Whether you’re looking to count your steps, monitor your sleep quality or track your runs, the best fitness trackers can help you prioritize your health by providing wellness data and reminders to get moving. The wearable device industry is booming now that individuals can monitor their vitals like heart rate and pulse oxygen levels (SpO2), and healthcare professionals can reference that same data for patient insights. Because of the array of features that fitness trackers offer, from GPS tracking to extensive activity data, they are equally beneficial for elite athletes and individuals looking to track their daily walks.
And yet, choosing the right fitness tracker can prove daunting when you consider the many options currently available. Fitbit, the company that singled-handedly popularized the concept of fitness tracking, offers a slew of different models. And then there are other options to consider from Garmin, Coros, Polar and dozens of smaller brands. Truth be told, there’s never been a better selection of fitness trackers to choose from, but it pays to shop carefully, as not all trackers are designed for your needs.
No matter which fitness tracker you choose, there’s a good chance it’ll cover all the basics pretty well, but you might want extras like water resistance (if you’re a swimmer, you’ll need one thats completely waterproof), built-in GPS and specific sensors that cater to your personal needs. Ultimately, we consider the Fitbit Charge 5 to be the best fitness tracker overall, as it covers so many bases without burning a hole in your pocket, but it’s not the only option worthy of your attention.
Below, we’ve rounded up 12 of the best fitness trackers you can buy today based on accuracy, features, price, battery life, ease of use, style and more. No matter where you are on your fitness journey, there’s a model here for you.
How We Chose The Best Fitness Trackers
Several Forbes Vetted editors—each of whom have prodigious amounts of experience in the outdoors and fitness disciplines—had a hand in researching and contributing to our selection of the best fitness trackers. Many of the fitness trackers reviewed here were personally tested by Vetted staffers and contributor Hannah Singleton has used the FitBit Charge 5, Apple Watch and Whoop for personal activity tracking and training, while Vetted’s gear editor extensively tested the Suunto 9 Peak Pro and daily wears the Garmin Instinct 2.
We also scoured the internet in search of first-hand experience from users to get a better idea of the pros and cons of each wearable. We routinely research new products and iterations of existing fitness trackers, and update this article as we have new information to share with you. It was most recently updated in December 2022.
What To Look For In A Fitness Tracker
Buying a new fitness tracker isn’t just a financial investment, it’s a step toward improving your overall health. That’s why it’s crucial to find a tracker that integrates with your daily life, and at the very least, comes with basic features that let you track what’s most important to you.
Not all trackers can recognize all exercises. For instance, if you want to track swim workouts, be sure to look not just for a tracker that’s waterproof, but also one that explicitly supports swimming. Likewise, only a handful of trackers support really unusual sports and workouts—so if you’re into hang gliding or BMX, be sure to look into options like the Vivosmart 4. When considering different models, be sure to narrow down your options by reflecting on the various activities you’d like to track.
Most modern fitness bands track a variety of broader health and fitness attributes as well. We’ve already discussed features like Spo2, ECG and bioelectric impedance sensors, and these are generally far from mandatory—but increasingly, all but the most budget models are starting to sport these sorts of advanced sensors. Just keep in mind that a lot of the whole-body analytics you get from sensors like these are often not especially actionable; you might get a general sense of your overall health, fitness level or sleep quality, but it can be hard to know what to do to improve. Until that aspect of the software catches up to the hardware, you can consider all of these advanced features pretty optional.
Depending on the build quality, available sensors and screen resolution, battery life can last anywhere from one day to several months. If you intend to use your fitness tracker as a traditional pedometer, you can probably get by with a model that features a smaller battery. But if you intend to use it over prolonged periods of time (for instance, when backpacking or running a marathon), consider opting for a model that features extended battery life or solar charging to supplement the battery in direct sunlight.
As much as we’d like trackers to be completely accurate, third-party testing reveals that this is rarely the case. Manufacturers often rely on algorithms and sensors to track certain metrics, which leads to a small degree of error. With this in mind, consider investing in a fitness tracker that’s designed to support your preferred activities. For instance, a chest strap that measures your heart rate and transmits data to your fitness tracker will be more accurate than the integrated heart rate sensor glued to your wrist.
What Can Fitness Trackers Do?
Fitness trackers come in a variety of form factors—depending on the model, you can wear it like a bracelet or watch, clip it to your clothing, or even wear it like a ring on your finger. But no matter the exact appearance, fitness trackers all tend to offer the same basic set of features: They track your workouts and activity level, helping you to stay on a fitness plan and get (or keep) in shape.
The most basic fitness trackers are simply pedometers—devices that try to maintain an accurate count of your steps. But most modern fitness trackers do a lot more than that. These days, they’re often bristling with sensors which collect information to infer your fitness and health level. Here are the most common sensors found in fitness trackers:
- Accelerometer. This measures motion, and is often the primary sensor used to ascertain activity levels.
- Altimeter. Many fitness trackers measure changing air pressure to infer that you are using stairs.
- Heart rate sensor. With the right sensors, your tracker can measure your heart rate, heart rate variability and even blood pressure.
- Sp02 sensor. This measures the oxygen level in your blood.
- ECG sensor. An ECG sensor can perform an instant electrocardiogram, which measures your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. Generally, an ECG tells you if you have a sinus, or uniform, rhythm, or some other result. In no case can or should an ECG be used to detect a heart attack, though.
All of these sensors, and sometimes others, can help you choose and track workouts as well as get a lot of supplemental information about your health and wellness. They can also track your sleep, stress level and other factors of good health.
Which Brand Offers The Best Fitness Tracker?
As tempting as it might be to crown one fitness tracker as superior to all others, in reality, it’s entirely dependent on what you hope to gain by using one. If you intend to count your steps, the best fitness tracker may be a simple, more economical option. But if you’re looking for one that’ll help you form healthier habits, from moving more to sleeping better, then you might consider a model with all the bells and whistles.
Be sure to consider what type of activity you’ll use it for. For instance, if you plan to go for a bike ride, opt for one with GPS. Or, if you plan to go swimming, pick one that’s waterproof. That may sound like a broad answer given the available options, but the brands listed here (Fitbit, Garmin, Coros, etc.) will offer an array of features and long-term reliability.
What Is The Best Fitness Tracker For A Beginner?
The best fitness tracker for beginners is one you’ll actually use. After all, it’s about developing those health habits. Look for one that is comfortable to wear, natural to use, has a long battery life and fits your personal style. And, if you struggle to see words on a small screen, perhaps choose a fitness tracker that is connected to an app (so you can view stats on your phone).
More Fitness Tracker Stories to Shop
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