Choosing the best fitness tracker for weight loss is important, and it isn’t as easy as some might think. Fitness trackers measure your heart rate, but many forget things like a screen display, accuracy, or durability. Which fitness tracker is right for you?
What is a fitness tracker?
Fitness trackers are meant to be worn all day, every day, and designed to track everything from walking up the stairs or working out at home to running a multi-stage ultra-marathon. Some also allow you to view and respond to emails, texts and social posts. Some track your sleep – including how long you spend in light, deep and REM sleep.
“There are many options on the market right now at a variety of price points,” says Nick Anderson of coaching experts Running with Us. “Many are now tailored towards different forms of exercise. There is something to suit everyone.”
How do fitness trackers work?
Most measure motion through three-axis accelerometer sensors – measuring the acceleration, frequency, duration, intensity and patterns of your movement. Other wearables use an optical heart rate monitor: tiny LEDs illuminate your capillaries and the changing light refraction can be used to calculate your pulse.
“Fitness trackers can also measure the distance you run or cycle via GPS, which is built into the watch,” adds Anderson. “The system works by measuring the time it takes for signals to be received from satellites. It frequently pings your location, then measures the distance between each ping.” Trackers with GPS can also be used for navigation, and even work in the sea. “If a fitness watch offers the option of outdoor swimming, the GPS signal is likely to be boosted to enable the device to track accurately.”
Which fitness tracker is best for me?
Ask yourself: Do you want something with GPS, to track running and cycling? Are you fashion conscious? (Fitness watches for women now come with a huge range of colours and materials.) Do you really need all the features in the top-of-the-line model? This will help narrow down the search.
“A device with GPS will be more costly due to the technology required to provide accurate information. They offer far more data and valuable metrics. It’s worth the spend if you are serious about your results and improvement,” advises Anderson.
Some trackers will also measure your sleep (both the quality and quantity), stress levels, heart rhythm irregularity, blood oxygen levels and even your menstrual health, but it’s important to remember that these only act as a guide. “It’s the trends that become useful,” he says. “Without full ECG you won’t get 100 per cent accuracy in this area, but the trends can be useful when looking for marginal gains and improvements in your performance.”
Other features to look out for? “Some fitness trackers come with smart notifications for your phone apps and can control the music on your headphones,” he adds. Top of the range watches nearly all include tap payments, Bluetooth microphone to take calls, water resistance to 50m and extended battery life.
How I tested the best fitness trackers
Over the past year I’ve put dozens of GPS running watches, fitness trackers and smartwatches through their paces, day and night. I logged nearly 300 hours of exercise in my running shoes and on my bike, covering roughly 4,000km, to assess their accuracy, usability, and comfort. I also compared their battery life, looked at how easy they were to set up and to access the data through my phone and sought independent opinions from athletes and coaches.
The Best Fitness Trackers of 2022
We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. .
Whether you’re an avid exerciser, a competitive goal-setter, or simply a health-minded individual, a fitness tracker can be a great investment. Fitness trackers can offer a fun way to set goals and measure your progress toward them. They can also help you keep track of everything you’re doing inside and outside the gym.
Best Overall: Fitbit Sense
Who else recommends it? Forbes, Healthline, and Tom’s Guide all picked the Fitbit Sense.
What do buyers say? 83% of 37,800+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
We chose Fitbit Sense as our top pick because it can track a myriad of health metrics, including your heartbeat, sleep cycle, and stress levels. You can also use Fitbit Sense’s continuous heart rate monitor to check in on your heart rate. And you can use Fitbit’s FDA-cleared ECG app to take an electrocardiogram from your wrist at any time. The smartwatch’s built-in GPS system will help you navigate walks and runs. And because the watch can sync with your smartphone, you won’t have to worry about missing texts, calls, and other notifications when you leave the house without your phone.
A full charge will keep the Fitbit Sense Smartwatch going for 6+ days. (And if you’re pressed for time, even just 12 minutes will yield a full day’s charge.) If you forget to take your watch off before hopping in the shower, don’t worry—the watch is water-resistant up to 50 meters (meaning yes, it’s swim-proof).
Best Budget: Letsfit Smartwatch
The Letsfit Smartwatch is an incredibly well-rounded fitness tracker, given its budget-friendly price point. Like many fitness trackers, the Letsfit Smartwatch boasts multiple activity tracking modes. You can monitor your time spent running, cycling, walking, doing yoga, and more. And you can also track more classic metrics, like steps taken and distance traveled. What’s cool? The Letsfit Smartwach makes it easy to monitor more holistic health metrics, like sleep cycles and stress levels. (Unfortunately, though, you won’t be able to track your heart rate.)
