Does it seem like everyone you know is wearing a fitness tracker bracelet these days? Though these intelligent devices seem like a super-smart way to keep up with your fitness goals, do they actually work? Are they really worth the money, or are they just the latest fitness trend that will soon be replaced with something else? We’ll show you what the data says about how to find the best fitness tracker, and highlight some of the key options out there right now to give you the best bang for your buck…
When picking an activity tracker, there’s a lot to consider, depending on your goals and what features are most important to you. The new wave of activity trackers offer much more than just counting steps. If measuring your heart rate during exercise is a must-have, many current trackers offer that capability. Others measure the quality of your sleep, and let you log your daily calorie consumption.
There’s lots of possibilities, so before you pull out your wallet, let’s start with the basics so you can figure out if a fitness tracker is the best option for you…
What’s a fitness tracker? A device usually worn on the wrist (though they also have clip-on and even ring versions) that measures important data (such as steps taken, running distance, heart rate, calories burned, sleep patterns, swim laps and more) to help improve your health and fitness efforts.
How Do Activity Trackers Work?
Measures motion – Without getting too techy, most of these devices contain special technology that tracks your movement in every direction, and some can even measure orientation and rotation. The sensors can measure details such as the speed, frequency, length and intensity of your movements and sense patterns over time.(1)
Gages altitude – Another thing some devices can do is measure your altitude (great if your hiking up a mountain or climbing stairs and want to know your progress). The more sensors your tracker has, the more accurate the data will be.
Generates useful data– The information the device gets is collected and converted into steps and other activity info. It’s then used to get additional information, such as accurate calorie and sleep info, although there may be a little “guesswork” involved in the process, depending on the sophistication of the tracker.
Can Fitness Bands Really Help You Lose Weight?
It turns out the measure of whether or not an activity tracker can help you lose weight is actually up to you, and the practices you put into place after starting to wear one. Research shows that many people eventually give up the use of their tracker, but there are things you can do to keep the motivation from going stale. (2)
According to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the key to accomplishing weight loss with your fitness tracker is to set daily or weekly goals for yourself. The study found that those who didn’t set goals while wearing the devices actually decreased their physical activity.
The study tracked the steps of more than 400 healthy adults (mostly office workers) over the course of six months. Those with set goals (like reaching a certain number of steps each day, or doing 2-3 hours of physical activity every week) saw significant boosts in their physical health. However, the other group without the goals thought their physical activity had increased, even though it had decreased.
Tips for Increasing Weight Loss Success
Along with setting specific, reasonable goals for yourself, here are some additional tips to getting the best fitness tracker to aid in your weight loss efforts: (3)
- When you first start using your tracker, observe your usual movements. Then set a goal, (such as a step goal), that’s slightly higher than your normal activity. Once you hit that goal, make another one a bit higher. This makes goal attainment more manageable and allows you to celebrate your successes along the way.
- Don’t get down on yourself if you have an “off” day and don’t reach your goal. Instead, use it as an opportunity to look at all the days you did reach your goal, quickly getting back on track the following day.
- Don’t use the tracker as an excuse to eat an unhealthy diet. Instead, use it in conjunction with other healthy habits, which work hand in hand.
- Start a friendly competition with others you know in the fitness trackers’ phone app… Competing with others may be just the motivation you need each day to hit your goal.
- Start strong… Don’t begin using your tracker at a time when you know you won’t be invested wholeheartedly (such as right before a vacation or when you’re feeling under the weather). Instead, wait until you’re ready to focus on healthier lifestyle habits and have a clear mindset for your goals.
3 of the Best Activity Trackers Available Now
Though the number of fitness band options available right now can seem overwhelming, many of them offer similar features, with slight adjustments per device. Beyond capabilities, much of it comes down to whether or not you like the look of the tracker as well as the phone app it pairs with, along with how much you’re willing to pay.
During our research looking at best fitness tracker reviews, we came across 3 activity trackers with killer ratings that also offer some unique opportunities for weight loss. One of them may just be the best fitness tracker for you…
Fitbit Charge 3
About: A great “everyday” fitness tracker that’s both attractive and functional, with interchangeable straps so you can dress it up or down.
Key Features: Sleek and sporty-looking; long battery life (7 days); improved heart rate sensors; waterproof (safe for swimming).
Weight Loss Highlight: Fitbit has a great phone app that pairs to the device which now features female health tracking along with in-depth sleep tracking. When it comes to healthy lifestyle habits, getting a good night’s rest is essential to shedding pounds. It turns out getting enough Zzz’s helps reduce cravings, boost metabolism, balance hormones and more).
About: For the fitness warrior that excels in running and swimming, this slightly-bulky, ultra-sporty fitness tracker is great for long runs and tracking your fitness goals.
Key Features: Built in GPS; large screen; great battery life (4 days or 10 hours with GPS); smart notifications; advanced step-tracking capabilities, waterproof (safe for swimming).
Weight Loss Highlight: Great for phone-free exercising, which is perfect for those days you want to be outdoors. This tracker watch allows you to listen to music while you exercise, which is motivating and can help you burn more calories. Plus, it has a long battery life that can last 10 hours with GPS. So you can even go for a long hike or run and still get tracking and music benefits.
About: We couldn’t resist including this totally unique fitness tracker that moves away from the bracelet/watch style, and takes tracking to your finger. This stylish, discrete tracker won’t get in the way of your clothing, and will match pretty much every outfit you own (coming in Silver, Slate Gray or Rose Gold).
Key Features: Tracks steps along with active minutes, heart rate, sleep and calories; includes convenient keychain charger; waterproof (can swim with it); attractive, unique ring design.
Weight Loss Highlight: Whereas the Fitbit encourages users to hit 10,000 steps per day, the Motiv Ring goes a different direction, using the American Heart Association’s recommendation to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Since it tracks both (active minutes and steps), you can keep switching up your goals, keeping things fresh and exciting.
Finding the Best Fitness Tracker for You
The bottom line with a fitness tracker is to make sure you get the one that best fits your preferences and lifestyle… And don’t assume that having one will immediately lead to greater health or weight loss success. Ultimately, it all comes down to your lifestyle habits… When you eat clean, fit in exercise, and get plenty of water and rest, the best fitness tracker (combined with set goals), may enhance weight loss progress and increase health and vitality.