Today, more people than ever before are making an effort to improve their health. From eating better to exercising more, we’re making great strides toward a better quality of life. And with that improvement in our health and well-being, we need to find a way to track our goals and measure our results. That’s why fitness trackers are worn by so many people these days.
From hitting our daily step goals to sleeping better at night, fitness trackers are helping us live our best lives. If you’re wondering how a fitness tracker can help you, we have six reasons to buy one today. In addition, we’ll look at the best fitness trackers you can buy today, broken down by cost and activity type.
So, are you still debating if you should buy a fitness tracker? Just keep reading because we’ll go over the 6 best reasons to get one and which ones are your best options.
What Are Fitness Trackers?
A fitness tracker is a device that you wear that monitors your movement. Also called activity trackers, fitness trackers can measure and synthesize data from pretty much any sport or activity you can think of. Fitness trackers can keep track of your daily steps, weekly intensity minutes, afternoon run, Saturday bike ride, daily swim, and even your morning yoga practice.
But fitness trackers do more than track your activities. They also monitor your sleep patterns, stress levels, resting heart rate, eating habits, and nutrition. And with that, here are the reasons to invest in a fitness tracker.
Reasons to Buy a Fitness Tracker
If you’re invested in your health or just curious about how many steps you take in a day, there are several reasons to buy a fitness tracker. However, when it comes to tracking, there are six stats most people care about.
- Reach health goals
- Measure vital signs
- Monitor sleep patterns
- Customize fitness plans and goals
- Track caloric intake
- See improvements over time
Let’s talk about it!
Reach Your Daily and Long-Term Health Goals
Many people who buy fitness trackers buy them because they have goals they want to complete. These goals can be as simple as taking a certain number of steps in a day or as intense as losing 100 pounds.
No matter what your goal is, fitness trackers can help you set, maintain, and accomplish them. Some trackers are bare-bones enough to help you meet your daily step goals without the extra bells and whistles. Other trackers will help you reach your weight goal by tracking stress, sleep, and even calorie and micronutrient intake.
Customize Your Fitness Plans and Goals
While we’re on the subject of setting goals, your fitness tracker can help you with a plan to reach those goals. After all, you don’t just lose weight magically. Most people have to put in the effort.
So, let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds while training for a 10K. Some fitness trackers may help you accomplish these goals with a personalized training plan. By considering your age, current weight, sex, and activity level, fitness trackers can help you plan customized menus, activities, and other ways to help you stay on track.
Measure Your Vital Signs
If you’ve been exercising for any amount of time, you may know how critical vital signs like your heart rate and oxygen levels are.
Tracking your heart rate over time can spotlight stats like resting heart rate. Knowing your resting heart rate is essential because it gives you a clear idea of your overall health. For example, if you notice your heart racing while watching TV, your heart may be working overtime.
The oxygen level in your blood is a great indicator of your overall health. When measuring your oxygen levels mid-workout, measuring a detectable difference in oxygen saturation can alert you if you need medical help, which is great if you’re powering up a steep incline. Every athlete can tell you that you must know when to embrace the pain or back off. After all, you don’t want to risk your life.
Monitor Your Sleep Patterns
Getting enough good quality sleep is one of the most overlooked parts of a person’s overall health. Fitness trackers are an excellent solution if you’re curious about stats like how much sleep you get when you’re awake and when you’re in a deep sleep.
Those trackers that monitor your sleep patterns may be able to detect patterns in your nightly rest. You can translate these patterns and learn how they correlate to your life. Do you get more restful sleep on Tuesdays because you’re going to bed earlier? Maybe you can do that a couple of other days of the week, resulting in better sleep overall.
Track Your Caloric Intake
Exercising and healthy eating go hand in hand. Most fitness trackers will have some way to monitor how many calories you eat daily. In addition, some trackers can log your meals, snacks, and drinks, while others will sync with apps with that ability. And for the super-serious trackers, you can monitor things like micronutrients.
See Your Improvement Over Time
One of the best feelings is the feeling of accomplishment, and there are many ways to feel accomplished while monitoring fitness tracker data over a long period. For example, knowing you’ve hit your daily step goals every day this month makes it easier to stay on track for the next month. It’s that feeling of getting better and maintaining our goals that makes the data so valuable.
If we can hold 5,000 steps daily, we may realize we can adjust our plans to 7,000 daily steps. Healthy habits pave the way for more healthy habits, and before we know it, we’ve got a year of success to look back on and to use as a foundation for another year of even healthier habits.
Now that we’ve explored reasons to buy a fitness tracker, let’s look at the best fitness trackers available today.