Unlike many fitness trackers, the Letsfit Smartwatch is water-resistant—meaning you can take it in the pool, the shower, or outside on a rainy day. You can use the watch’s built-in GPS system to navigate walks and runs. And since the watch is smartphone-compatible, you can stay up-to-date on notifications, even if you leave your phone behind. As if that weren’t enough, the Letsfit Smartwatch also comes with a long-lasting battery; a single charge will last you up to 10 days.
Best Splurge: Polar Vantage V2 Smartwatch
The Polar Vantage V2 Smartwatch doesn’t just make it easy to track your workouts—it makes it easy to break down your workouts in detail, allowing you to precisely optimize your time spent exercising. Use the watch’s Training Load Pro feature to see where you’re under-straining or over-straining your body, and use its Recovery Pro feature to make sure your rest periods are as productive as your workouts. You can also take advantage of the watch’s built-in Performance Tests to track your progress toward your goals over time.
Each day, the Polar Vantage V2 will supply you with ready-made workouts. These workouts are tailored to you; Polar’s FitSpark Daily Training Guide will consider your fitness history, training level, and recovery status when making them. (It will even take note of how you slept last night, and adjust accordingly.) True to form, the Polar Vantage V2 doesn’t stop at useful fitness features. It also boasts a built-in GPS system, smartphone compatibility, and a water-resistant shell (up to 100 meters). And a full charge of the Polar Vantage V2’s battery will keep you going for up to 7 days.
Best Value: Fitbit Inspire 2 Fitness Tracker
The Fitbit Inspire 2 is a feature-packed fitness tracker that covers a ton of ground. And even better: You can score it for under $100. The tracker boasts more than 20 different exercise modes, and you can use it to track classic metrics, like steps taken, distance traveled, active zone minutes, and more. The tracker’s continuous heart rate monitor will help you keep tabs on your pulse. And its sleep tracker won’t just tell you your sleep quality—it will break down your time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep.
Though the Fitbit Inspire 2 is available at a reasonable price point, it still offers many of the high-tech features you’d expect to see from a more expensive tracker. Its quality battery can last up to 10 days on a full charge. Its shell is durable and water-resistant (up to 50 m), so you can take it swimming. And since it’s smartphone-compatible, you can sync it with your phone to get call, text, and app notifications on your wrist. Also great? If you’re a first-time Fitbit user, the Fitbit Inspire 2 will come with a free 1-year Fitbit premium trial. So you’ll have ample workout inspiration—and a great tracker to monitor your new routines.
Best Heart Rate Monitor: Apple Watch Series 6
The Apple Watch Series 6 is great for a lot of reasons, but its best-in-class heart rate monitor is one of the most notable. The watch’s continuous heart rate monitor will keep an eye on your heart rate at all times, notifying you if it gets unusually high, low, or otherwise irregular. If you want a more precise measurement of how your heart is doing, you can use Apple’s FDA-cleared ECG app to take an electrocardiogram from your wrist. You can also measure your blood oxygen level using Apple’s Blood Oxygen app.
Naturally, the Apple Watch Series 6 doesn’t stop there. The watch boasts multiple activity tracking modes, allowing you to monitor your time spent swimming, cycling, running, and more. The watch’s sleep tracking feature will help you understand how you’re resting each night, and its fall detection feature will alert your loved ones in the case of an accident. And because the Apple Watch Series 6 is (of course) compatible with Apple products, you can use it to take calls, reply to texts, and stream music—right from your wrist.
Best for Health Tracking: Garmin Venu Sq Smartwatch
Boasting an array of activity tracking modes, the Garmin Venu Sq Smartwatch is a great way to monitor your workouts. But what sets the watch apart is its collection of health tracking features. The watch’s stress tracking feature will monitor your stress levels, sending you prompts to do short breathing activities when they get unusually high. Its respiration tracking feature will monitor how you’re breathing at different points in the day (including during sleep and workouts). And its hydration tracking feature will invite you to set hydration goals and log how much you’re drinking during the day—it will even auto-adjust your hydration goals based on your workouts.
Of course, the Garmin Venu Sq Smartwatch also boasts more classic health-tracking features. Its advanced sleep monitor will track your time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep. Its continuous heart rate monitor will alert you when your heart rate gets unusually high or low. And its Pulse OX sensor will keep tabs on your blood oxygen levels. This range of precise, holistic health-tracking features makes the Garmin Venu Sq Smartwatch a best-in-class option. And its preloaded workouts, water-resistant shell, long-lasting battery, and smartphone compatibility only sweeten the pot.
