Jawbone UP24 activity tracker - girl hand.jpgWhether you’re looking to get in shape, shed some pounds, or just generally partake in healthier habits, fitness trackers offer great motivation to become more active. They provide data about steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and even sleep. But one feature that’s not often touted is motion alert sensors.

Sometimes called idle alerts, this feature provides active notifications to remind you to keep moving versus passive data that you need to manually keep on top of and interpret. Generally, activity trackers require that you log into an app, or press/swipe/tap the tracker screen itself, to see how far you’ve walked, how many calories you’ve burned, and how far you have to go to achieve your daily goal. That’s great, putting you in control, and letting you check in as often (or infrequently) as you like.

But some of the latest devices will go a step further, acting almost like drill sergeants, telling you if it’s already 6 p.m. and you still have a long way to go to reach your goal. It’s a virtual kick in the buttocks, so to speak, that you have been seated too long, for example, and should get up for a walkabout.

Sometimes, the alert comes in the form of a message that appears on the screen or your phone. Sometimes, it’s a slight vibration of the wristband, meant to urge you to get up, pick up the pace, or work harder to increase your heart rate.

Interestingly enough, not very many fitness trackers today incorporate idle alerts. And even for those that do, the feature often takes a backseat to other, more glamorous functions, like sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring. But a motion alert really is one of the most important features because it can motivate you to do something without you actually having to do anything to get said motivation.

That said, here are three cool wearables that include such motion alert sensors

Jawbone UP24 activity tracker.jpgJawbone UP24 

An Idle Alert feature in this wearable will let you know when you’ve been inactive for too long and should get up and get going throughout the day by emitting a slight vibration on the wristband.

It uses an integrated precision motion sensor combined with algorithms to track steps, distance, calories, active and idle time, and factors in data that you input into the app, like age, gender, height, and weight. Sleep is tracked using actigraphy, which keeps tabs on micro-movements.

The feature can be customized through the app – you decide how much idle time you want to allow yourself per day, and the band will buzz once that time has been reached. It’s also a great way to see how early in the day you max out in sedentary time. And to get an idea of the patterns of your active versus idle time on a day-to-day basis.

This wearable has a few other cool motion alerts. The first is called Activity Alert, which allows you to set up push notifications when you reach a specified number of steps in a day. For example, you can request that the app sends a push notification to your phone as soon as you reach 2,000 daily steps. This way, you can slow down if you know you’ve surpassed your goal by lunchtime, or pick up the pace if it’s dinnertime and the band hasn’t buzzed yet. You can also receive a Move Summary at regular intervals throughout the day so you can keep track of progress.

And there’s also a Smart Alarm, which can wake you up through gentle vibrations of the wristband leading up to your specified wakeup time.

garmin vivosmart activity tracker.jpgGarmin vivosmart 

This device has a neat feature called a Move Alert, which continuously monitors your movement, then sends a slight vibration to the band every hour to remind you to walk about. But it’s not just a reminder – you need to physically get up and walk a bit, even if it’s just in circles in your office, in order to reset the timer.

It also has the same vibrating alarm function that’s found in the aforementioned Jawbone UP24.

Polar Loop 

Similar to Garmin’s Move Alert, Polar’s Inactivity Alert will notify you every 55 minutes to get up and move. It does this by displaying the words “IT’S TIME TO MOVE” on the tiny 80-LED display. The display is bright and clear, even in low light environments – so there’s no excuse that you couldn’t see it while curled up on the couch watching a movie at night.

But what sets this one apart is that it adds another motivational element: if you decide to ignore the Alert and fail to actually get up within the next five minutes, it’ll add an inactivity stamp to your record. Think you can just shrug that off? Sorry, but it will become a permanent part of your daily diary in the Polar Flow Web service and mobile app. How embarrassing!

polar loop activity tracker.jpgThe idea is to encourage you to get up at least once every hour – even if just to stand and stretch. Or perhaps rather to discourage you from not doing so.

Having to later see a stream of stamps on your profile would certainly be enough to get me to do a quick lap, or grab a glass of water. That’s particularly useful for office workers who may easily find themselves sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time, not realizing how much time has passed.

Another neat activity-related sensor is the band’s ability to track the intensity of your level of movement, and advise if you’re in the low, medium, or high zone. You’ll see “UP” for low, “WALK” for medium, and “JOG” for high.

Bottom line

A motion alert sensor adds another level of value to activity trackers, not just providing information on how active you are, but also giving constant, virtual nudges to keep that momentum going. It’s useful, proactive data like this that will really help catapult the wearables category to the next level.

Check out the full selection of wearable activity trackers at Best Buy Online

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.