Tracking information like movement, steps and heart rate are all part of the quantified self movement which is quickly gaining in popularity.
With so many wearables on the market today, choosing a fitness tracker can be difficult. The right one for you will be based on your individual needs; whether it’s step counting, sleep tracking or 24/7 heart rate tracking, there’s something for everyone.
Essential reading: The best GPS watches for running and training
We’ve seen quite a few new wearables in 2016 from Fitbit, Garmin and other manufacturers. With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, most major retailers are now starting to offer promotional sales.
Read on for our pick of the best fitness trackers you can buy right now.
Best overall fitness tracker | Best for style | Best for sleep tracking | Best for running | Best for outdoors | Best fitness tracker watch | Best budget fitness tracker | Best for active coaching | Best smartwatch | Best for originality | Best smart scale | Best smart blood pressure monitor
Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Charge 2 is our choice for most people. This is a sleek looking device that delivers solid improvements on its predecessors in a few areas, particularly in terms of design. The new tracker pretty much makes the Charge HR, our pick for the best fitness tracker in 2015, redundant.
The Charge 2 carries over all all of the features found on the Charge HR, and throws in an OLED display that is four times as large. This means you will find 24/7 heart rate monitoring (including resting heart rate), and the device will keeps tabs on steps, distance, floors, active minutes, calories and sleep. To help you stay active throughout the day, Charge 2 sends Reminders to move that encourage you to take 250 steps every hour.
Fitbit has debuted a few new features as well. The new tracker links to the GPS on your smartphone to provide more precise data on pace and distance when you’re running, while recording a map of your route in the app. It also offers Multi-Sport tracking and smartphone notifications.
Plus there are a few new features that tap into your hear-rate readings. The most interesting and potentially useful one is called Cardio Fitness Level. It gives you a snapshot of your fitness level using a personalised Cardio Fitness Score, which is based on your VO2 Max. The other new addition are Guided Breathing Sessions. This is a relaxing mindfulness experience that calms your body and mind through personalized deep-breathing sessions called “Relax”.
Fitbit likes to think of the Charge 2 for everyday users who want to get fitter and see how they are doing in real time on the wristband and also via the excellent free app and graphics-heavy desktop dashboard. The wearable definitely serves this purpose.
Garmin Vivosmart HR
The Vivosmart HR features a crisp new screen, a heart rate monitor, automatic activity and sleep tracking and smart notifications. This is one of a select few wearables on the market today that attempts to service functions of both a fitness tracker and a smart watch.
The device follows your progress 24/7. The HR tracking is done continuously, in addition to HR tracking during a specific workout. You can view current and resting heart rate from the touchscreen, and during workouts you can see current heart rate when you swipe the display.
With the Vivosmart HR, Garmin has come out with a strong contender in the fight for your wrist space. This is a fully featured comprehensive fitness tracker which churns out fairly accurate data. The inclusion of a crisp new screen this time around, a barometer for tracking floors climbed, and most importantly a wrist based HR sensor, means that Garmin can go head to head now with Fitbit.
And finally, the Garmin Connect software is top notch, whether you are utilising the smartphone app or the even more comprehensive web dashboard.
Withings Steel HR
We predicted that 2016 would be the year fitness trackers start to disappear. Not literally of course, but in the sense that wearables would start to seemlessly integrate with our environment.
The Steel HR is the newest offering from Withings. Debuted in September, with a release date in early October, the wearable looks like a standard analogue watch. The device takes much of what was great about the Activite range and upgrades it with new features including a heart rate monitor and a digital display for smartphone notifications.
There are no buttons to push. Steel HR automatically tracks everything and syncs the info to your app to give you metrics, personal coaching and more. The watch keeps tabs on your activity (steps, distance, running, sport – including swimming), heart rate, calories and sleep.
The main novelty for an analogue type device is the addition of heart rate monitoring. Real-time heart rate info is displayed on the watch during your exercise, and more detailed info including time spent in heart rate zones can be seen in the app. The watch also tracks resting heart rate, one of the most important metrics to assess overall health over time.
The Withings Activite range consists of watches that work in pretty much every situation. You could wear them not only during business hours, but also for a formal event, as well as light hiking or other light sporting events. They are designed to look and feel normal.
In a way, Vivomove looks like Garmin’s answer to the Withings Activite. A stylish analog watch that combines a traditional design with function, monitoring fitness activity and reminding users when they’ve been inactive too long.
The watch face features two bars that allow you to view you step progress and inactivity at a glance. The Vivomove also estimates calories burned and tracks how well you’ve slept by monitoring movement and restlessness.
