Best Fitness Trackers

Updated July 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
207 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best fitness trackers

A fitness tracker is a small, convenient device that can change the way you track your activity and wellness. Whether you’re looking for a simple step counter, a sleep tracker, or a versatile smartwatch, these devices designed expressly for fitness tracking can make it easier for you to adopt positive lifestyle changes.

Fitness trackers vary in design and tracking features. Some include a display screen for quick updates on your activity; others vibrate to notify you when you have achieved a goal or need to move a bit. When shopping you should also consider which statistics you want to track: common measurements include heart rate, sleep pattern, steps, and distance.

While fitness trackers aren’t guaranteed to improve fitness, owning and using one can help you keep an eye on your overall performance. 

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Because a tracker is comfortable to wear, it may be easier for you to use during exercise than carrying a smartphone.

How it looks

Fitness trackers have evolved to become stylish pieces of fashion tech. You can wear a fitness band. Many come in numerous color choices. Some offer display screens; others do not. If you plan to wear your fitness band all day, including at work, consider a design that fits with your business attire.

Models with display screens

Fitness trackers with display screens are common. Many look like wristwatches. Because these trackers are so comfortable to wear, many people find them far more convenient than exercising with a smartphone.

If your fitness tracker has a GPS built into it, its battery life probably will be less than average.

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How it fits

Most trackers are wearable; many fit the wrist. Other options exist, however, including a clip-on tracker for a collar or pocket. Necklace designs are also available, as are units that clip to a shoe or ankle. Look for a fit that corresponds to the type of exercise you enjoy.

A fitness tracker on your wrist won’t track heart rate as accurately as a medical monitor strapped to your chest.

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Where it works

Most fitness trackers can withstand any exercise environment you encounter. Neither cold nor hot weather should affect them. But if you want a tracker for swimming, you’ll need a model that is wearable underwater. Some fitness trackers can withstand water submersion, but most cannot.

Did you know?
Some high-end fitness trackers contain internal storage memory. You could store music on the tracker, playing it through bluetooth headphones.
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Features

If you use a smartphone app now to track your exercise routine, understand that a fitness tracker device works a little differently. A tracker measures certain aspects of your movement. It then pairs with an app to determine whether you’re meeting your goals. Fitness trackers can track some interesting aspects of your movement, including the following —

  • Steps: This is often the most basic type of information measured. You can use it to gauge exactly how much you move throughout the day.
  • Heart rate: Many fitness trackers act as a heart-rate monitor during periods of exercise as well as rest. One way to gauge an improving fitness level is by an improved heart rate at rest.
  • Sleep: If you aren’t sleeping well, your overall health will suffer. Some fitness trackers offer sleep tracking. By measuring your movements during the night, you gain information about the quality of your rest.
  • Overall workouts: Unless a fitness tracker has a GPS chip built into it, it won’t be as effective at tracking some workouts. You need GPS capability to determine how far you ran or biked, for instance. The fitness tracker’s app enters the picture here, as it can track many types of workouts successfully.
  • Sports apps: Some trackers, like the Garmin vivoactive, give you the ability to track your performance in specific sports, such as golfing or biking.
Did you know?
Many trackers can display text messages and call notifications.
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How a fitness tracker works

Fitness trackers provide the data listed above thanks to a variety of internal components.

Motion sensing

Much of a fitness tracker’s data collection occurs courtesy of its motion-sensing components. For example, here’s a look at how a tracker uses motion-sensing technology to monitor your sleep: a three-axis accelerometer determines which direction you’re moving, and a gyroscope measures the rotation of the fitness tracker. Using these technologies, the tracker measures your wrist movement during sleep, judging the frequency and force behind the moves. Software in the app then determines whether you’re moving often enough during the night to cause you to sleep poorly.

GPS

Having a GPS unit on a wearable fitness tracker is great for runners and bikers. This feature allows the unit to measure the distance you’ve traveled, even if you’re running or riding in a rural location.

Optical sensors

Mid-range and high-end fitness trackers sometimes contain optical sensors, such as a heart rate sensor. The unit uses these to shine a light on your skin, which allows the tracker to “see” your pulse and act as a heart rate monitor. It measures the way blood moves through your capillaries.

