The 10 Best Fitness Trackers for Your Money
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Our Tech Editor explains what to look for when shopping for a fitness tracker.
Keeping track of fitness goals can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to keep up with your steps, calories, and other wellness data. Adding a fitness tracker to your workout routine is a smart way to make keeping up with your goals easier. Fitness trackers have come a long way since the simple pedometer. But with so many options out there, how do you tell which fitness tracker is best for you? That’s where we come in. As a tech editor, I know which features are worth it, and which to skip.
On top of keeping you healthy, fitness trackers make fun tech gifts for just about anybody. Fitness trackers are only one part of the healthy equation though. Make sure you pair them up with the best walking shoes for men, and women and the best workout shorts to make working out feel even better.
What is a fitness tracker?
Fitness trackers are wearable tech devices that keep track of various parts of your fitness lifestyle. This can include simply the number of steps you take each day or more complex data like your sleep patterns and oxygen levels. Ultimately, these pieces of tech can be used to help build a healthier lifestyle, where you’re more aware of the activity levels you’re getting, which can help you reach your fitness goals each day and over time. A lot of fitness trackers come in the form of wearable watches or bands. Some of the best fitness trackers can also be purchased in other wearable devices, like goggles or snap-on accessories. Note that you usually need to connect the fitness tracker to an app on your smartphone to read results.
Do fitness trackers actually work?
Fitness trackers aren’t a magical piece of tech that’s going to instantly transform you. Instead, think of them as tools to help you stay on track with your fitness goals. Fitness trackers do their job by helping you stay motivated and informed. You can set goals, like how many steps you want to take, or even how many calories you want to burn. And, each time you hit one of those goals, you’ll be motivated to continue working towards them. Fitness trackers aren’t going to be the answer for everyone. But, if you thrive by completing goals and keeping track of data, fitness trackers give you a leg up in the battle to stay in shape.
Perks of using a fitness tracker
The biggest perk to using a fitness tracker is seeing health data that shapes your wellness goals. It’s easy to set those goals and resolutions, but keeping up with progress can be difficult. The best fitness trackers give you the necessary tools to not only keep up with goals but to change or add to them as you progress. This lets you keep an eye on a constant stream of data—a great motivating factor.
Which is the most accurate fitness tracker?
Not all fitness trackers are created equal, and if you’re looking for accuracy above all else, then Fitbit trackers are your best bet. As one of Reader’s Digest’s most trusted brands, Fitbit boasts an excellent accuracy rate no matter what kind of terrain you’re walking on. The Fitbit Charge 5 is one of the best fitness trackers you’ll find out there. Built-in GPS works alongside the tracker’s other features to help deliver precision accuracy no matter what kind of terrain you’re working with.
What to look for when buying a fitness tracker
Ultimately, you’re going to want to look for a fitness tracker that fits your individual needs. Swimmers will want to look for fitness trackers that are fully waterproof. Runners should look for features that help them set pacing goals and monitor heart rate. Before you buy the best fitness tracker for you, decide what kind of features you need, and what kind of activities you want to track. You’ll also need to decide where on your body you’re comfortable wearing the device. Then, you can find a tracker that delivers on all the needs you have, and some extra benefits, too.
When evaluating the best fitness trackers, we looked at several key factors. First, what features does the tracker offer that makes it stand out in that particular category? Second, we looked at how long the battery lasts. Because fitness trackers help us keep up with our own progress, it’s important to ensure you’re never missing out because you needed to charge your device.
Next, we looked at the price and the features that the tracker offers for that price. Just because a fitness tracker is loaded with features doesn’t make it worthy of being included in a specific category. Instead, we wanted to ensure that every tracker we recommend delivers consistent features, strong battery life, and isn’t going to break the bank.
Finally, we looked at how accurate the tracker was across the different activities that it corresponds with. How well does it track heart rate or sleep? How often does it update progress within its companion app? All of this is important to picking the best fitness tracker to help you reach your fitness goals.
