Picking Choosing a fitness tracker is a highly individual decision. Unlike most devices, these are designed to be worn all the time. While many of us have similar health goals, our bodies and requirements are uniquely unique. It’s possible that the fitness tracker that everyone else loves won’t work for you, and vice versa.
That’s why purchasing a fitness tracker can be difficult. But don’t be concerned. Here are a few things to think about while choosing a fitness tracker.
FIND YOUR “WHY” AND GO FROM THERE
The phrase “finding you’re why” is often used by fitness instructors, but it’s also the first question you should ask yourself before purchasing a fitness tracker. Why are you interested in a fitness tracker in the first place? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to run a marathon? Do you want to improve your sleeping habits? Fitness trackers might be motivating, but they won’t assist if you don’t know what you want to achieve.
It’s easy to figure out what characteristics and features you should prioritize once you know why. Let’s imagine your main motivation is to train for a marathon. That means you’ll need something that can measure GPS distance, monitor heart rate, and has a long battery life, regardless of skill level.
UNDERSTANDING SENSORS AND FITNESS JARGON
Spec sheets and fitness lingo might be confusing. However, no matter how creative a company’s marketing is, it ultimately comes back to the same basic sensors and measurements.
To begin, all fitness trackers detect motion using a mix of accelerometers and gyroscopes. Some will include altimeters and barometers to track elevation and the number of stairs ascended in a day.
A photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor is found in practically all current fitness trackers. Green LEDs are used to measure heart rate by shining light through your skin. There are also a growing number of trackers with red LEDs or SpO2 sensors to monitor blood oxygen levels.
A few extra sensors will be included in more complex or specialized trackers. If a tracker has EKG capabilities, for example, that means it has an electrode. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 contains a three-in-one sensor that detects heart rate, does EKGs, and analyses body composition. The Fitbit Sense also contains an electrodermal activity sensor, which detects even the tiniest amounts of sweat on your skin to assess your stress levels. The Oura Ring, on the other hand, features body temperature sensors that can help you determine how well you sleep.
Some fitness trackers will also opt for built-in GPS, which means the watch can directly connect to GPS systems without your phone. Others will use your phone’s GPS.
The sensors in a device will partially determine the data you can track. However, some companies have developed more complex algorithms to offer in-depth analysis. You can generally sniff out the more full-featured trackers by the number of sensors they have and the type of metrics they track.