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How to choose a fitness tracker



Fitness trackers are very popular today for a good reason. They will not only assist you in performing workouts such as running, swimming or cycling, but will also help you and your healthcare professionals understand your medical situations, such as: B. the detection of irregular heart rhythms. In addition, they can be helpful in everyday activities such as weather reports and calendar notifications.

Buying a new fitness tracker can be a daunting task. There is a wide selection of brands and prices. Fortunately, you can use a handful of important points to narrow down your choices.

All About the Sensors

The basic job of these devices is to track their physical activity. They accomplish this by recording and interpreting data generated by a variety of sensors. Twenty years ago, these sensors weighed several pounds and cost thousands of dollars. Parts today are the size of a grain of sand and cost a few cents.

The base sensor is an accelerometer that detects the linear acceleration. As a rule, three of them are configured as one unit and cover all three axes. To capture a radial (rotating) motion, a tracker requires gyroscopes: again, one for each axis. Some trackers also have magnetometers that sense magnetic fields, giving you an idea of ​​which way is clear. Not all trackers have all three types of motion sensors, but more sensors mean better results and more accurate data.

The other common sensor type in a tracker is photoplethysmography. This technology combines one or more LED lights with light sensors mounted on the back of the device. The light is reflected by blood and tissue, and the amount of reflected light changes as the heartbeat pumps blood through the vessels.


Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge Most workouts feature a timer feature that allows you to set an alarm for a specific interval or use a stopwatch to track your session. For many trackers, you can also specify your exercise activity, eg. Walking, running, swimming or cycling. Some devices, like the Fitbit Charge 3, even automatically detect the type of activity at startup.

When it comes to swimming, many trackers are now waterproof. If you want to carry your tracker with water activities (or under the shower), pay attention to the IP protection class. IP67 means that the unit can be immersed up to one meter deep in water for 30 minutes, while IP68 is designed for depths greater than one meter. Many trackers – like the Misfit Shine 2 – are now waterproof to a depth of 50 meters.

To get the most out of your workout, some trackers also offer heart rate variability VO2 max and recovery rate. These features can even be found in Bluetooth headphones like the Jabra Elite Sport. Runners and cyclists may want a tracker with GPS tracking without having to take your phone. The Garmin Vivosport has a built-in GPS receiver.

Tracking Your Health

One feature that has received much attention lately is the ability of the device to monitor ECG data (electrocardiogram). This refers to the actual electrical waveforms of your heartbeat. These devices may even warn you if they detect a potentially dangerous heart arrhythmia, such as atrial fibrillation. The Withings Move ECG is a device that contains this feature.

Tracker can contain a variety of health features. This includes sleep tracking, hydration, food intake tracking, women's health data, and memories of getting up and moving from time to time.


Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

You want more than just fitness?

Almost all fitness bands indicate the time, and almost all smartwatches track your activity to your taste, budget, and how much more the device should do next to pursuing activities.

Trackers are great for sports enthusiasts, but the average consumer needs more if the tracker is to become an integral part of their daily activities. One study reports that more than half of people who own a fitness tracker do not use it anymore.

This is where smartwatches come into play. While the primary purpose of fitness trackers is logically fitness, you can use smartwatches to upload apps for a variety of fitness and non-fitness related activities. In addition, smartwatches offer a variety of watches, the ability to answer and answer calls, and to hear audio. Many of these features may overlap (there are fitness trackers that also have some of these features), but you'll get a lot more features with a smartwatch for a price increase. For example, the Apple Watch Series 4 incorporates a mobile phone circuit so you can leave your cell phone at home and continue to make and receive calls. The Fitbit Versa 2 features wireless payment and built-in support for the Amazon Alexa voice assistant (although we think it's a better fitness tracker than a smartwatch).

Also note

The battery life is a problem for some people. Most smartwatches keep a few days between charges and some fitness bands can run for a week, but you may find that this too may be impractical. One solution is the Misfit Shine 2; It does not charge at all, but uses a replaceable (and inexpensive) coin battery that lasts up to six months. And the recently announced Garmin Fenix ​​6 smartwatch includes a solar cell that uses ambient light to extend battery life between charges.

Another consideration concerns operating system support. Most devices use Bluetooth connections to exchange data with a smartphone. In almost all cases, the company offers apps for Apple iOS and Android phones. There are exceptions; The Apple Watch works as expected only with iPhones. In general, however, your Android or iOS phone will work with most fitness trackers.

Meeting of Choice

Prices range from less than $ 70 for a well-equipped fitness band up to $ 1,500 or more for a fancy smartwatch. Most users will find an excellent selection with a number of features that suit their needs for $ 70 to $ 200 for a fitness band or watch. Choose the right one, and it's less likely to end up in the back of your kitchen drawer after six months.

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