Fitness Trackers vs. Smartwatches
There is quite a bit of overlap between the two, but the fitness tracker is the way to go if you want to keep things simple and focus solely on your fitness and daily activity. Both also offer an app experience to review several health statistics.
However, the smartwatch takes it up a notch by sending notifications and updates from your phone to your wrist. If you are looking for a detailed tech analysis, I will link the website to the brand.
Suppose simplicity and interest in reviewing the below top health metrics are the primary reasons for choosing a fitness tracker. In this case, selecting a wearable step counter and affordable fitness wristband is the way to go—no need to get caught up in data analysis paralysis.
- Tell time
- Step counter
- Calories burned
- Heart rate
If you are interested in additional advanced features, want to receive a detailed analysis of all the following health metrics, and need your wearable to track more than just your health, a smartwatch would be the way to go.
- Breathing rate
- Resting variability
- Skin temperature
- Oxygen saturation
- Movement notification
- Female health tracking
- Sleep monitor
- GPS tracker
- Receive calls, texts, and emails
- Workable apps such as mobile payments and music storage
So, how do you choose the brand? It all depends on personal preference, ease of use, style, and how many details of your health and fitness data you would like to analyze.
Bear in mind, there may be various products within each brand, each offering something a little different based on when it hit the market. Here are some of the best fitness trackers and smartwatches in the market.
The best thing about these wearables is that they all track your health and fitness from super simple to more advanced. Let’s compare a few statistics to see how each stack up against their competitor.
Price Range: $80 to $200
Battery length between charges: up to 6 days
Launched in 2007, Fitbit offers nine different models and 21 products to choose from, offering everything from a simple clip-on pedometer to fitness wristbands to the latest in the high-tech smartwatch. Easy to set up, sync to the app, and use immediately, each watch can meet the needs of basic use to high-tech statistical analysis.
2. Apple Watch
Price Range: $199 to $429
Limited battery life between charges – charge every two days
The Apple Watch is a multifunctional wellness tracker and phone on your wrist. Launched in 2015, Apple Watch offers two models with a slue of tech specs that change yearly.
Prices are steep. It takes time to navigate with all the bells and whistles, but this watch has many unique features that most brands don’t offer. If you are a multi-tasker and are looking for a watch that could almost cook you dinner, this would be the one.
3. Samsung Galaxy
Prices Range: $60 to $350
Battery life between charges – 2.5 to 4 days
In 2014, Samsung introduced its first fitness wristband designed to be just an activity tracker, then later the smartwatch. With two models to select from (each having yearly updates), this brand offers all the above specs.
One thing sets it apart from the rest: Samsung is the first smartwatch to measure body composition, namely Weight, Skeletal Muscle, Body Fat Mass, BMI (Body Mass Index), Water, and BMR (Basel Metabolic Rate).
Price Range: $90 to $500
Battery life between charges – up to 4 days
Polar is not just a fitness tracker but also a sports science and technology on your wrist. Polar offers heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, and GPS sports tracking.
This watch is great for athletes looking to improve athletic performance and exercise enthusiasts looking to improve their overall health. They are the leaders in heart rate monitoring and offer proprietary Smart Coaching technology. This technology turns your training data into personalized, actionable training guidance.
Price Range: $45 to $180
Extended Battery life – 12 to 14 days
Timex, the foundation builder for smartwatches, began in 1994 with a watch made for space flight for NASA. Timex has everything, from the basics of calorie counting, stopwatch, step counting, and distance traveled to ironman smartwatch capabilities with GPS tracking.
If you are a runner, cyclist, or swimmer and are just interested in the basics, this one is for you. With a durable design (Aluminum Alloy Case and Gorilla Glass™), these watches were designed to last forever.
It is also one of the most stylish fitness watches and has the most affordable smartwatch on the market, coming in at only $180 compared to other popular brands. Expect this watch to cover all your health metrics and offer a great battery life in between charges.
Price Range: $149 to $1,149
Battery life in between charges – between 5 to 50 days (Yes, you read that correctly.)
Garmin Smartwatch, founded in 2014, doubles as the leader in GPS wearable tracking devices and high-performing athletic data tracking watches on the market. It is one of the best brands with a fantastic battery life with the Garmin Enduro (made for endurance athletes and ultra-marathon runners), clocking in at 50 days.
If you aren’t the athletic type and want to stay off the grid and use it to track your activity, Garmin is also an excellent choice. But be sure to know what you want before investing because Garmins price point can be pretty steep due to the premium material in its design.
There are two products on the market worth mentioning that focus on how your body is functioning, so you are well-rested and ready to go for your next workout. We focused on multifunction health and fitness devices around fitness and wellness specifics. But what about recovery? Meet Oura Ring and Whoop.