In the last 40 years, there has been a strange juxtaposition in America’s attitude toward health and fitness. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2/3 of American children are not regularly active, and a mere five percent of adults engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes every day. Yet, the focus on diet, exercise, and health is at a fever pitch. There’s no doubt that people understand how beneficial it is to exercise, but you are busier than ever, and it’s easy to forget to get moving. Luckily, technology is catching on, and fitness trackers are top-selling accessories for healthy living. There is a lot to be said for having
information, and these clever devices can do a lot to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Why Use a Fitness Tracker?
Fitness trackers serve as a physical reminder of your health priorities and provide real-time information on your daily habits. All basic models track your steps, and some brands offer additional features like calorie counting, GPS locators, and even heart rate monitors. The biggest bonus of using a tracker is the immediate access to data about your daily activity level. You can set a dozen goals, but if you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses, you are less likely to reach your benchmarks. A fitness tracker creates healthy competition with yourself, encouraging you to beat your personal best every day.
What to Look For
There are dozens of models of trackers across a handful of major brands, and each one is a little bit different. Understanding how they function and knowing their limitations can help you sort through the choices.
Features– Some fitness trackers do just a few tasks, while others offer a fuller range of features. Most people will not use every module in the more technology-packed models, so make sure you’re not paying extra for capabilities that you won’t use.
Price– The majority of fitness trackers range in price from $100 to $200. Don’t assume that spending more will provide a better user experience, as that’s not always the case. Some of the better-rated models are at the lower end of the price spectrum.
Comfort– Because they are worn on your wrist, the size and shape of a tracker can impact your comfort level. Though designs are similar, small details like the softness of the silicone and how the tracker clasps can be bothersome to some people, so it pays to take a test run if you anticipate being picky about how the device feels.
Accuracy– While trackers are marketed as the best way to find out what you’re doing in the day, the truth is they aren’t clinically accurate, with some hitting closer to the mark than others. No tracker will pick up every step and accurately discard all movements that aren’t real exercise. It’s important to realize that fitness trackers are more useful in seeing your activity trends over time- as long as performance is consistent, you will be able to see if you’ve had a low or a high activity day. Some models are noticeably more reliable than others, so check reviews if that is important to you.
Warranty– If you have issues with your tracker or get a lemon, you’ll want to have a good warranty to fall back on. It is advisable to purchase a tracker that has at least a one year warranty. If the company doesn’t stand by their product for at least that period, that’s not a good sign of quality.
Apps– Each brand of fitness tracker has its own app that works in conjunction with your device. While the functions of the apps are similar, the interface and user experience will vary between brands. If you don’t find the app intuitive and easy to use, you won’t be getting the most out of your tracker.
Battery Life- Trackers come with one of two battery configurations- either a rechargeable battery or a replaceable battery much like that used in watches. You will get longer run times from a replaceable battery, but it will have to be repurchased when the battery drains.
How to Choose
The biggest factor in selecting the right fitness tracker is how you plan to use it and how you exercise. Somebody who mainly walks or runs a set distance will likely be quite happy with basic models that primarily track steps. If you have a high focus on diet in your fitness plan, calorie tracking will be a useful feature that you will probably appreciate. GPS tracking is a great option if you do a lot of cross-country or outdoor training, as your fitness tracker will still deliver data on a long bike ride or a trail run. Finally, keep in mind that each brand has unique support and accountability communities, and if you’re already involved in a group, you will likely want to stick to the brand you are familiar with. Some online accountability groups are also more active, so if external motivation makes a difference in your overall plan, don’t compromise to save a few bucks.