counting. When counting the steps, one fitness tracker can ignore a slight movement whereas other fitness trackers can consider it as one step. The Threshold for defining the step varies from brand to brand thus the accuracy varies as well.
Similarly, when it comes to talking about calories, different trackers ask for more details from the person using the tracker. Like, Your Age, Gender, height and weight all matter in this regards along with the steps count for calculating the calories burned. Along with steps count, your heart rate and the perspiration rate also matter.
The more accurately the algorithm takes all this information and processes it, more accurate the results of fitness tracker are. Some companies like MotionX have spent more than $50 million to design more advanced and accurate algorithms. According to the estimates, existing trackers and bands can show different results with 20% average deviation.
With more and more choices to choose from, it has become more complicated to choose best fitness tracker for your needs. Earlier most of the fitness trackers only used to count steps and sleep monitoring. Whereas for running and other activities there were other watches but with the advancements in technology, more and more fitness trackers are offering a lot of features in one band.
You can now count your steps and measure the calories burnt along with sleep monitoring and heart rate monitoring. You can use the same tracker for swimming and other hyper activities like climbing and running with most of the modern fitness bands available in the market.
One of the other most important factors in this regards is the App to use with the fitness tracker. As we discussed above, every fitness tracker has its own algorithm, similarly, every brand has its own app and most of the brands support the third party featured rich apps as well.
Fitness Trackers Are Best For General Use!
If you are a professional athlete like runner or swimmer and thinking of buying a fitness tracker or a fitness band to get a detailed breakdown of your activities, you will be disappointed.
While Fitness trackers can give you detailed information about your activities they are still not best to use for measuring the advanced metrics required for different sports.
Key Factors To Find The Best Fitness Tracker For Your Needs:
1) Ask Yourself the Question. Why Do You need a fitness tracker or band?
Before you go and buy a fitness tracker, you should completely understand your own requirements. Why do you need one is an important question to ask yourself. More you are clear about your requirements, more easily you will be able to select the best fitness tracker for yourself.
Angela McIntyre, the research director at Gartner, sums it very beautifully:
"Fitness trackers are motivational to people for getting more exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. If there is a particular activity you like, like swimming, make sure the activity tracker and the software are designed for it. People who have a favorite activity that is less common, such as jumping rope, may want to check that the activity is recognized by the software."
So if you are just starting and planning on adding some dedicated time for regular exercise in your routine, a basic tracker which can count steps and measure calories burnt is the good starting point for you. But if you are already spending a good time in exercise and workouts of different nature, you should go for more advanced trackers to fulfill your needs.
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2) What Type Do You Prefer? Wristband Vs Clip-on
Fitness trackers are available in different sizes, styles and shapes. It depends on you how you prefer to wear it. Depending on the choice, if you feel comfortable wearing it on your hand you can go for a wristband. But if you don’t find it convenient for yourself to wear the band all day or all night you can prefer a clip-on which you can clip to your belt, clothes or shoes.
It completely depends on you to choose between the two options. Most of the modern trackers come with a screen to show you your activity at runtime. So it is important for you to wear your tracker in a way you can easily note the readings when required.
3) What Features Do You Need?
Once you have clearly understood your needs, you can easily decide which features you will be needing in the fitness tracker which is the best fit for you. Almost all the fitness trackers come with built-in features for step count and measuring calories burnt. Sleep monitoring and distance calculation are also now standard features of fitness bands.
a) Water resistant fitness trackers will help you take a shower and swim without taking it off.
If you have involved in water related activities, you should prefer the waterproof fitness trackers. You should know the difference between the waterproof and splash-proof trackers. While waterproof fitness trackers work fine if you take a shower or you do swimming, splash-proof trackers will only save it from light water contact like sweat.
While waterproof fitness trackers work fine in water and will give you some readings of your swimming activity, not all waterproof trackers will give you accurate results. So if you are looking for a fitness tracker for your swimming needs, you should make sure to read the specifications of the band first.
b) Heart Rate Monitoring is critical especially if you are 35+.
Optical heart rate monitors are becoming more and more common among the fitness trackers. With the advancements in technology, these optical heart rate monitors track the heart rate with a lot of accuracies. For instance, the optical rate monitoring technology used in the Apple Watch gives results as accurate as of the ECG. But again not all sensors are made equal.
Most of the fitness trackers, having optical heart rate monitors, become useless with a little contact with water or sweat on the skin. So if you are looking for a tracker for your swimming activities, the old chest-strap heart rate monitors are still your best choice, which uses the electrical impulses to measure your heart rate.
c) GPS is a must have for runners but it eats battery very fast.
