When you’ve made a commitment to get fit or you’ve decided it’s time to start adopting healthier daily habits, a fitness or activity tracker will get you off the couch, improve your endurance, and challenge you to improve your physical and mental health every day. There are a lot of different choices of activity and health trackers. Here is a look at all of the available options so you can choose the right tracker for you.
Choosing an activity tracker
Everyone has a favourite activity or different activities they like to do to get fit or have fun. While you may be a runner or like long walks, your friend might like to hike or cycle. Every activity tracker has basic features to track your favourite activity right out of the box, and you can use that data to work toward your goals.
When you’re just starting out and you’re wondering how much activity you get every day, a fitness tracker is the one tool that will give you that knowledge and inspire you to keep moving. The basic features on activity trackers include step tracking, distance tracking, and calorie tracking. Most trackers also track stairs climbed and sleep as part of the basic features.
How many steps you take per day can affect your fitness level, and it’s recommended you take between 8 to 10,000 steps every day. With an activity tracker on your wrist, you’ll know how many steps you’ve taken and you’ll be able to track those steps over days, weeks, months, and years so you can see your progress. Some activity trackers have sensors designed to track how many flights of stairs or how many floors you climb every day. That data will be useful in helping you decide to skip the elevator more often.
When you’re embarking on a healthy new lifestyle, every step you take adds up. An activity tracker will track your distance traveled every day so you can set a goal to meet or beat that distance.
Getting fit is about increasing your activity level, but the number of calories you consume and burn every day will also contribute to your weight loss or healthy lifestyle. One of the basic features of an activity tracker is calorie counting, and you’ll see exactly how many calories you burn during every activity. With that knowledge, you can adjust your food intake or see where you can challenge yourself to burn more.
Sleep is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Getting the right quantity and quality of sleep can be challenging, and a wearable activity tracker can help by providing you with sleep duration, hours of deep sleep, and hours of light sleep.
Performance activity trackers
After you’ve used an activity tracker for basic exercise and you’ve improved your fitness level, you may want to upgrade to a performance activity tracker. These advanced activity trackers are great for someone who is exercising regularly, preparing for a competition, or just need more advanced features than a basic tracker can provide.
Heart rate monitoring
Heart rate is important when exercising. The difference between a work out that burns fat, one that burns a high number of calories, or one that exhausts you because you’ve gone beyond your peak efforts all comes down to your heart rate. Monitoring your resting heart rate and your heart rate during exercise will give you a better idea of your overall health. And you have many options for a tracker that will do this. One example is the Apple Series 5 that includes a Health Canada certified ECG. Another is the Gamin Vivosmart 4 that includes a wrist-band pulse oximeter to gauge blood oxygen levels. See more information below in the section on connected health, and in our article on “Why heart rate matters.”
An activity tracker that monitors your speed is important for people who are training for a marathon or other fitness activity. You can set goals to improve your speed and see data on how it has improved over days and months.
If you have a favourite track you like to run on or you’ve stumbled upon a new trail you enjoyed biking on, the GPS on your activity tracker will keep track of where you were, show you the trail on a map, and give you data to decide whether or not you’d like to head back there again. Heading out to the back country? Consider one of the new trackers that connects with additional satelites than just GPS. Some Fitbit (E.g., Fitbit Ionic smartwatch) and Garmin (Forerunner 235 and 645; Fenix line) can also gather data from the Russion GLONASS satellites for better position monitoring. There are even some trackers (E.g., Garmin Forerunner 945, Fenix 5, 5x, and 5S lines) that can also connect with the European set of positioning satellites called Gallileo that went live in 2016.
There are so many different types of activities to try, and not everyone is a runner or wants to walk for fitness. With multisport tracking, you can choose multiple different activities. From HIIT training (i.e., high intensity interval training) to weight training or mountain biking, a multisport tracker can keep track of everything you do.
Other features to consider when choosing an activity tracker
While the basic and advanced features on activity trackers are important, there are a few other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing a tracker.
What style of health tracker do you like?
The style of health trackers varies. You can find trackers that are discrete and look like traditional watches. You can wear that type of fitness tracker to work, school, and everywhere in between, swapping out the bands if you’d like to and having it flow with your style for a night out.
There are also activity trackers that have that unmistakeable fitness tracker style of simple band and faceplate. The best part of choosing an activity tracker is that there are a wide variety of styles and colours, so you’ll find one that suits you perfectly.
You should also keep in mind that there are different styles of activity trackers available for the entire family. Kids activity trackers will keep your kids active while tracking basic data like steps, distance, and sleep. Additionally, some children’s trackers (E.g., Octopus) help encourage healthy habits with regular reminders for brushing teeth, doing chores or homework, and more.
Display on activity trackers
You can choose what type of display your fitness tracker has. While you may like having the real-time displayed and only seeing your activity stats when you tap the screen or crown of the tracker, you can also choose to see your stats right when you glance down at your wrist.
Welcome to connected health
If you want a way to track your health data but you don’t want to wear an activity tracker, there are an increasing line of “connected health devices” with online apps that monitor a number of health-related metrics such as weight-related, heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels. You’ll be able to login to see a complete log of your health and progress. Here are a couple examples:
Heart rate monitors
You’ll have the ability to monitor your heart rate continuously with many of the latest wrist-worn activity trackers like the Fitbit Versa, Fitbit Charge 3, Apple Watches—and the new Apple Series 5 watch with ECG (approved by Health Canada)—or newer generation smartwatches. One huge advantage these offer is that they enable you to keep a log of your heart history in the associated app; you and your healthcare professional can use that log to assess changes in your overall health over time like never before! Another option is Chest straps (E.g., Qardio) which are worn around the body over the heart to capture accurate readings which can then be transmitted to an app on your phone.
Blood pressure monitors
A blood pressure monitor can give you an overall picture of your heart health. It captures your blood pressure whenever you strap it on, and you can use that data to monitor and assess your risk of current health problems and health problems in the future.
A smart scale is more than just a scale that tells you weight. With a smart scale you can go beyond your weight and see your body mass index, muscle mass, bone density, water weight, and your heart rate. All of this data is logged so you know exactly why the number fluctuates when it does. Learn more in our “Smart Scales Buying Guide.”
Take the next step
There are so many great fitness and activity trackers available that it’s simple to find the perfect tracker for you. Take a look at all of the activity and health trackers available right now on Best Buy.