A fitness tracker can help prevent your 2018 New Year resolutions from falling to the wayside and encourage you to crush your goals instead. There are a number of different considerations to keep in mind when choosing a fitness tracker. Do you want to just track your steps or measure your heartrate as well? Do you need something waterproof for swimming or is that a feature you can do without? For those who run outdoors, GPS capability to record your routes accurately could be desirable. Measuring not just number of steps taken but also flights of stairs climbed can encourage users to take the stairs more rather than relying on elevators, though not every tracker has this capability.
Monitoring diet is crucial for weight management and overall health, so a fitness tracker that allows you to input this information is important. Sleep has also been found to affect weight and of course your health, and some trackers will automatically measure your sleep length and quality. We've also considered how much information each tracker itself shows, though many users aren't bothered by the need to check in with a smartphone app every time they want an update. Most people don't want to have to charge their tracker on a daily basis, so finding a tracker with good battery life was important to us. Design of the tracker itself may contribute to users wearing them more, and we wanted any accompanying apps to be user-friendly. Finally, we also considered the price of these trackers when making our recommendations.
Best Overall: Garmin Vivosport
The Garmin Vivosport offers a lot of great features for a fitness tracker. Activity tracking features include a step counter, calories burned, floors climbed, distance traveled, and intensity minutes. Its Move IQ feature can detect your movement pattern to identify whether you are biking, using an elliptical, or running, among other exercises. A move bar will display on your tracker if you haven't moved in a while to encourage you to get out of your chair, and the tracker also learns your activity level to automatically assign a daily step goal. It can be a bit bulky at 21 mm wide and 10.9 mm thick due to the screen size but many like that it's easy to read.
Best Smartwatch for Tracking Fitness: Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch Series 3 is definitely the smart watch to get if you are interested in fitness. You can track workouts in the Exercise app, though you'll need to manually quit the activity once you've finished. The battery life isn't as good as other trackers – only 18 hours. It also can be a bit bulky at 33.3 mm wide and 11.4 mm thick but the screen gives you a lot of functions that of course are not possible with a simple, screen-less design such as the Fitbit Flex 2. Plus, since it looks like a traditional watch at first glance, you may be more likely to wear it on a day-to-day basis than other fitness trackers. You'll need an iPhone if you want to use this watch. It's expensive for just a fitness tracker, but if you are planning on getting a smart watch anyway, this is the one you want.
Best Fitness Tracker With Smartphone-Like Capabilities: Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is not a smartwatch like the Apple Watch, but still offers a number of features that move it beyond the typical fitness tracker category. It has a reported 5-day batter life which is much better than the Apple Watch, though still a bit less than 7-day battery lives of the other trackers we reviewed. Unfortunately, many people have found the battery life estimate to be overly generous and that the tracker actually tends to need charging every other day. The bigger screen makes it bulkier than the Fitbit options we've reviewed here, but of course you get increased capabilities with such a screen.
Best for Budget: Fitbit Flex 2
The Fitbit Flex 2 is a great budget pick, though of course it does not have all the bells and whistles of other fitness trackers we've reviewed. The one possible downside of the minimalist design is that it doesn't have a screen so you really need to check your progress in the app. The band, however, is equipped with five tiny lights that will indicate how close you are to meeting your step goal with a simple tap on the band. It does not offer heart rate monitoring or GPS tracking like some other trackers do, but not everyone wants or needs those features. It does not track flights of stairs climbed, but this tracker is swim-proof, which is great news if you are into water sports. The band can be a little tricky to clasp at first but testers quickly got used to it. It tracks your sleep, letting you know how long you slept, the quality of sleep, and you can even set a bedtime goal. A silent alarm can be set to wake you up gently. You can also use it to track your food intake to stay on top of nutrition goals.
Most Stylish Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Alta HR
When it comes to style, the Fibit Alta HR is our favorite tracker with heart rate monitoring capabilities thanks to being able to change out the tracker with different bracelets. Unlike the Fitbit Flex 2, the Alta HR has a heart rate monitor so you can meet your target heartrate while working out. There is no GPS capability, nor does the Alta HR track stairs climbed, so keep that in mind if those features are important to you. The screen does not show as much information as some other trackers due to its small size, so you'll still primarily need to check the app on your smartphone. You can receive notifications for incoming calls, texts, and calendar alerts. It will also remind you to keep moving throughout the day to reach a 250 step per hour goal. The Fitbit Alta HR is not waterproof, so you won't be able to wear it to track your swims. You can use the app to track your food intake.
While everyone is going to have different personal needs when it comes to their fitness tracker, there are some basics you should keep in mind. When evaluating these trackers, we considered quality, price, size/bulkiness, accuracy, and ease of use. We liked the Fitbit app best for ease of use and the ability to connect with friends to challenge and motivate one another. We noted in our reviews when each tracker featured a heart-rate monitor, GPS tracking, or is waterproof so that you can choose the one that best monitors the type of exercise you favor and that will help you meet your goals. While each of the trackers above offer great qualities and features, we found the Garmin Vivosport to be the best tracker overall.