If you are a runner, cyclist or a hiker, you should prefer the fitness tracker with built-in GPS. While there are a lot of GPS smartwatch available in the market, most of them lack the heart rate monitoring and other key features of the fitness trackers which can be really handy for you.
The GPS-enabled devices to pinpoint your exact location, measure your speed and tell more accurate results as compared to the accelerometers. On the other hand, because GPS uses the satellites for communication, it can be slow responding some conditions and can drain the battery of your tracker more quickly.
d) With Screen or Without Screen
There are fitness trackers in the market with screen and without the screen. It is completely your choice i.e. what do you prefer. Most of the fitness trackers which have screens show some very basic information like steps count and time etc. Still you will be relying on your smartphone and the app for detailed information and data analysis.
e) Long Battery Life means you can collect more data without breaks
If you have used the feature phones, you know how poor the smartphones in the battery area are. Same is the problem with smart watches and fitness trackers. Most of the smartwatches need to be charged at the end of the day which means you need to take it off. On the other hand, most fitness trackers have a battery life of at least 7 to 8 days which means they can keep tracking your activity 24/7 and give you more accurate results.
f) Silent Alarms with vibration only wake you Up!
Some of the fitness trackers and clip-ons offer the alarm feature. This can be very handy in cases when you share your bed with your spouse but you don't share the wake-up time with him/her. In such cases, your wristband starts vibrating and only you wake up instead of your whole family.
g) Sleep Tracking can help you work on your sleep disorders.
We have discussed earlier how the fitness trackers track your sleep. Although many modern trackers use different algorithms to track your sleep, they are still mostly dependent on your movements in sleep. But If you are working on sleep disorders, you should choose the fitness trackers which not only use the accelerometers for sleep tracking but also use the optical heart rate monitor to check other important factors like oxygen level.
4) Data Syncing And Compatibility
The fitness trackers track your activity, collect the data and then send this data to your smartphone. That is why it is important to make sure that the fitness tracker, you are going to buy, is compatible with your phone or not. Most of the trackers work fine with iOS and Android OS but many of them do not work with the Windows Phone.
Similarly, some fitness trackers transmit data automatically to the phone once paired whereas some require pairing again and again. You should choose the tracker with these things in your mind as well.
5) Companion App is Feature Rich or Not
The most important part of the data has been collected is to analyze and present it. This job is done by the companion apps for fitness trackers which are installed on your Smartphone. You should take care of several things before choosing the brand from the app perspective. The companion app should display details clearly, should be simple in design and should allow you to sync with other third party apps like MyFitnessPal. Similarly, the sharing feature of the apps is also very important to share, compare and compete with your friends and family. This plays a vital role in motivating you.
Most of the fitness apps also allow you to lodge details like food intake and other nutritional details. Similarly, some apps let you distinguish between the workouts to calculate the data more accurately.
One of the main factors to focus from the app perspective is different features on different apps for iOS and Android. Like there are more features on the iOS app of a brand as compared to Android, which is frustrating. If downloading and using the app without the tracker is difficult, you can still go to Apple AppStore and Android Play Store to read reviews and comments about the app.
Talking, in general, every fitness tracker has its own features and lacking. That is why it is most important to understand your needs and then decide the device accordingly.
6) Check the Strap or Band Size
Most of the fitness trackers and bands come in the different strap (band) sizes so one can adjust the band or tracker to his/her wrist perfectly. It is important for the wrist tracker to be in contact with your wrist all the time especially if your tracker comes with heart rate monitor.
Almost all the good brands provide the sizing guides so you can find the right size for you by measuring your wrist circumference. Like you can check Microsoft Band 2 Sizing guide, Fitbit Charge HR sizing guide and Garmin Vivosmart HR sizing guide on the respective links.
Remember, each model of the same brand can have different size requirements like Microsoft Band and Microsoft Band 2 have different sizing requirements.
So, you have either bought a fitness tracker that fits your needs or you have decided the best one for you. Great Job!
But Hye...! It's still the 'Job half done'!
As we discussed in the beginning, only 1 out of 10 people uses the fitness trackers on the regular basis after some period.
Why is that So?
1) Human nature of ditching 'old things' which were quite appealing some days ago?
2) No Motivation? Lack of Goals, or losing the faith after expecting a lot from yourself and the fitness tracker you have.
The most important thing is to use your fitness tracker on the regular basis and get the most of it. And we will be discussing in the next lines how you can use your fitness tracker effectively.
Be Realistic - Fitness Tracker will not do the magic for you:
Like any other tool or device, fitness tracker does nothing itself. It will never do a magic to make you fit but it is you who can bring the change by using the tracker properly and regularly. That is why it is most important set some realistic expectations from your tracker. As we have already discussed, fitness trackers are still not accurate, so it can be a frustrating factor but on the other hand, fitness bands can be the biggest motivation you have.
