Fitness trackers are great. They are currently a $96 billion market, used by over 1 in 5 Americans. But with the rise of smartwatches, do dedicated fitness bands still have relevance?
These wearables help you count calories burned, floors climbed, and steps taken. Some even go as far as monitoring your heart rate and oxygen levels in your bloodstream. And if you invest in a model that features a built-in GPS system, you can measure distance and map your route on the go.
Take Fitbit, for example. Since 2009, they’ve pulled in resources and cutting-edge tech to integrate premium features into their activity trackers. Premiums like female health tracking found in the Fitbit for women have made these devices quite a big deal.
But then here’s the thing:
Fitness trackers, are they worth it, in this age, a double-edged sword affair. For some of us, these devices are all end source of motivation during workouts. For others, even the most popular picks, like Fitbit Charge 3 and Letscom, end up being nothing but some kind of fashion watch after only a few weeks of use.
This begs the question:
Do I need a fitness tracker?
I’ll try as much as possible to answer this question. In the end, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not a fitness tracker is something you’d spend your money on.
Looking for a fitness tracker? Check out our review on some top models to help you stay active
What Do Fitness Trackers Do?
First things first, what does science say about fitness trackers? Check out in our infographic below:
To determine whether a fitness tracker is worth the money or otherwise, it’s important to understand what they do.
And let me be honest with you on one thing:
As someone who often cares more about performance over tech jargons, I’m less concerned about how fitness trackers work and more interested in the benefits they have to offer.
To give you my rough definition, though, a fitness tracker is simply a smart device designed to help you track your workout and monitor your performance over time. And while they’re popular among adults, many brands have gone as far as to make sure kids’ fitness watches are also available.
As far as performance is concerned, there’s quite a lot that an activity watch can do. But it’s important that we focus only on the most essential functions.
1. Tracking Movements
At the very least, every fitness tracker features a built-in accelerometer, which counts every step you take. Some advanced models have gyroscopes, which spin in any direction on a fixed axis to determine if you’re active or seated.
Some fitness trackers feature barometers, which are ideal for determining the number of stairs a person climbs. In addition, some models feature built-in GPS systems, which make them ideal for route mapping when cycling and location tracking.
2. Heart Rate Monitor
Not every fitness tracker has a heart rate monitor. But those that do, like Fitbit Alta HR and a Fitbit alternative like Lintelek, play an important role in helping you know your pulse rate when sleeping and during workout.
Some models have advanced heart rate sensors, which go as far as monitoring and displaying heart rate zone depending on the intensity of your workout. This goes a very long way to help you optimize the intensity of your workout every time.
Apart from monitoring your pulse, the heart rate sensor is also ideal as far as counting calories is concerned. Some activity trackers even have apps that can count how many calories you consume. And this is important because it helps you to optimize your diet depending on your fitness goals.
In an age where many of us like to know how many hours we slept and whether we’re getting enough sleep, fitness trackers are downright a big deal.
But get this:
Not all fitness trackers have a sleep monitor built-in. And even those that have won’t be 100% accurate. They still play their part nonetheless.
Some fitness tracker features very simple sleep monitor, which only shows you the number of hours you slept. However, some feature advanced sleep trackers, which means they’re good at not only measuring how long you sleep but also analyzing sleep quality.
Take Fitbit Charge 2, for example. This device is good at analyzing sleep quality, going as far as recording time of REM, light sleep, and deep sleep. It also factors in how long you were awake at night.
To take this even further, some activity watches can even tell you if you slept fewer hours than you should or more than you deserve.
4. Goal Setting
One of the things I love about fitness trackers is that they can help you set and work on your fitness goals. This is particularly useful if you want to take the workout seriously.
Models like Fitbit include on-screen coaching, which brings you multiple workout options right on your wrist. The goal here is to make sure you get a guided workout fast, so you never have to spend a lot of time checking out workout ideas on the internet.
5. Reminder to Move
One of the best features of a fitness tracker is the reminder to move.
To be clear, this premium isn’t built-in in all fitness trackers. So if you need one that features it, I recommend checking Fitbit or Garmin models. In particular, go with the Fitbit Alta HR or Garmin Vivosport if you’re interested in a functional fitness tracker with a reminder-to-move feature.
But how exactly does the reminder to move work, anyway?
For starters, the feature detects inactivity for about 60 minutes. If it fails to detect movement for about the same time, it will signal that it’s time to move. And you can do this by simply feeding the device with some steps.
The goal is to feed the watches with as many steps as possible, with 210 being the minimum number of steps that I’d personally recommend.
At the end of the day, the reminder to move is a handy feature for those who’re trying to get on the health and fitness track as quickly as possible.
Should I Get Fitness Tracker?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. At the end of the day, it depends on you. If you love what fitness trackers can do, and you’re confident that you can benefit from them, then it’s okay to buy one.
First, know what you’d like to do with a fitness tracker. Do you want to count steps? Or maybe you need to monitor sleep and heart rate during a workout? Ask yourself these questions and more, and you’ll have an answer on whether you need a fitness tracker or otherwise.