Whereas Fitbit was one of many first firms to transcend easy step counting — giving perception into energy burned, sleep information and extra — a number of manufacturers have constructed a formidable health neighborhood round their merchandise, permitting folks to attach with others who’re additionally on a mission to drop some pounds, get match or enhance their endurance and pace.
That’s why, over the course of a month, we examined seven extremely rated, beloved health trackers. We ran. We walked. We lifted. We in contrast ease of use, construct high quality and accuracy. After a more-active-than-usual couple of weeks, we discovered one health tracker that tops all of them:
Since first releasing health trackers in 2014, Fitbit has been thought-about probably the most accessible model for all well being warriors — from novices to consultants.
Although each Fitbit fashions we tried excelled throughout our testing, the Encourage 2 was slimmer and simpler to each arrange and perceive than the Fitbit Cost 4. Its glossy construct ensured it didn’t catch on clothes (or anything) whereas understanding, and the skinny display screen appeared much less susceptible to bumps and scratches, so in a method it felt much less shatterproof than others. A few of the different trackers, just like the Fitbit Cost, have been simply barely greater, however nonetheless large enough to note the distinction. (We concede that consolation is wholly subjective, however we in the end discovered the slimmer Encourage 2 much less obtrusive whereas sporting and due to this fact suppose it will be comfy even for these with smaller wrists. For these on the lookout for extra heft and barely bigger faces, the Fitbit Cost 4 or Garmin Vivosmart 4 is likely to be extra ideally suited.) Regardless of its barely smaller display screen, we by no means struggled to learn our stats within the Encourage 2, even whereas shortly peeking throughout intense exercises.
Setup was a cinch and happened throughout the Fitbit app, which is accessible on Google Play, iTunes or Microsoft. Simply create a free profile, sync by way of Bluetooth, cost your tracker and also you’re able to get began. For higher accuracy, it’s important to fill out your private data, together with your top and whether or not you’re sporting the tracker in your dominant or nondominant wrist. Your top usually determines your gait — the size of your step — and the Encourage 2 is meant to trace in another way primarily based on which hand you’re utilizing (although we didn’t discover a major distinction in monitoring after we examined on completely different wrists).
It’s also possible to arrange step objectives (we aimed for 10,000, for example) in addition to weight reduction, water consumption, wellness, sleep and extra. Once you log in to your Fitbit app, your house web page mechanically shows a semicompleted circle of what number of steps you’ve taken for the day. A fast scroll will present you lively minutes (when your coronary heart price was raised), your common resting coronary heart price and extra information. It’s also possible to set and log your water objectives.
You’ve gotten the choice to activate a notification to remind you to get in a minimum of 250 steps per hour to satisfy your motion aspirations for the day. This was one thing that, as we’re now working (and exercising and cooking and current 24/7) at residence, we discovered to be extremely useful; on a number of events, the function (which you may as well discover on the Garmin and Withings trackers) gave us the immediate we would have liked to tug ourselves out of our seat and stroll upstairs or seize the pup for a fast around-the-block jaunt.
Fitbit claims that it may well mechanically inform what sort of health you’re partaking in, from swimming to biking to greater than 20 different actions, however we didn’t discover this declare to be completely correct in our testing. Whereas the Fitbit Encourage 2 did acknowledge after we have been doing cardio, it learn power coaching as king (our assumption is that’s as a result of our coronary heart price would solely rise right here and there throughout these periods); after we biked, it picked it up as swimming. This wasn’t an anomaly pegged solely to Fitbit, as not one of the trackers persistently recognized power coaching. Regardless of that hiccup, we did like how the Fitbit app advised us precisely after we have been in our most lively, fat-burning mode and after we have been at relaxation. We discovered this data to be useful, primarily because it offers perception into what number of extra energy to burn to satisfy objectives.
One of the crucial important — and fascinating — options of the Fitbit Encourage 2 is the sleep tracker, which helps you to know while you get up all through the evening, how deep or mild your relaxation is and the way a lot time you spend within the REM cycle. Our tester, a self-professed problematic sleeper, discovered this tracker to be probably the most comfy to put on all through the evening (a difficulty we had with different trackers, which you’ll learn extra about under). And also you received’t have a lot fear about charging the Fitbit Encourage 2, as it may well maintain a cost for as much as 10 days; we by no means wanted to recharge it all through our testing, even after just a few days of heavy use.
For lower than $100, the Fitbit Encourage 2 is the only option for anybody who needs higher readability and extra sturdy information about their well being, health and wellness way of life. Every tracker additionally comes with a free 12 months of the Fitbit Premium Membership, which supplies data-driven private suggestions in addition to entry to lots of of exercise movies from Fitbit and meditation and mindfulness classes. We expect that’s loads of bang on your buck.
