The best Fitbit or activity tracking device can make your quest for fitness fun. It can be a powerful coach and motivator and really open your eyes to your activity level.
However, the wearable fitness tracker market is flooded. When every company has released a tracker, how do you know which is best for you? – Here are six questions to ask yourself.
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Six Questions to Ask to Choose Your Best Wearable Fitness Tracker
Question One: What Are Your Goals?
It may help to consider whether your goals are to lose weight, gain weight, increase daily activity or track a specific type of workout.
Most well-designed trackers will work for multiple goals, but some may work better for some goals than others. Here are some tips to see whether a tracker might work well for your goals:
- Some will allow you to create a free account on their site or download a free application. If you do this, you have the opportunity to check out the interface and to see what types of goals they typically support.
- Read user reviews, but keep in mind not all users are knowledgeable about how to best use their device.
- Look at available partner apps. Many more established trackers have an open API so they can play nice with an app, service, or device. Look at whether the key apps you may use can work in cooperation with your device. For example, numerous nutrition and diet tracking phone apps have the ability to sync data to established activity trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone Up.
Slightly different, but related topic: Once you have a tracker, you can set your own personalized goals using tips from this article Setting SMART Goals for your Fitbit. (The same principals work with any tracker.)
Question Two: Which Device Will You Wear & Use Consistently?
If your goal is all day tracking of overall activity, you want a device you would wear 24-7 or at least most of the time. As mentioned, I have several types of Fitbit tracker.
I love my Surge, but knowing myself I would not wear it 24-. I typically wear it for workouts, walks and maybe on a casually dressed day. The reason is the device is big and bulky looking on my wrist for my personal style preferences. If I were to buy one tracker for all day activity, this would be a bad choice. For all day tracking, I prefer my Fitbit One as I can find a place to clip it so it doesn’t clash with whatever I am wearing. (I usually clip it on my bra so it is not even visible). Someone else may feel they would not wear a One as they prefer a watch like device.
Question Three: What Gadgets Or Devices Do You Already Use?
Some activity tracking devices have apps that will sync to other devices or apps. Fitbit is a good example as they have an open API so developers can design ways to sync their devices or programs to a user’s Fitbit account (with permission of course).
I use a Polar Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap. My strap can work with a variety of smart phone fitness apps and some of these apps can sync to my Fitbit account. This works well for me and is the primary reason I keep going back to Fitbit. Users who love their Garmin heart rate monitor might prefer to look at Garmin’s line of fitness trackers first to see whether they meet their needs.
Most major wearable tracking brands do offer some synching options and you can usually see which devices they play nice with. Some of the less established options do not offer this functionality.
Question Four: Which Activities Would You Like To Track?
Generally, activity trackers are better for some activities than others. Most use tri-axis accelerometers that track motion in three directions (up and down, side to side and forward and back). However, the analysis and magic is in the proprietary formulas and what the device is programmed to track. Some are better optimized for some activities than others.
For example, a keen swimmer may be happiest with a device that can track swimming. This device would need to be waterproof, programmed to recognize popular swimming strokes and it must be worn somewhere that allows it to sense the motion. My Fitbit isn’t ideal for swimming (though I can manually log the activity), however, a Misfit Shine might work better (the makers claim it is programmed for swimming). Of course, this is only an issue if the primary goal is tracking swimming workouts. I like to swim, but do not mind manually logging my swimming sessions.
I predict this factor will become more important as companies develop affordable, sports specific tracking devices. I can see an emerging trend in this direction.
For Reference: What your activity tracker does see and does not see via The New York Times.
Also, for those who walk or run frequently… I wrote a post about How To Calibrate Your Fitbit Stride Length For Best Accuracy. The information in that post also applies to many pedometers and other wearable activity trackers.
Question Five: What Motivates You?
An activity tracker is a great motivational tool. Most trackers feature motivational tools such as challenges, community forums, badges and more. Some offer sedentary alarms that vibrate if the tracker sense no activity for an hour (or other specified time frame).
If your employer hosts challenges using a specific device then that may be an important consideration for you.
I previously wrote a post about how my Fitbit One paid for itself through participation in external motivational rewards programs. If you are motivated my discounts, money, prizes or rewards please visit my previous post. (The information applies to many other wearable activity trackers in addition to Fitbit.)
Question Six: How Well Does The Interface & Technical Aspects Work For You?
Some devices sync through a USB connection and some use Bluetooth or another method. When buying an activity tracker for yourself or as a gift consider how the user will sync their data.
I prefer to have both options. Some tracking devices only use one or the other. Choose what is acceptable for you.
Also, if you can download the phone app, open a free account on the website and just look at how well the interface appeals to you. Keep in mind, there may be a learning curve, but this will allow you to see whether that learning curve is acceptable.
Some devices have a more closed system, however, you may find reviews that feature screen shots or mention of the interface.
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Where To Purchase An Activity Tracker:
Wearable fitness tracking devices are available from most major retailers. For your convenience, I included my Amazon affiliate link and a search…
Jenny Smith says
Great ideas! I actually already have a Fitbit, but was thinking of upgrading to a different model. Do you find any difference in your step count between the different devices?
Sam Sly says
Hi Jenny, I do find that my wrist-worn and clip-on Fitbit devices count steps differently. The wrist-worn typically counts about 100 +/- fewer steps in a day for me. I am not sure how much it matters as really it is the day to day comparison that matters.