Throughout the day, Vivomove automatically syncs with the Garmin Connect Mobile app where you can track your trends, join online challenges or see how you stack up against friends. You will also receive Garmin Connect Insights, smart wellness insights personalized to help you reach your goals.
The device is available in a variety of interchangeable models: Vivomove sport, Vivomove classic with leather straps, and the more upscale vívomove premium with leather straps and full steel body. It also comes in a variety of fashionable case finishes including black, white, rose gold-tone, stainless steel, and gold-tone.
The UP3 is loaded with state-of-the-art sensors that give you a better understanding of your health and fitness. Like all bands, Jawbone UP3 measures the steps you take, and like some, monitors the quality of your sleep. It has a sparkling design and is astonishingly light.
While most other fitness trackers display raw figures and leave it at that, the UP will provide you with tips throughout the day on how to improve your health and fitness. We like the advanced sleep tracking and the ability to automaticaly recognise when you fall asleep. The ability to periodically check on your heart rate throughout the day in addition to viewing you resting heart rate, is definitely a welcome addition to its wide range of features.
Garmin Forerunner 235
The Garmin Forerunner 235 is a great choice for runners looking to step up their training and set their next personal record. In addition to tracking your runs, the watch will provide you with some more advanced features such as recovery advisor and VO2 Max.
This GPS running watch features Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate technology and smart features. It can also be used for 24/7 activity tracking and will count steps, calories and distance throughout the day, and the move bar with vibration alert motivates you to move when you’ve been sitting too long.
There are smartwatch features as well such as smart notifications and audio prompts, as well as customizable widgets, applications and watch faces from the Connect IQ store.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR
The Fenix 3 is a beast of a watch and features everything you would ever want for fitness training plus feature sets for outdoor navigation. The device is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who are into multi sports and want to be able to track everything.
You can use it for cycling, open water swimming, cross country skiing, climbing, indoor run/bike/swim, hiking and much more.
In addition to heart rate tracking from the wrist, the watch provides advanced running metrics including vertical oscillation and vertical ratio, VO2 max and a recovery advisor. Outdoor navigation includes things like 3-axis compass, altimeter and barometer and TracBack feature.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
The Vivoactive HR takes all the features from the original Vivoactive device, but upgrades it with a heart rate monitor and a sleeker new design. Like the Blaze, you are able to switch bands with different coloured ones. Unlike the Blaze, Garmin vivoactive HR has built-in GPS, which means there is no need to pair it with your phone in order to use GPS tracking.
The Vivoactive HR counts steps, intensity minutes, monitors sleep, and now with the addition of a barometric altimeter – counts the number of floors climbed. The device uses 24/7 wrist-based heart rate data to calculate calories burned as well as the intensity of fitness activities.
Built-in sports apps include running; cycling; golf and swimming plus added support for paddle boarding and skiing. The watch also continuously monitors for periods of sustained activity. This is essentially auto-recognition for running, swimming, cycling and elliptical.
If you are not a fan of Garmin’s new tracker, we would suggest opting for the Blaze. This is Fitbit’s first wearable with a color touch screen that displays the time and other details about your movement for the day.
The device uses pretty much the same motion sensors we’ve seen in previous Fitbits. This means that the Blaze features the company’s PurePulse continuous, wrist-based heart rate sensor which allows you to see simplified heart rate zones for quickly checking exercise intensity during workouts.
The full list of sensors is as follows: 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor and fibration motor. The Blaze is sweat, rain and splash proof (depending on the type of band), but is not swim proof.
As with the Alta, with the Blaze Fitbit is styling up what it already offers. There is no ground-breaking new technology on board. But if you’re looking for a stylish fitness tracker that does the essentials from a recognised brand, this could be the device for you.
Xiaomi Mi Band 2
The third generation band from the Chinese manufacturer combines the best features of the predecessor devices, and adds an OLED display to the mix. Which means that for the first time Mi tracker users are not tied to their smartphones to check on their daily progress.
The tracker itself is super lightweight and comfortable to wear. The “capsule” pops in and out of the band for charging but is in no danger of falling out once pushed in. The wearable tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep, and has a battery that lasts 20 days between charges. It is water-resistant and will even wake you up in the morning.
The Mi Band 2 uses a light-based PPG (photoplethysmography) sensor to measure your body’s blood flow. The heart rate sensor can be used on demand, such as while running or monitoring your sleep patterns.
Misfit Shine 2
The Shine 2 looks very much like its predecessor. It is however a bit larger in diameter, and also thinner. At only 8mm thick it is Misfit’s thinnest wearable ever. With zero cables, an elegant design, and no need to recharge – the Shine 2 is one of the best-looking, lowest-maintenance activity trackers.
The device, which tracks a good deal of activity, can be worn anywhere as it is very small and light. The Shine 2 is also able to sync to Apple Health and a host of third party apps.
You will get detail on your nightly deep, light and REM cycles as well as total sleep duration and periods when you were awake. You can also set the vibrating alarm to wake you up. All importantly, the Shine automatically knows when you are asleep so there is no missed data. The low profile means it is comfortable to wear at night, maximising its effectiveness.
Misfit made activity tracking accessible for everyone with the Shine. As something to look at, The Misfit Shine 2 really works and we love its low-maintenance status and reasonable price.
This fitness tracker aims to teach you the concepts of a healthy life. The truly novel feature of the Moov is real-time coaching feedback in a wide variety of exercise programs. At the moment, the Moov is pretty much out on its own for what it can do. The device tracks your movements in 3D, analyzes them and gives you a comprehensive report on how you are doing, after, as well as during the workout.
The original model was meant to be worn only during workouts so was not ment to be used as a standard activity tracker – in contrast, the Moov Now is designed for all-day use. The Moov Now will measure your activity level and active time, in addition to automatically tracking your sleep at night.
Apple Watch Series 2
The Apple Watch Series 2 delivers solid improvements over its predecessor, including water proofing up to 50 metres, on-board GPS, a 50% faster Duel-Core processor, a better display and a few other updates.
The big news is that the watch is now water resistant up to 50 metres and can be used for monitoring open and pool water swimming. The company has developed all-new algorithms to count laps, track average lap pace and auto-detect stroke type to measure active calorie burn.
Apple has attempted to make the watch a more serious rival to Garmin and Polar this time around by including built-in GPS. This means the watch will record precise distance, pace and speed for outdoor workouts such as walking, running or cycling, without needing an iPhone.
The device offers so many other things in addition to being a fitness tracker, its health and fitness features should be viewed as a bonus rather than the main reason for purchase. As a fully featured smartwatch, there are few wearables on the market today that can rival Apple.
When you think of fitness trackers, Skulpt products don’t readily come to mind. That’s because they’re a different breed, that measure metrics that you wouldn’t normally measure with more ‘traditional’ activity devices. Rather than monitoring daily activities, such as steps taken and distance traveled, the Skulpt Chisel measures muscle quality and body fat percentage.
The device is simple to use and allows you to measure and track 24 individual muscles. Chisel also shows you how your body is changing over time and is a great way to track progress, even when it seems there is none. Also, a much better measurement than BMI or weight. Serious workout enthusiasts and personal trainers will adore this device.
The Chisel will give you greater insight and will enable you to monitor the result of your fitness achievements. This will help you to better understand when you are losing fat and gaining muscle – and which muscles you need to focus on. As you can tell, we are very excited where this technology will lead us, and are looking forward to further innovative products in this area.
The French company’s fourth generation scale, Withings Body, measures weight and BMI, along with fat mass, muscle mass, water and bone mass. The scale has multi-user support and recognition, a free Health Mate app and syncs to the Withings Health Cloud. It also has both iOS and Android compatibility.
This scale simply does the job. Having one of these devices in the bathroom means you can make them part of your morning ritual, allowing you to track your weight every day, at roughly the same time, in the same state of undress, with no hassle. Once you’ve got it configured for your wireless network and set up the users, it just goes about its work reliably and quietly enough.
The Patented Position Control Technology delivers highly-precise measurements accurate to .2 pounds. The fat % monitoring and other metrics can sometimes vary, but this is the case with all such scales on the market. There are few truly accurate ways of fat percentage monitoring outside clinics/hospitals where you are submersed in water!
If you love gadgets and find tracking your weight useful to help you diet or maintain a healthy weight, you won’t go wrong with the Withings Body scale.
Instead of the Body scale, you can opt for the slightly more expensive Body Cardio scale. Apart from the design, the main difference is that the Body Cardio scale has heart monitoring functions. It tracks your standing heart rate and an exclusive new measurement – your Pulse Wave Velocity.
With every beat the heart generates a wave that propagates along the arteries. The propagation speed of this wave is directly linked to the health of your arteries. Faster speeds indicate stiffer arteries, which increase the risk of developing hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Each weigh-in will provide a pulse wave velocity reading and assessment within the Health Mate app. Taking age into account, the app will then inform as to whether it is optimal or not, and provide tips to improve it.
Omron 10 blood pressure monitor
Those looking for bells and whistles may be disappointed – and with a bulky, clunky-looking design, the BP786 cannot compete aesthetically with the sleek, smaller, wearable BP monitors.
But overall, the Omron is a reliable, simple “does what it says on the tin” device. The high accuracy, reliability, and lower price compared to many of the other smart blood pressure monitors on the market today, would make this our device of choice.