When working towards a selected well being objective, a health tracker can show important, serving to to self-monitor day by day actions and supply motivation to remain in motion. As licensed health teacher DeBlair Tate, who supplied steerage throughout our testing course of, put it: “When your progress is tracked precisely and persistently, a sample of outcomes turns into clearer. It supplies a way of possession for well being and health objectives. Once you goal to achieve these numbers day by day, you achieve that achievement of accomplishment that motivates you to create extra objectives.”
However how correct, precisely, are health trackers? We did discover some discrepancies in steps — as much as 500 to 800 steps — after we wore two trackers directly. This was true no matter model. That’s regular, although, since expertise and performance are all completely different. As Keegan Draper, Nationwide Academy of Sports activities Drugs licensed private coach and health specialist for Mindbody, defined, wrist straps will differ from hip-mounted trackers and chest or arm straps.
By way of steps, he says extra correct measurements would come from a hip-mounted step counter, whereas a wristwatch may choose up on different actions and observe these. “It is extremely doubtless two completely different trackers give completely different step counts,” Draper famous. “However, general, your day by day health tracker might be comparatively correct, and having some kind of monitor and tracker is best than none.”
- Accuracy: Although numbers will fluctuate, as we explored above, to check accuracy, we wore two trackers directly and in contrast the outcomes. We additionally in contrast the steps to the included pedometer in our telephone and examined the built-in GPS to measure distance.
- Readability: Whereas the numbers on all health trackers are pretty small, we famous how straightforward it was to learn the display screen — in addition to how shortly we may look on the display screen to see our coronary heart price in the midst of a exercise.
- Navigation: All the trackers assist you to scroll to seek out steps, exercise, coronary heart price and so forth. We rated how straightforward this was to discover.
- Exercise recognition: For a lot of trackers, you may as well choose what sort of exercise you’re doing earlier than you start for higher monitoring accuracy. Some mechanically acknowledge actions, so we examined that too.
- App usability: We rated how easy the app was, what it tracks and the way it offered data.
- Ease of setup: Once you’re shopping for a tracker to decrease your coronary heart price and enhance your well being, the very last thing you need is to be harassed. We checked out how straightforward and quick it was to observe directions, obtain the app, hook up with Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi and get began.
- Battery life: We recorded how lengthy every machine lasted on a full cost.
- Compatibility: Many health trackers require you to obtain their very own app, and a few assist you to sync with different apps, like Apple Well being, Google Match, MyFitness Pal, Peloton and lots of others. We checked out what number of third-party apps every tracker may pair with.
- General consolation: The aim of a health tracker is to put on all of it day, and in some circumstances, all evening. This implies consolation is essential. We rated on match in addition to the way it felt throughout and after a exercise, in opposition to sweat or within the bathe.
- Design: We famous how aesthetically pleasing and various the tracker was, together with what number of colours and designs have been accessible.
- Waterproofness: We took every of those trackers into the bathe to make sure they held as much as their waterproof ranking.
- Guarantee: We famous the guarantee, if any, for every machine and rated its providing.
- Privateness: We additionally combed by way of every product’s privateness coverage to see how the corporate manages privateness throughout the app and if it shares any person information.
Utilizing the metrics and pointers above, we rated every individually. Then we tallied up the full quantity in every subcategory. Lastly, we discovered the general rating for every, and thus named a winner. We broke down the scores as follows:
- Efficiency had a most of 70 factors: accuracy (15 factors), readability (10 factors), navigation (10 factors), exercise recognition (10 factors), app usability (10 factors), ease of setup (5 factors), battery life (5 factors) and compatibility (5 factors).
- Construct had a most of 20 factors: general consolation (10 factors), design (5 factors) and waterproofness (5 factors).
- Different components had a most of 10 factors: guarantee (lower than two years = 0 factors; two to 5 years = 2 factors; greater than 5 years = 5 factors) and privateness (5 factors).
Fitbit Cost 4 ($135.98, initially $149.95; amazon.com)
In all transparency, the Fitbit Cost 4 presents each function we appreciated in regards to the Fitbit Encourage 2, however we discovered the design of this mannequin to be much less comfy. The display screen and the band are wider, which might really feel cumbersome for somebody with small wrists. In case you’re on the fence about shopping for an Apple Watch, although, that is very comparable by way of alerts, connectivity to your calendar and messaging, so it could possibly be a less expensive various. It’s appropriate with Spotify, so you possibly can hearken to music by way of Bluetooth headphones whereas exercising, however a premium membership is required.
The display screen is extra superior than the Encourage 2, which we appreciated, however it’s additionally simpler to scratch. So why did we want the Fitbit Encourage 2? It presents all the similar options, it’s smaller and it supplies extra worth for its worth level.