The Best Fitness Trackers for 2023: Ranked and Reviewed
We’ll look at the best trackers if you’re on a budget and those trackers that excel when you’re performing a specific sport. Let’s get started.
Best Overall Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 5 with GPS
- Daily Readiness Score that reveals if you’re ready to exercise or should focus on recovery
- Daily Stress Management Score showing your body’s response to stress
- Band Size: Small: Fits wrist 5.1"- 6.7", Large: Fits wrist 6.7" - 8.3" in circumference
- Track your heart health with high and low heart rate notifications and ECG app
- Tracks SpO2, heart rate variability, skin temperature variation, and more
- Real-time pace and distance without your phone using built-in GPS
For an all-around fitness tracker, this Fitbit Charge 5 takes the cake.
This Fitbit has many techy features but is manageable for the less tech-savvy. Also, the Charge 5 has GPS, allowing you to track your pace and distance in real-time without needing to look at your phone.
While working out, you can track your heart rate variability, skin temperature, and blood oxygen levels. Then, once you’ve completed your activity, you can see a map of your efforts using the Fitbit app.
If you’re feeling stressed, check your Stress Management Score. Managing your stress levels makes it easier to improve with a mindfulness session. Or, get better sleep by checking your daily sleep patterns, including graphs illuminating your light, deep, and REM sleep.
Best Budget Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Inspire 3
- 20+ exercise modes with automatic exercise tracking
- Heart rate and SpO2 monitors
- Automatic sleep tracking
- Color touchscreen with customizable clock faces
- Water resistant to 50 meters
- Up to 10-day battery life
If you’re a first-time buyer of a fitness tracker or don’t want to fork over a ton of money for features you won’t use, consider the Fitbit Inspire 3.
The Inspire is our favorite budget option because, for just under $100, it’s a great value. You get all-day activity tracking with automatic tracking and reminders to move. If you’re a stress ball, enjoy wellness tracking, daily stress management, and mindfulness sessions. Also, the Fitbit Inspire will help you sleep better with sleep tracking and a personalized sleep profile. It has a 10-day battery life and is water resistant up to 50 meters. Plus, the Inspire will display phone notifications on its super-customizable clock face.
Best for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 255
- Battery: 14 days or 30 hrs (GPS mode)
- Features a comfortable silicone band
- Includes personalized training tips and workout metrics
- Able to download as many as 500 songs to play while you work out.
Runners get set. The Garmin Forerunner 255 will take your running to another level.
The Forerunner 255 GPS watch boasts 30 days of battery life and a race widget. The race widget allows you to enter information such as the specific race and goal times. Then, you can see your predictions as your training evolves. In addition, you can get training tips, daily workout suggestions, and projections of race completion time.
Also, take full advantage of the gym activity profiles when cross-training and track activities like yoga, HIIT, and strength training.
If you can listen to music while running, consider the Music version, the same watch as the Forerunner 255 but with the bonus of music. Just load your favorite workout playlist, and you’re out the door!
Best for Cyclists: Polar Vantage V2
The Polar Vantage V2 is a fitness tracker that many cyclists find perfect for tracking their rides.
It’s simple to use and boasts 40 hours of battery life. And that’s even while using the GPS. This user-friendly watch is great for those new to fitness trackers and data geeks who love to track every stat. With Polar’s Recovery Pro, users get an overview of how training sessions affect the body and insights into sleep patterns to avoid overtraining. Plus, this watch is so light you’ll probably forget you’re wearing it.
Best for Hikers or Backpackers: Garmin Instinct Solar
- Vastly extended battery life through solar charging
- Rugged GPS Watch is water-rated to 100 meters and constructed to U.S. military standard 810 for thermal, shock, and water resistance
- Built-in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass, and Galileo) track in more challenging environments than GPS alone
- Track your activities for running, biking, swimming, strength, and more
- Help understand your health and wellness better with all-day health monitoring and Pulse Ox
If you like hiking and backpacking, you may have thought that using a fitness tracker for that long doesn’t make sense. After all, the battery life can only be so long, right? Enter the Garmin Instinct Solar.
This wearable is an excellent choice for anyone outside using their tracker for long periods, even over multiple days. And if you want to track those multiple days on-trail, you’ll appreciate Garmin’s UltraTrac mode, which allows you to track every day accurately while saving battery life (when compared to a GPS).
While you should take into account aspects of the sun’s intensity, for the most part, the Solar does a great job of slowly charging over time when exposed to the sun.
Best for Everyday Use: Apple Watch Series 8
- Advanced new features including Crash and Fall Detection.
- Track your health with an ECG, heart rate monitor, and SpO2 sensor.
- Sweatproof and resistant to dust with IP6X certification.
- Up to 18 hours of battery life or 36 hours via low power mode.