Bioimpedance sensors

Rather than optical sensors, some fitness trackers place tiny electrodes against your skin. The tracker is then able to act as a heart rate monitor. A fitness tracker with bioimpedance sensors should be more accurate than one with optical sensors.

Measuring altitude

Some mid-range and high-end fitness trackers include an altimeter, a device that measures your current altitude. This measurement is helpful for distance runners who work out in the mountains. If stair climbing is part of your workout routine, the altimeter can also determine how high you climbed.

Temperature sensor

Some high-end fitness trackers include a temperature sensor that rests against your skin. This measurement can help determine if you’re overheating during an especially tough workout.

Trackers attempt to ignore false motion readings, like if you hit a bump while driving in the car. But sometimes the unit may ignore some of your steps, thinking they’re false readings.

Working with the app

Because fitness trackers are such simple devices, many cannot analyze your exercise results on their own. Instead, these units rely on an app to show you your activity results. If at all possible, you will want to look at the app before you pick a fitness tracker. Make sure it has all of the features you need. And make sure it will work with your iOS or Android smartphone before you buy it, as some apps are limited to one type of smartphone operating system.

The fitness tracker will make a wireless connection with the app at various points during the day. It will then upload any fitness tracking data it has collected.

Real-time data tracking

As these devices grow more sophisticated, some have begun to offer data tracking in “real time.” For example, a tracker with built-in GPS may not need to sync your data with an app to provide you with pace and distance data. If you are looking for a running watch with such a benefit, expect to pay at least $100 for it, and note that this feature is not offered by all devices … yet.

Make sure the app can track your favorite types of exercise. If you’re a swimmer, the app should be able to time your laps and measure distance. If you’re a runner, you may want it to take notes about the type of weather you encountered on a particular run.

And, of course, the more data the fitness tracker can send to the app related to your favorite exercise, the better. You don’t want to spend a lot of time entering your own information. After all, that's the point of wearing the fitness tracker: it measures and records your activity for you.

Did you know?
Some fitness trackers need to be charged every few days. Others can run a few months on a watch battery. 
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Accessories

Heart rate monitor: Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap
This highly accurate heart rate sensor pairs with smartwatches from Polar as well as other reputable brands, such as Garmin and Apple. If you’re doing some serious cardio and want top-notch accuracy, consider this accessory.

Rebounder: Stamina Mini Trampoline
Rain or shine, you can keep up your daily activity and meet your goals with this affordable rebounder within reach. It’s an affordable and fun accessory that the kids can use, too.

Cheap fitness trackers tend to run on watch battery power rather than the power gained from a handy USB charger.

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Price

Least expensive (up to $50)

Fitness trackers can start as low as $15. Just don’t expect these basic models to generate a huge amount of data. You might receive information about steps taken and calories burned with these inexpensive activity trackers, and some even offer sleep tracking. However, you’re not likely to find a fitness tracker with a touchscreen display on its watch face; these inexpensive trackers typically use LED light indicators instead. Even if it does have a touchscreen, it may be a bit more finicky and less user-friendly than that of a higher-end unit.

Note that although some bargain-priced fitness trackers are advertised as swim-proof, we hesitate to trust the validity of this claim in all instances. If you purchase a budget fitness tracker for basic statistics, this may suit your purposes. However, if you plan to track swim data with your new device, we recommend going up to at least the mid-range pricing tier.

An exception is Xiaomi Mi bands, some of the best fitness trackers for those on a sub-$50 budget. However, you will need to use the Mi Fit app, which not everyone likes, and some say the band is not best for cardio.

Mid-range ($50 to $100)

Mid-range devices measure movement during sleep (sleep tracking) along with steps taken, calories burned, and some other basic stats — and they do so with more reliability and user-friendliness than cheap fitness trackers. A primary example of a tried-and-true fitness tracker in this price tier is the Inspire HR from Fitbit, which first appeared in 2019 and has accrued many fans since it emerged.

Most expensive (up to $500)

Design and fitness features markedly improve as you move into the $100+ category. These are the best fitness trackers, made expressly made for people who want to monitor their daily activity and how their habits mesh with their goals. If precision is key for you in terms of blood oxygen saturation, active and resting heart rate tracking, swim tracking, and more, look here for the best buy.