Garmin Vivosmart 4 With Pulse Ox and Coronary heart Charge Monitor in Rose Gold With Grey Band ($119.39, initially $129.99; amazon.com)
By way of feel and look, the 2 Garmins we examined have been much like the Fitbit Encourage 2. They’ve thinner bands in varied colours and have the swipeable residence display screen. Whereas we most well-liked Fitbit to trace exercises and steps, Garmin was higher for walks and runs, because it’s identified for its GPS accuracy and its capability to assist with pacing, from throughout the app. It even supplies trails or loops you possibly can observe in most cities.
Garmin’s app and interface are much like Fitbit however really feel clunkier and tougher to navigate. There are numerous sections, together with a day by day screenshot, challenges you may give your self, calendar reminders and extra, however it doesn’t provide the identical community-like really feel or ease of scrolling because the Fitbit app.
The Vivosmart 4 does show reminders to breathe and calm down in case your resting coronary heart price appears to be going haywire, which is a helpful function, significantly in immediately’s local weather. And if you need your steps to be entrance and heart, you may make them first in your menu — or, if you need actions, you are able to do that too. It’s as much as you and totally customizable.
This tracker additionally claims to have extra superior sleep monitoring, together with REM cycle and blood oxygen saturation ranges by way of its Pulse Ox sensor. Finally, although, we discovered it uncomfortable to put on whereas sleeping and ended up taking it off midway by way of the evening, so we didn’t get an correct learn.
Garmin Vivofit 4 ($90.19; amazon.com)
This smaller and cheaper tracker presents lots of the similar apps and choices because the Vivosmart, however it does have one standout high quality which may be attractive for some: a button. Of all of the trackers we examined, it was the one one to supply a button to navigate the on-screen menu. This isn’t a necessity, however for individuals who want one thing tangible, it could possibly be a decision-making function. Like all Garmin units, this one additionally connects to Google Play, iTunes and as much as 15 different apps, so you possibly can simply combine varied subscriptions into your tracker. It’s also possible to get a climate studying if you happen to’re attempting to determine whether or not to do an indoor or out of doors exercise. Our largest gripe with this machine, nonetheless, is its residence display screen, which we discovered to be probably the most tough to learn except we have been in complete daylight.
Withings Hybrid Smartwatch Metal HR ($179.95; amazon.com)
Of the seven health trackers we examined, that is the one one which could possibly be mistaken for a watch. And for many individuals, this can be a main promoting level. Its display screen presents a clock, a stopwatch and all the information conventional trackers have, like coronary heart price, energy burned and different information. For small wrists, although, we discovered this machine to be too giant.
With Withings, you obtain its Well being Mate app to obtain data in your coronary heart price in addition to to trace your weight, actions and sleep. Like trackers, you may as well obtain textual content or telephone alerts and join it to Amazon Alexa to offer verbal cues. To gather information on health, you scroll to put the tracker in “exercise mode” and choose from operating, swimming and so forth. As a bonus, it additionally claims to trace Ping-Pong, windsurfing, kitesurfing and different distinctive actions. Once you’ve completed sweating, you’ll see information on the period of your exercise and energy you expended. And its battery life is without doubt one of the most spectacular we noticed — even after sporting it for a number of days, it by no means fell under 70% cost.
It’s a strong alternative for individuals who desire a bit extra out of their health tracker and are keen to spend a bit extra.
Xiaomi Mi Band 4 ($35.99; amazon.com)
Although at first look this health tracker appears similar to its costlier opponents, the expertise doesn’t examine. After we have been organising the machine, our web browser detected a safety threat and stated the web site was unsafe. Then, after we did obtain the app for Xiaomi referred to as Mi Match, it had considerably much less data than the others we examined. You’ll be able to see your steps, and you may choose between strolling, operating and biking, however the monitoring options weren’t as dependable as others. Plus, the app closely pushes the corporate’s “skins,” that are customized residence screens for the tracker, relatively than specializing in well being and wellness.
The tracker is comfy to put on and has a glossy look (although the band is just accessible in black), however you might want to take away the watch face to cost the machine. It’s not an enormous deal and doesn’t take lengthy, however it’s an added step that different trackers don’t require. Whereas this isn’t the least costly machine on our checklist, we discovered it to have the fewest options — to not point out that its app and web site appear unstable and must be up to date to construct belief with shoppers.
Letsfit Health Tracker ($20; amazon.com, presently unavailable)
This tracker was the least costly out of our pool, however we have been impressed with its design and functionally. It’s the one tracker that doesn’t require you to arrange a profile to start utilizing the machine. Which means you possibly can take it out of the field, cost it for an hour and get began. It doesn’t have super-advanced information just like the others we examined, however if you happen to merely need to observe your steps and your coronary heart price, it’s an inexpensive approach to have a pulse in your well being (no pun supposed). You’ll be able to obtain the VeryFitPro app to see your stats, however you are able to do so with out giving your electronic mail or any data.
Learn extra from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: