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The 5 Best Fitness Trackers for Training and Health Monitoring

Get ready to roll up your sleeves for the best fitness trackers

Isabela Alzuguir
| Updated on
The 5 Best Fitness Trackers for Training and Health Monitoring© 2018 Shutterstock.com

At the risk of sounding ancient, I'll admit that fitness trackers still keep me in awe. I mean, we're talking about a consumer gadget that is able to optimize different kinds of training and monitor one's health on so many levels – counting steps and calories, keeping track of sleep patterns and stress levels, and even assisting users with breathing techniques to reduce anxiety. For a while, I thought that even the best fitness trackers couldn't possibly deliver on their promises, and dismissed them as some sort of consumption-inducing trickery... until I actually gave wearable tech a try.

From doubter to believer – or to be less dramatic, how I gave fitness trackers a chance

I guess I must get personal now. You see, I don't tend to wake up feeling refreshed and in the best of moods (to put it mildly), but sometimes the opposite happens, and the number of hours I have slept for doesn't seem to explain this disparity. My partner had already been wearing this "thing" around his left wrist for long, and I honestly thought he had fallen for some nonsense until he suggested I gave it a try. Despite my initial prejudice toward wearable tech, it was a tempting offer: apparently, his fitness tracker's smart alarm feature could monitor my sleep cycle and wake me up at the most appropriate moment (a light sleeping stage) within a specified wake-up window. And it worked. Waking up no longer felt like being abruptly pulled from a deep, comforting place, heart racing thanks to alarm tunes – and yes, I've tried them all, but even my favorite music sounds like a doomsday warning when waking me up. Equipped with a silent alarm feature, the wristband woke me up within the selected timeframe, with a vibration and no anxiety-inducing sounds (which anyone you share a bedroom with will be thankful for).

So yes, guilty as charged. I've been converted.

"But choosing a fitness tracking seems so nerve-racking... There are just too many options! How do I even begin?"

I know, I know, decision-making isn't easy these days, but our goal at Versus is exactly to make this process easier for you. Our team assembled a list of the 5 best fitness trackers for training and health monitoring, which we'll keep updated as new products are released with even more innovations.

But first, let's go through some of our users' most wanted features.

Specs to keep in mind when choosing a fitness tracker

The first one goes without saying, but it may be worth remembering some of the reasons that make battery life a crucial element to evaluate. First of all, who doesn't find charging or replacing batteries inconvenient? On top of that, imagine achieving a personal record at running or swimming... and not having it recorded because your fitness tracker is, well, dead. Tough luck, life goes on, but you may miss an important appointment if your activity tracker declares R.I.P. in the middle of the night, so I'd suggest saying on the safe side.

Moving on, many, but not all fitness trackers, are able to automatically detect actual workouts – and no, moving from the couch to the kitchen doesn't qualify as a workout, though your tracker should still count those steps. In most cases, users need to select their current activity from a list, which may include swimming, cycling, or even yoga and weightlifting. However, fitness trackers with an activity detection feature make it all even more convenient: they're able to identify the kind of workout a person is doing, so no further action must be taken on the user's side. See why I have my reasons to be in awe of wearable tech?

A fundamental feature for most, activity reports are generated based on data collected by the device. You can then check your results on an app or website, which helps you see the larger picture and find areas that need improvement – you might be sleeping too little, or your workout performance may have decreased, and activity reports may provide not only insight, but also motivation.

Heart rate monitoring is also a highly important feature for many of our users; of course, a fitness tracker cannot and should not substitute medical advice, but it can help you keep your heart rate average in check, and show if you're exaggerating a bit with your workouts.

I'm obviously biased toward the next feature: the smart alarm. It may not be a necessity for everyone, but I guess I've made my case when I shared that personal story.

Wrist notifications are a must for many people, as this feature allows you to pair your fitness tracker with your smartphone, and receive audio and/or vibrating alerts for calls and messages. Finally, IP67 certification, which assures that a device is dustproof and also water resistant when immersed in up to one meter of water, is essential for swimmers and may come handy for those who won't let go of their wearable tech even in the shower or bathtub. We'll actually show you some options that you can take way deeper than that...

How our top picks made the cut

We've taken into account not only our users' favorite devices, but also looked for fitness trackers that cater to needs that our readers want to be met by wearable tech.

A recap of the key specs:

  • Battery life
  • Activity detection
  • Activity reports
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Smart alarm
  • Wrist notifications
  • Dust protection and water resistance

Now a little less conversation, a little more action: let's dig into our selection of the 5 best fitness trackers!

  • Fitbit Alta HR
    1

    1. Fitbit Alta HR

    1,168 points

    Fitbit Alta HR

    This fitness tracker has consistently received positive reviews, which are well deserved. Standing in the middle of the typical price range for high-end wearable tech, the Fitbit Alta HR combines style and performance. This fitness tracker is perfect for those who don't want to look sporty at all times: its replaceable bands are available in plenty of colors and textures (including designer collections and posh 22k gold-plated options), so you can tailor the gadget according to your style and outfits. In terms of performance, the Fitbit Alta HR has a truly long-lasting battery life (an entire week), and caters to most, but not all of our highlighted features; sadly, it is not water resistant, and it doesn't have a smart alarm function, although it can track your sleep stages, so perhaps that is something that could be implemented in future firmware updates.

  • Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
    2

    2. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

    1,508 points

    Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

    One of the most pricey among our ultimate fitness trackers, Samsung's Gear Fit2 Pro packs all key specs. It is the most suitable fitness tracker for swimmers to date, with an impressive 50-meter water resistance and integration with the Speedo On app. Swimmers aren't the only ones to benefit, though: this tracker automatically detects and logs other activities, such as tennis and basketball playing, as well as dancing, and there are plenty of apps available to track your progress (MapMyRun, UA Record, Endomondo and many others*).  

    Another great feature is the Gear Fit2 Pro's compatibility with Spotify, even on offline mode – meaning you can leave your smartphone at home and still enjoy your favorite playlists and podcasts. While working out in smartphone-free mode, you'll still be able to keep track of your training routes (great for walks, jogs and runs), thanks to the device's inbuilt GPS.

    In terms of design, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro may be restrictive, depending on your individual needs; so far, there aren't options available apart from an all-black design and a black and red variant. You can, however, choose from two band sizes to find the best fit for your wrist.

    *App availability varies per region.

  • Misfit Ray
    3

    3. Misfit Ray

    995 points

    Misfit Ray

    A stylish bet at a reasonable price, the Misfit Ray includes most of the key specs we've selected for fitness trackers. With a discreet LED light instead of a display, it may as well be mistaken for an attractive piece of jewelry. Available in a great variety of colors, ranging from basic to super flashy, the Misfit Ray can also be acquired with a reflective band, which helps in terms of safety when running at night. This fitness tracker works with replaceable batteries, so while it can't be recharged, it'll do its job for up to four months (!) before you have to worry about new batteries. Sadly, the Misfit Ray lacks a heart rate monitor, but we feel that it makes up for it in everything else it has to offer – of course, it all comes down to your needs. Other than that, this sleek design piece basically does it all, even providing connection to smart household devices.

  • Garmin Vivosmart 3 (small / medium)
    4

    4. Garmin Vivosmart 3 (small / medium)

    63 points

    Garmin Vivosmart 3 (small / medium)

    The recently-released Garmin Vivosmart 3 is a powerful tool for both fitness addicts and for those who are looking for their zen (and nobody said a person can't be both). With a slim, discreet design, this fitness tracker is available in two sizes and in two colors – black and purple, though the purple variant is only available for the smaller size (you can check the large one here). Although the Vivosmart 3 does not have a smart alarm feature (bummer!), its fitness monitoring tools definitely make up for it: asides from registering steps, calories, sleep and all other specifics expected from a top fitness tracker, this one can calculate your fitness age (not sure I would like to know mine...), maximum amount of oxygen during intense exercise, as well as repetitions per exercise.

    By tracking heart rate variability, Garmin Vivosmart 3 is able to come up with a stress level calculation, but its wellness monitoring functions aren't there just for the bad news: the fitness tracker provides relaxation breathing techniques aimed at decreasing stress and upping your levels of chill. Who couldn't benefit from that?

  • Garmin Vivosport (small / medium)
    5

    5. Garmin Vivosport (small / medium)

    1,402 points

    Garmin Vivosport (small / medium)

    The Garmin Vivosport is a great option for anyone with a serious workout discipline – including swimmers, thanks to the tracker's whopping water resistance (up to 50m). With inbuilt GPS and a heart rate monitor, Garmin Vivosport keeps up with the brand's new wellness approach, which adds the features of stress-level monitoring and breathing exercises. Moreover, the Garmin Vivosport is equipped to automatically track various indoor and outdoor activities and to map out your runs – besides calculating distance, time, speed and pace, all of which you can check out on the Garmin Connect app.

    Garmin Vivosport's always-on touchscreen display can add more color to your fitness, and its responsive feature allows for clear reading even in direct sunlight. Available in two sizes (see large version) and in three different colors (availability depending upon size), this fitness tracker is preloaded with cardio and strength training activities, so even if you haven't gotten your workout game on yet, this can be just the motivation you need.

Top 5 fitness trackers: specs overview

Fitbit Alta HR
Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
Misfit Ray
Garmin Vivosmart 3 (small / medium)
Garmin Vivosport (small / medium)

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