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May 20, 2022
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9 Best Fitness Trackers That Do So Much More Than Count Steps

9 Best Fitness Trackers That Do So Much More Than Count Steps

Staff, Courtesy of Samsung

Fitness tracking has come a long way since the days of clip-on pedometers. While they were the best options we had back in the day, their results were often inaccurate—not to mention extremely limited.

Thankfully, technology has evolved considerably, and fitness trackers can now deliver information on a more diverse array of wellness metrics. Steps can still be counted, but many trackers now also monitor statistics like heart rate, workout duration, oxygen levels, and heart rhythm. Some have GPS for tracking location during runs, hikes, and bike rides, while others track sleep and recovery. Many fitness devices are even capable of tracking menstrual cycles and other health data, as well.

The data they collect are meant to make your life, habits, and health better, usually in combination with exercise. As a refresher, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Fitness trackers, with their ability to gauge effort based on heart rate, make recording your workouts a snap.

“There is no greater motivation than seeing higher oxygen consumption, lower heart rate, greater endurance, and improved performance, all metrics that can be obtained from fitness trackers,” says Lance C. LaMotte, MD, FACC, interventional cardiologist and owner of TITLE Boxing Club of Baton Rouge.

Regardless of your fitness goals, the extensive metrics fitness trackers report can help you achieve them, and can work as overall wellness boosters.

Best Fitness Trackers



Most Crack-Resistant

Series 7 GPS
Apple

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Best Budget Option

Band 5 Activity Fitness Tracker
Amazfit

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Best Value

Charge 4 Fitness and Activity Tracker
Fitbit

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Best for Measuring Stress

Sense Advanced Smartwatch
Fitbit

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      What to Consider

      The right fitness tracker for you is going to depend on what your goals are, your aesthetic preferences, and your budget. Keep the following in mind and you’ll be well on your way to finding the right device for you.

      Tracking Goals

      Some fitness apps offer more in terms of calorie burn assessments and workouts via apps, while others delve into sleep, heart rate, and stress analysis. Others have excellent tracking features for health and wellness metrics. Think about what your goals are before making a purchase.

      Size and Design

      Many fitness trackers look like, well, fitness trackers. However, others more closely resemble traditional watches or jewelry. We have included several broad and slim options, as well.

      Special Features

      Some of the fitness trackers we selected allow you to text and make calls, some will send heart reports to doctors, and others can analyze sleep patterns.

      How We Selected

      To select these devices, I relied on my own experience wearing fitness trackers, and drew from previous Popular Mechanics testing of fitness trackers and smart watches. I also considered professional reviews from trusted experts, and feedback from consumer reviews. After reviewing, researching, and using top options, I selected the best models based on how well their features met the expectations for the intended user, their price, ease of use, and overall performance.

      Most Crack-Resistant

      Series 7 GPS

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 41 millimeters
      • Available Colors: Black, blue, green, red
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: 130-200 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
      • Special Features: Mindfulness features, tai chi, and Pilates workouts

      This Apple Watch doesn’t come cheap, but it comes packed with fitness and wellness perks. Plus, the Series 7 is the brand’s most durable version yet, with an attractive and classic design, and a crack-resistant front crystal that will stand up to enthusiastic wear.

      This Apple device allows you to measure your blood oxygen, track your heart rate for irregularities, and encourages you to stay in the moment with a mindfulness app.

      You will also be able to assess your sleeping habits, track tai chi and Pilates workouts, and monitor your general daily activity. With this Apple Watch, you can also sync your favorite music, podcasts, and audiobooks, and pay for things instantly with Apple Pay.

      Best Budget Option

      Band 5 Activity Fitness Tracker

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 1.1 inches
      • Available Colors: Black, olive, garden
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: 6.4-9.3 inches
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 140-180 millimeters
      • Battery Life: 15 days
      • Special Features: Heart tracker, sleep tracker, menstrual tracking

      This Amazfit Band is a fantastic budget option that comes with an impressive array of bells and whistles. You’ll be able to talk to Alexa, ask questions, set alarms and timers, control home devices, and check the weather. The Amazfit also measures blood oxygen saturation, helps you track your heart rate during high-intensity workouts, and allows you to assess your HR highs and lows throughout the rest of the day. This device will also track your sleep and interpret its quality.

      There are 11 built-in sports modes, enabling you to record distances, speed, heart rate changes, calories burned, and other data during your workouts. There is also an option for women to track their periods, and can send reminders when it’s due to arrive.

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 40-44 millimeters
      • Available Colors: Black, white, pink, red, gray
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: 140-220 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: 18 hours
      • Special Features: Tracks sleep, GPS model allows you to take calls and reply to texts

      Regardless of your loyalty—or lack thereof—to the brand, the Apple Watch Series 6 is one of the most reliable and useful fitness trackers you can get. You can track basic workout data, but also determine your oxygen saturation in the blood (SpO2) and your heart rhythm, thanks to red and infrared light technology. If you have a tough fall, the Apple Watch will detect it and automatically call emergency services.

      If you’re goal-oriented, you will also appreciate that this tracker displays your progress with easy-to-see rings. This version also adds sleep tracking. Plus, you can take calls and reply to texts right from your wrist.