If you want a wearable fitness tracker that looks great and has many functional features, the Apple Watch Series 8 GPS won’t disappoint.
The Series 8 is one of the most customizable trackers on the list. You can choose from various sizes and looks with dozens of bands. The super-durable Series 8 allows you to monitor your blood oxygen levels and your sleep patterns. It’s compatible with your other Apple devices and can even unlock your Mac. It’s also crack-resistant and water-resistant up to 50 meters.
How to Pick the Best Fitness Tracker: Step-by-Step
For most people, picking the right fitness tracker is as personal as picking out a pair of shoes. We want to ensure we get the right fit, design, and style for what we’ll use them for. These considerations can be highly personable. Therefore, what may matter to one person, may not matter to the next. However, when choosing a fitness tracker, there are four primary considerations for most buyers.
- Best use
- Function vs. fashion
Let’s review each of these considerations in more detail.
How much a fitness tracker costs may be one of the most significant factors you consider when buying one. You won’t want to go over your budget, and you won’t want to spend money on features you’re not going to use.
Luckily, many budget trackers are perfectly priced for folks who aren’t looking to do much more than log daily steps. There are also reasonably priced trackers for those who want a little bit more out of their tech but are still curious about fitness trackers being a part of their everyday life. Some people only wear a tracker while they’re exercising. Some use it to monitor everything from their sleep patterns to calorie intake.
Decide what features you want and how much you want to spend, and you’re bound to find the perfect tracker that does what you want at a price point you can handle.
To ensure you get the right fitness tracker, buy one based on what you’ll be using it for. For example, if you’re into climbing mountains, check out the Suunto Core, which can alert you about upcoming storms. But, if you prefer to get your exercise swimming laps, the Garmin Swim 2 is the better pick.
In addition, you’ll want to think about battery life. Will your hike last longer than the tracker’s battery life? Is your wearable supported by an app, such as Garmin Connect? Will you be able to import data from third-party apps onto it? It may help to list your most important use cases and search for a fitness tracker that meets your top three criteria.
- With altimeter, barometer, and compass
- Ideal for all altitudes
- Barometric altitude measurement, Display of altitude graphic, Compass, Depth gauge for snorkeling (10 m)
- Storm warnings, Temperature, Time-, Date-, and Alarm functions
- 12 month Battery life in time mode
- High durability aluminium case
- Waterproof up to 30m
- Up to 7 days of battery life in smartwatch mode
- Records distance, pace, stroke count, and stroke type
- Open-water swim mode
- Includes free online analysis, custom workout creation, storage, and sharing
- Monitors underwater estimated wrist-based heart rate
Function vs. Fashion
Some people want a fitness tracker but also want it to look good. Luckily, many wearable options available today don’t look like you’re sporting tactical gear. And while some base model trackers look pretty, others may look better on your wrist if you choose a more complementary color. For example, if you wear a lot of gold jewelry, consider the Fitbit Luxe, which looks like a link bracelet.
If you pride yourself on being an Apple person, then an Apple Watch may be the best for you. But, if you have a house connected to Amazon Alexa, an AmazFit tracker may be your best choice. Or, you can base your decision on other criteria, such as downloadable third-party apps and connectivity ability with fitness apps like Strava. Yes, compatibility may be a factor in buying a fitness tracker, so consider what electronics you own now and how a fitness tracker may sync with them.
- Ultra-light design for all-day comfort
- Alluring 1.43” large color screen
- Over 60 sports modes for exercises
- Water resistant up to 50 meters
- All-round health tracking (sleep quality, heart rate, blood oxygen)
- Long battery life (up to a week)
What to Know Before Buying a Fitness Tracker
Before you buy a fitness tracker, here are some helpful questions to consider:
- Do you need a smartwatch or just a tracker?
- Will you need a GPS?
- Do you need something water-resistant? Up to how deep?
- How long is a good battery life for your usage?
- What do you want your tracker to look like?
- What’s your budget?
Knowing the answer to these questions is a great start to understanding which tracker is right for you. Hopefully, once you know the answers, you’ll have narrowed your fitness tracker wish list to just a few options.
Using a Fitness Tracker: What It’s Like
Fitness trackers are wearable devices that help you plan, track, and manage your health and fitness. Having a device that can measure everything from how much food you eat to how many steps you take is a beneficial way to have a lot of valuable stats at your fingertips.
Some people prefer trackers that look pretty and measure daily steps, while others prefer rugged trackers that measure oxygen saturation while climbing 14 thousand-foot mountains.
The best way to find the tracker is to consider what you’ll use it for and how much you’re willing to pay. Then, once you have that information figured out, you can be sure to find the best fitness tracker for you.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/Drazen Zigic.