This is same like you buy a trade mill to lose weight and stay active, but unless you use it properly, you are not going to get anything from it. So the most important factor is to bring change in yourself and stay focused and consistent.
Wear it Always to get more accurate results:
Although this is certain that you will be wearing your band most of the time but it is very important to wear it always, no matter what you are doing. Definitely, your tracker will never count the steps if you have taken it off your wrist and this will result in false results at the end of the day.
That is why it is very important to buy a fitness tracker which is comfortable for you and its size is according to your needs. Most of the modern fitness bands and activity trackers are designed considering this that you will be wearing them 24/7.
Similarly, taking your tracker off your wrist can result in forgetting to wear it again for a certain period of time. Suppose you put your tracker on charging and go for a bath and then you go to office forgetting your tracker at all. Now coming back and picking the tracker is not something you will be willing to do but this will result in wrong numbers and you will start finding it troublesome when analyzing the data.
So it is very important to wear your tracker always and whenever you take it off put it near to other important stuff like your Car Keys and your phone.
Set The Small Targets and Goals which are achievable:
This happens with every one of us and always. We are pumped and start doing workouts and exercise without a proper plan. And after some time, all our motivation fades away and we are back to our routine.
But fitness trackers can help us in this regards. Being more active a day is easier said than done because the standard step goal is 10,000 steps in almost all the trackers but we take only 5000 or fewer steps per day. If you think, you will double your steps in a day or two, it is unrealistic. Instead, you should try to achieve this ultimate goal of taking 10000 steps on the daily basis gradually.
First, you should start observing your daily habits by wearing the band for a day or two, then you should find the ways when you can walk more like using stairs instead of an elevator, parking your car away from your office and going on foot for shopping in the neighborhood instead of using the car. This will help you achieve your targets and goals in the whole day instead of doing the whole activity or workout in given period of time.
Similarly, do some research by reading about fitness levels for different people of different ages, gender, and weight! Find what is appropriate for you, then break this ultimate goal into further small goals and try achieving them in a month or two.
This slow and steady approach will help you change your old habits a lot.
Go Social and Connect With Others:
You can start with a lot of enthusiasm and energy for a week or a month after you buy your fitness tracker. But soon you will get tired of the routine and you will need some motivation to carry on. This is where you need your friends or family members to join you. Ask your close friend or a family member to start participating with you using the tracker and you will find the differences.
You both can set daily challenges to compete and use it as a motivation to remain active for a longer period of time. You can also join social communities and find the people like you and start competing with them to achieve your goals.
Keep Logging Details in the App on Daily Basis:
We do different types of activities on daily basis. Going to a washroom, crossing the road and taking a long walk in the park for an hour or so are all different activities which need a different amount of energy. The fitness trackers will count them all as steps and you will have to keep your activity data more up to date by inputting different information. You can use third party apps like MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness to get an accurate picture of your steps at the end of the day.
Similarly, the fitness tracker will keep the log of how many calories you are burning but what about the calories you are taking? You should start logging your food intake details in the app as well to get the complete picture and analyze the data in a correct way.
Do Fitness trackers worth? In Short, Yes! With reasonable expectations, you can take a lot of advantage from the fitness trackers.
The advancements in the latest technologies and the growing use of smartphones will eventually lead to the more robust, featured rich and accurate activity and fitness trackers. Similarly, we will be seeing the growth in the usage of fitness trackers with technology advancements.
Right now, we can see there is very less difference between a fitness tracker, GPS running watch, and a smart watch. Most of the fitness trackers are now offering all these features. Although the technology is used today is still not accurate but still, the fitness trackers are one of the most important motivational tools to keep you on track and have a check on your daily activities.
Depending on your requirements, if you only need to get information or a more accurate advice than just a simple guess work, fitness trackers are best fit for you. On the other hand, if you are professional athletes and your requirements are more complicated, you should go for the dedicated watches or straps available in the market.
You can also use your Smartphone for getting details of your daily activities. The Apple Health App and Google Fit on Android do the very sophisticated job and give you very detailed results in this regards. Or you can prefer a smart watch if you want the features of your phone on your wrist. But what makes fitness trackers more appropriate is their battery life which is normally of 5 to 7 days as compared to 18 to 20 hours battery life of smart watches.
In the end, what is most important is to stay active and keep a check on your health and fitness to improve your quality of life. And fitness trackers can be a useful motivation tool for you to keep running walking or doing what you like the most.
Have a look at this infographic to get more details about the statistics related to fitness trackers.