      Best Value

      Charge 4 Fitness and Activity Tracker

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 1 inch
      • Available Colors: Black, white, rosewood
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: 140-180 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: 7 days (5 hours with GPS)
      • Special Features: Tracks sleep, offers GPS

      We’re big fans of Fitbits. The Charge 4 prides itself as an activity tracker, but it also tracks health metrics, like your blood oxygen saturation. It has built-in GPS that can be set to track seven different types of exercise (like running and biking). Additional benefits include contactless payments with Fitbit Pay, Spotify, and Sleep Score to track the quality of your sleep and the amount of time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep cycles.

      The Fitbit operates in temperatures from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 to 60 degrees Celsius), and can be synced to mobile devices and smartphones.

      Best for Measuring Stress

      Sense Advanced Smartwatch

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 1.58 inches
      • Available Colors: White/gold; carbon/graphite; sage gray/silver
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: small fits 140-180 millimeters, large fits 180-220 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: 6 days, 12 hours with GPS
      • Special Features: Tracks many health data points, offers daily stress management score

      If you’re as interested in your overall health as you are in your daily step count, this is the tracker for you. The Fitbit Sense goes above and beyond basic fitness tracking (although it has more than 20 exercise modes) to track things like skin temperature, blood oxygen levels, and sleep quality. It will even allow you to assess your heart for atrial fibrillation—a heart rhythm irregularity—and it enables you to share the results with your doctor.

      It also emphasizes stress management and mindfulness thanks to an EDA Scan app that gives you a daily Stress Management Score based on your skin temperature (it rises if you’re super stressed). And non-fitness bonuses like Fitbit Pay, Sleep Score (to track the quality of your sleep and the amount of time you spend in light, deep, and REM sleep cycles), and Smart Wake alarm (to help you determine your ideal wakeup time based on your sleep patterns) are icing on the cake.

      Best Looking Fitness Tracker

      Galaxy Smart Watch

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 42-46 millimeters
      • Available Colors: Black, silver, gold
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: Small fits 140-190 millimeters, large fits 160-220 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: 2 days
      • Special Features: Rotating bezel, time display, sleep monitoring

      If you want a great fitness tracker, but don’t want to advertise the fact that you’re wearing one, consider this Samsung Galaxy Smart Watch. The model even has a rotating bezel, which is a rarity in the fitness tracking set. If you also have a Galaxy phone, you can get SpO2 and FDA-approved ECG readings (just like on the Apple Watch).

      Everything is managed through the Samsung Health app, which tracks everything from your weight and calorie intake/burn to caffeine intake, sleep, and blood glucose. You can share a PDF report of your ECG recordings with your doctor via the Samsung Health app, too. This model also boasts smartphone tech, like the ability to call, text, stream music, and get notifications via Bluetooth connectivity.

      Best for Calorie Tracking

      Inspire 2 Health & Fitness Tracker

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 1.4 inches
      • Available Colors: black; black/rose; black/white
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: Small fits 5.5-7.1 inches; large fits 7.1-8.7 inches
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: 10 days
      • Special Features: Accurately measure calorie burn, track sleep

      If you are serious about tracking your calories, this Fitbit device has your back. It allows you to mark progress toward weekly goals, and it assesses not just basic activity, but your hourly activity, allowing you to assess how many calories you’ve burned. The 24/7 heart rate monitor tracks your resting heart rate, too. The Fitbit Inspire 2 also tracks your time in light, deep, and REM sleep, so you can understand more about your sleep quality.

      The 10-day battery life makes tracking your progress easier without the need for constant charging. This Fitbit also comes with a free one-year Fitbit premium trial, making the wallet-friendly price even more impressive.

      Best for Kids

      Vivofit Fitness Tracker for Kids

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 0.7 inches
      • Available Colors: Many, including white, black, red, blue, green, and various shades of pink
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: 130-175 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: Up to 1 year
      • Special Features: Interactive apps, multiple watch face options

      If you and your kiddos are determined to move more together, this is a wonderful watch to put them on the right track. This fun, interactive watch offers apps that allow kids to go on a world tour, and uncover exciting new places. (This does require the Garmin Jr. app to be loaded on a parent’s compatible smartphone, though.)

      The durable, swim-friendly Garmin also features a large color display with multiple watch face options. This fitness tracker motivates kids to meet their daily active minute goals, by unlocking entertaining features on the app when they move more.

      This watch can also be used to assign tasks, schedule alerts, and reward kids with good behavior with access to app features. There is also an “in case of emergency” widget so kids can access emergency contact information.

      Key Specs

      • Watch Face Size: 1.4 inches
      • Available Colors: Black, blue/gray, coral, fuchsia, pink rose gold
      • Wrist Sizes Accommodated: Small 140-170 millimeters, large 170-206 millimeters, extra-large 230-236 millimeters
      • Replaceable Bands: Yes
      • Waterproof: 50 meters
      • Battery Life: Up to 7 days
      • Special Features: Sleep monitor, sedentary reminder

      If you love the idea of having an accurate fitness tracker, but don’t love the clunky look that accompanies many of them, the Fitbit Alta is a great option.

      With a stylish, bracelet-like profile, this Fitbit still manages to track your heart rate all day long, measure calorie burn, figure out your personal best workout mode (fat burn, cardio, or peak), and measure your time spent in light, deep, or REM sleep. If you want to hit the road without your phone, this Fitbit allows you to access call, text, and calendar notifications. The app also syncs with 200-plus iPhone, Android, and Windows devices.

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