Anyone with a belt and a mirror can tell if they have put on weight or lost a kilo or two, but others believe the only way to live a healthy lifestyle is with a gadget attached to their wrist. So if you are going to invest in a fitness tracker, you’ll want the functionality you need without spending extra money on peripheral capabilities you won’t use.
Here are some tips on what to consider when selecting a tracker:
Measuring steps is the simplest function if you’re looking to increase your activity and incorporate healthy behaviour changes into your life. Steps are easy to measure and record. Gadgets such as Fitbit allow you to share data socially so you can inform others or set up some healthy competition. Research has shown that people who use fitness devices in social contexts get more out of them and and stick with using them.
Counting calories is important if you’re trying to lose weight, maintain or gain weight, or ensure you’re refueling properly after an intense workout.
Any device designed to be worn full-time will estimate your total calorie expenditure for any given day, from both non-exercise caloric burn and workouts. You will have to provide your calorie intake information to get a summary of your net daily calorie consumption. You can track your calories over time and manage your weight accordingly.
Your heart rate is the single most important piece of information a device can provide because it can be used for so many things — accurately gauging the intensity of your workout, monitoring your readiness for a workout, and even helping decide how much food you should consume after a workout.
While wrist models are generally more convenient and comfortable, the most accurate and reliable devices are those that measure your heart rate through a chest strap. If you’re going to be relying on monitoring your heart rate to design and track your workouts, you’ll want use a chest strap and link it to your other device.
GPS functionality on a device significantly increases its cost, so you need to decide if you really need this function. A GPS on your tracker can be fun but not worth the extra expense if you are only looking for basic fitness metrics. The distance indicators on non-GPS fitness trackers are estimates of steps, while GPS functionality tells you exactly how far you ran, hiked or biked, and also tracks your vertical gain. If you’re interested, you can also track big-picture data like how many vertical feet you skied in a winter, or climbed on a bike in the summer.
Many step trackers also track sleep. They do this by looking at movement and patterns in heart rate. While duration of sleep can be important for recovery, it’s probably less important than knowing you had at least eight hours of sleep a night. It’s more of a nice-to-have than have-to-have.
If you’re planning on using the device for swim workouts, you’ll obviously want to ensure it’s completely waterproof. Some are merely water-resistant.
If you can’t miss a call or a message while working out, or just want to know at a glance whether you need to stop and pull out your phone, this function could be handy. But if you carry your phone with you, then it’s probably an unnecessary function.
The alarm functions on fitness devices vary, but a lot of the newer fitness trackers feature gentle alarms that wake you with a silent vibration at the wrist.
No fitness tracker will do much for you if it doesn’t get a lot of use. Be sure to pick something that’s in line with your goals and isn’t overly complex. Whether you’re just trying to boost your overall fitness, or are training hard towards a specific goal, using a fitness device will help you get you there faster and more efficiently.
Check out these simple get fit quick exercises for busy people.