Best overall fitness tracker
Fitbit Charge 5
When it comes to fitness trackers, Fitbit continues to lead the charge. With the Fitbit Charge 5, you get a fantastic fitness tracker that offers onboard GPS and extreme accuracy. This tracker is both well-designed and easy to use at the same time. Top all of that off with excellent battery life, straightforward navigation buttons, and Fitbit’s superior companion app, and you’ve got a winning formula. The only real downside here is the lack of customizable clock faces, and a shorter exercise list that we’d love to see get some additions. Pick up the Fitbit Charge 4 if you want to save a little extra money and take advantage of many of the same features—though the display screen is smaller and less bright.
What we like about the Fitbit Charge 5
- Fantastic companion app
- Full-color screen is easy to read outdoors
- Electrodermal activity sensor senses stress levels
- Straightforward navigation
- Onboard GPS
- Extremely accurate
- Reader’s Digest most trusted brand pick
What to consider before purchasing the Fitbit Charge 5
- Can’t customize clock faces
- The exercise shortcut list could use improvements
- Requires a membership to use all the features
Best budget fitness tracker
Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6
When it comes to finding a budget fitness tracker, there are a lot of options out there. Most of the time, though, you trade accuracy and features for a lower price tag. That isn’t the case with the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6. This fitness tracker comes with a super bright display, as well as plethora of smart features like 30 sport modes and a battery that charges fully in two hours. This is a cheaper tracker that helps you keep up with your blood oxygen, steps, and heart rate? Look no further.
What we like about the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6
- Very affordable price point
- Heart rate and oxygen monitoring
- Super bright display is easy to see
- 100 different displays to choose from
What to consider before purchasing the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6
No on-board GPS
Best fitness tracker for sleep monitoring
Fitbit Versa 3
Getting the right amount of sleep is vital, especially when you’re working towards your fitness goals. It’s important to ensure you give your body all the time it needs to repair itself and recover from exercise. That’s why sleep tracking is such a big deal. With the Fitbit Versa 3, you get all the fitness bells and whistles, plus access to a ridiculously detailed sleep analysis every time you take a nap. The battery life is also exceptional, allowing for six days of usage without having to charge it. That means you can stay on top of your sleeping patterns with even fewer interruptions.
What we like about the Fitbit Versa 3
- Detailed sleep analysis
- Fantastic battery life
- Can create custom training programs designed for you
What to consider before purchasing the Fitbit Versa 3
- Custom programs require a subscription
Best fitness tracker for runners
Whoop Strap 4.0
Whoop garnered a lot of its attention with the Whoop Strap 4.0’s simplistic design and celebrity endorsements. But, don’t let those endorsements scare you off. If you love running and want something that’s minimalistic, yet feature-packed, then the Whoop Strap 4.0 is the best fitness tracker for you. It comes with a detailed companion app and multiple band options. It’s slim, which means you’ll never have to worry about it throwing off your runs or distracting from your best joggers. The included biometric trackers keep track of pretty much everything you need to know about your body, all without bringing distractions to your runs. The only downside here is that the Whoop Strap 4.0 requires a monthly subscription.
What we like about the Whoop Strap 4.0
- Slim, lightweight design is perfect for runners
- Provides coaching feedback
- Sleek and stylish design without any of the distractions other fitness trackers bring
- Instant tracking of biometrics like skin temperature and blood oxygen
What to consider before purchasing the Whoop Strap 4.0
- Have to use app to check progress
- Requires monthly subscription plan
Best fitness tracker for swimmers
Garmin Swim 2
Finding a fitness tracker specifically designed with your sport in mind can be tough, but Garmin hit the nail on the head with the Garmin Swim 2. This sleek and stylish tracker offers easy configurations. All you need to do is enter the length of the pool you’re swimming, tap in a few more details, and you’re ready to start tracking your workout. Some newer models of the fitness tracker also come with a multisport mode, which lets you track your workouts in other sports, too.