This price tier also appeals to those who want to make contactless payments from their wrist.

Impressive smartwatch features including multiple-day battery life, cellular connectivity, built-in virtual assistant programs (like Alexa), and the ability to stream music through media services like Spotify, are easier to find in this price tier. If you want the best smartwatch/fitness tracker combination possible, look here.

To determine calorie burn, the software applies a formula to the fitness tracker data. Because each unit’s formulas are different, you could feasibly receive two different calorie burn results from two trackers worn at the same time.

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Tips

  • Some products take heart rate monitoring to the next level. For example, you can get an ECG app for some Apple Watch Series trackers to measure heart rhythm. The app can check for signs of atrial fibrillation, a condition that can result in serious health problems like stroke.
  • Some products incentivize exercise with points. For example, some Fitbit products offer you the ability to track Active Zone Minutes, a state of heart rate elevation also known as the fat-burning zone. You earn one point for every minute you spend in the fat-burning zone. Push yourself to the cardio zone, and you can earn two points per minute.
  • Some products don’t have GPS built in; instead, they offer “connected GPS.” Buyers should be aware of this distinction. With a product boasting connected GPS, you will need to keep your phone or other tethered device (Android, iPhone) with you. Connected GPS saves the company on manufacturing costs, but some consumers find it a burden.
  • You may be able to get a free trial for subscription services like Fitbit Premium. Fitbit Premium offers some cool extras, such as guided workouts and detailed breakdowns of your health stats. However, it comes at an extra cost that some consumers would rather not pay. You can try this subscription for free, though you may need to enter a payment method first. Some trackers, like the Fitbit Inspire 2, come with an automatic free trial.
  • Some fitness trackers allow you to make payments via smartwatch. For example, if you own a Fitbit, you may be able to use Fitbit Pay. Make sure your bank participates with Fitbit Pay first. Further, some models allow you to make contactless payments, like the Fitbit Charge 4. Similarly, if you own a tracker from the Apple Watch series, you may be able to use Apple Pay.
  • Note whether a product has a long battery life. Nowadays, a span of seven days is considered a long battery life, though a length of 10 days is also offered by some products. Solar charging is an additional option that can extend your battery.
  • You might like working with third-party apps. Third-party apps are unaffiliated with your fitness tracker purchase. Some are free, and some have a cost. Most are compatible with all devices, including iOS, but read the fine print to be sure.

FAQ

Q.  I’m highly focused on my fitness goals. Why doesn’t the fitness tracker tell me if my exercise routine is working?

A. Fitness trackers aren’t sophisticated enough to measure results from specific exercise routines. Most of them offer heart rate monitoring and a record of the amount of time spent moving. Pairing the tracker with a good app can help you judge your success in an exercise program. For example, if you have a Fitbit, the Fitbit app is a great place to start. You can download the Fitbit app for free to your Android or iPhone.

It’s important to realize that health tracking cannot be achieved with this technology alone. We recommend that you share your fitness goals and data with your physician to maximize best results.

Q. How accurate are the calorie burn counts on a fitness tracker?

A. It depends on the model you have. Basic, inexpensive models that don’t have a lot of features often won’t be precise in tracking calorie burning. Generally, the more statistics a particular fitness tracker collects and measures, the more accurately it will measure calorie burn.

Q. What is the biggest benefit of a fitness tracker?

A. A fitness tracker helps you set simple goals and measure your progress toward them. You may want to take 8,000 steps per day, for example. Nearly all tracker units can help you figure out how close you come to this goal each day.

If you have a more complex goal, such as preparing for a half-marathon, you’ll probably need a high-end fitness tracker paired with a smartphone app that specializes in running. The newest Fitbit Versa models have built-in GPS to help with this.

Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about Amazfit. Is it a brand made by Amazon?

A. No. Amazfit is actually a Chinese company that has successfully established itself in under a decade as an affordable maker of great smartwatches. Although not affiliated with Amazon, Amazfit products can be purchased through Amazon. The company offers a range of fitness trackers, from under $50 to over $100, that measure sophisticated stats like SpO2 (oxygen saturation) and boast multi-day battery life and other cool features, like an always-on display. If you’re interested in Amazfit, we suggest checking their offerings on Amazon to find the best buy.

 

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