Picking the Right Fitness Tracker For You
Over the past several years, fitness trackers have become increasingly popular. In fact, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, wearable technology is the most influential trend in the realm of health and fitness right now.
Which makes a lot of sense. These bits of affordable gear can give you rapid and reasonable accurate feedback on a host of different aspects of your health and performance, allowing you take make any changes necessary to achieve your best results. But the truth is that “wearable technology” is a pretty broad umbrella term that encompasses a huge range of different devices. So, when you’re shopping for a wearable fitness tracker, what should you consider? How can you find the best wearable for you?
Before jumping into the list of considerations, though, it’s important to understand that this is meant to be an evergreen collection of principles. These technologies change rapidly with new devices coming out constantly. Rather than presenting you with a list of specific wearables, then, the intention is to give you some things to think about when making a purchase.
Where To Wear It
Depending on the exact model, fitness trackers can be tucked into numerous spots on your outfit. And while it might seem like a trivial factor, the placement of your tracker is actually pretty important. Exactly where you wear your tracker will impact it’s accuracy as well as how likely you are to wear it in various situations.
For example, heart rate belts worn around your chest are much more accurate than those on your wrist. But you probably aren’t going to wear that belt all day every day. Similarly, if you’re chiefly concerned with counting steps, you’re going to get the best results from a tracker worn on your belt. Again, however, this isn’t entirely practical in all situations.
There are also an increasing number of devices that are actually headphones, designed to give you spoken feedback as you exercise. Likewise, you’re probably only going to wear these devices while you exercise. For all-day feedback, then, tracker watches are probably the best choice. Just keep in mind, though, that these devices will sacrifice a bit of accuracy.
While fitness trackers used to be little more than step-counters, newer models are packed with an impressive battery of sensors. Of course, the addition of these sensors will influence other aspects of design and cost that could affect your ultimate decision.
Runners, in particular are likely concerned with a few specific things: distance, speed and heart rate. Although distance is typically calculated from a step count, the reality is that this is not always the most accurate method. The pedometer sensors are pretty easily confused by sudden body movements and even count bumps in the road while you’re driving as steps.
A much more accurate strategy is GPS tracking. Unfortunately, this also usually means that you’ll need a more costly device that comes completely with it’s own GPS system or one that needs to be tethered to your phone in order to work.
As mentioned, heart rate is more accurately measured by belts worn around the chest. Watches and headphones often do provide a heart rate but tend to be fairly inaccurate during intense activity. For athletes who depend on heart rate zones to gauge their workout intensities, this could be a pretty major consideration.
Of course, there are a host of things that these trackers can measure including your blood-oxygen levels and sleep quality. But how important are these bits of feedback to you? Keep in mind that, generally speaking, the more sensors a device packs, the more that gadget is going to cost.
Sport-Specific vs. General Use
While you likely spend the majority of your training time running, you might also cross-train with other activities. Do you want to wear your tracker during those workouts as well? Is it suitable for those other training styles?
For example, a lot of runners like to swim as a way to complement their regular routine. Is your tracker waterproof? Will it even register the time you spend in the pool? Simple pedometers won’t know what to do with the information that their collecting the water.
You may also want to have an idea of what you’re body is doing as you go about you’re regular routine. This is a useful way to track your overall health and fitness. But can you’re device handle it? Is the device comfortable and discreet enough to be worn in a variety of situations?
Many fitness watches are also designed to be worn all day by taking on the role of a smart-watch, offering a variety of non-fitness features as well. While this might be an appealing option to some, others might find the wealth of features unnecessarily cumbersome.
Of course, your budget is going to be a pretty major limiting factor when selecting your fitness tracker. You might want all the latest features and options. But is that really realistic? Instead, decide what’s absolutely necessary for you and your goals.
It’s also important to remember that many fitness tracker bracelets and watches are now designed to provide a certain element of style by providing changeable faces and bands. Is that something you would consider? Again, this will mean added cost.
Putting It Together
Really, then, shopping for a fitness tracker requires you to ask yourself a series of questions regarding what you need and want from the device. As mentioned, new devices are released frequently so don’t feel like you’re stuck to the more well-known brands. Once you have a list of what you want from your device, do some research to find exactly which unit provides those features.