What we like about the Garmin Swim 2
- Counts strokes, distance, and average pace
- Differentiates between pool and open water swims
- Easy to configure and use
- Wrist-based heart rate—no chest strap required
- Completely waterproof
What to consider before purchasing the Garmin Swim 2
- Multisport mode only available in later models
Best fitness tracker for iPhone users
Apple Watch SE
If you want a fitness tracker that pairs perfectly with your iPhone, check out the Apple Watch SE. This more affordable version of Apple’s long-running and highly mimicked smartwatch series blends all the features you want from a smartwatch with some of the most important features of a fitness tracker. You won’t find some of the more high-end fitness features like blood oxygen or ECG on the Apple Watch SE, but you can keep track of your calories, steps, elevation, and even how long you’ve been standing or sitting. This is one of the best fitness trackers for those who want a stylish but functional wearable watch without focusing too much on the tracking part.
Those who want more fitness features can pick up the more expensive Apple Watch 7 Series for additional features, like blood oxygen monitoring and a crack-resistant display.
What we like about the Apple Watch SE
- Pairs easily with your iPhone
- Blends health tracking features into smartwatch ecosystem
- Offers multiple goal options and ways to track progress
- More affordable than competing Apple smartwatches
What to consider before purchasing the Apple Watch SE
- Not as full-featured as some standard fitness trackers—especially without an iPhone
- Some fitness tracking elements may not be as accurate as others
Best fitness tracking for Android users
Samsung Galaxy Watch4
The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 is to Android phones what the Apple Watch SE is to iPhones. This Android-centric smartwatch blends a ton of helpful fitness and smartphone features. Keep track of your heart rate, ECG, blood oxygen, and more, without having to invest in a separate fitness tracker. For bonus features, pair the device with a Samsung phone, which unlocks even more fitness-related options. Google and Samsung made some serious leaps forward with Wear OS 3, and Samsung brings a lot of that potential to the Galaxy Watch4.
What we like about the Samsung Galaxy Watch4
- Wear OS 3 support
- Heart rate monitoring, ECG, and more
- Easily auto-detects workouts
What to consider before purchasing the Samsung Galaxy Watch4
- Some features only available on Samsung phones
- Not compatible with iPhones
Best fitness tracker for outdoor users
Garmin Fenix 6S Pro
The Garmin Fenix 6S Pro is the perfect addition to any outdoor lover’s attire. Complete with multiple sports modes, this fitness watch works for just about anything you plan to do. It also comes with Garmin’s top-tier GPS support, as well as detailed satellite navigation. This makes it easy for you to get around whether you’re in the city or out in the woods on a hiking trail. If battery life is a concern, then you can always upgrade to one of the more expensive models which include solar-power support.
What we like about the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro
- Fantastic satellite navigation system
- Solar-powered variants
- Multiple sports modes
What to consider before purchasing the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro
Older models don’t support advanced features
Best low profile fitness tracker
Fitbit Inspire 2
The Fitbit Inspire 2 works worn as a wristband or clipped onto just about any part of your clothing. The simple design makes it an elegant option for those who want to keep track of their fitness goals without having to wear a bulky tracker or watch. It also offers up to 10 days of battery life, and the multiple wristband colors allow you to blend it with just about any attire in your closet. At just over an ounce, it’s lightweight enough to fit inside your sports bra or clipped onto the inside of your best leggings, which makes this low-profile fitness tracker ideal.
What we like about the Fitbit Inspire 2
- Easily wear on wrist or clip it to clothing
- Lightweight for constant wear without bulk
- 10 days of battery life
- Simple design fits any style
- Water-resistant to 50 meters
What to consider before purchasing the Fitbit Inspire 2
Limited colors and band support
Best fitness tracker for kids
Fitbit Ace 3
Teaching kids about fitness early on is a smart way to help them stay active and in shape. The Fitbit Ace 3 is the latest offering in Fitbit’s kid-friendly lineup, and it brings plenty of features to a design that kids will love. Multiple bright and colorful wristbands, a long battery life, and easy-to-use navigation settings that kids over the age of 6 will find exceptional. The included bedtime reminders, alarms, and other parental features also allow you to take full control of how your kids interact with their fitness device. Fitbit has a family account, which you can use to sync up these kiddo fitness trackers with your own adult version.
What we like about the Fitbit Ace 3
- Animated clock face is fun for kids
- Interchangeable straps and colorful design
- Long battery life
- Bedtime reminders and alarms
What to consider before purchasing the Fitbit Ace 3
Some complaints of flimsy bands
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