The Best Activity Trackers for Fitness

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If you’re looking to lose weight, increase your physical activity, or simply improve your overall health, personal activity trackers can help you reach your goal. These gadgets are highly evolved cousins of simple pedometers from yesteryear. They’re much smarter, more accurate, and do a whole lot more than measure how much you walk. They give you new insight into the habits that make up your lifestyle.

Most activity trackers today still count how many steps you take, but also tally the miles you travel, show you day-by-day how much physical activity you get, and often collect data about your sleep patterns, too. Some can even sync with heart monitors, smart bathroom scales, and other devices to give you more accurate readings of what’s going on with your body.

Design and form factor—important considerations for me—can range wildly. Several popular activity trackers look like bracelets, a few resemble watches, and our favorite is a unique clip-on device that’s small enough to slip in your pocket when you don’t want to be seen wearing it.

That favorite pick and our Editors’ Choice, the Fitbit One, comes with an excellent companion Web account where you can access your personal fitness data, but also lets you add more statistics like calorie counts, nutritional and glucose information, blood pressure, and more. Fitbit One takes the shape of a tiny clip-on device, although anyone more interested in a bracelet-style band might look into the $99 Fitbit Flex, which will be available soon.

Several additional companies promise soon-to-be-released fitness devices, and no doubt we’ll see many more of these gadgets this year. One example, Basis, is a wristwatch that tracks activity and helps you set goals based on your actual habits, and offers up ways you can incrementally change them. Another, the Amiigo, is a wristband that includes a second tracker which you wear on your shoe lace to better measure how much you move.

Whether your health goals are modest or you’re hoping for a full fitness transformation, using a personal fitness tracking device can go a long way toward helping you understand if the exercise and health habits you keep are contributing to the new you.

FEATURED IN THIS ROUNDUP

Fitbit One

Fitbit One

$99 direct

The Fitbit One is a super-smart pedometer that tracks how many steps you take in a day, the flights of stairs you climb, the distance you travel, the number of calories you burn, and even how much restful sleep you get. It also includes a “silent wake alarm”—you can sleep with the Fitbit One tucked into the pouch of a wrist strap (included), and the device will vibrate at whatever time you set to wake you without waking your sleeping partner. The companion Web account, Fitbit.com, lets you add even more information, like what you’ve eaten, as well as other activities that the Fitbit can’t track on its own, like lifting weights or cycling. All these features, plus great compatibility with other apps and a wonderful form factor, makes the Fitbit One our Editors’ Choice among activity trackers.
Read the full review ››


Fitbit Zip

Fitbit Zip

$59 direct

The petite Zip is a lower-cost option from Fitbit. You get the same great experience on the Fitbit website, where all your data is displayed and you can log other fitness information, but lose the ability to track stair-climbing, wireless syncing with the mobile app (it does still sync wirelessly with a PC or Mac, though), and the silent alarm that’s included in Fitbit One and Fitbit Flex. It uses a watch battery, so there’s no need to charge up the device every so often. If cost is your primary concern in choosing a fitness tracker, Fitbit Zip may be an ideal option.
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Jawbone UP

Jawbone UP

$129.99 direct

The Jawbone UP is in some ways everything I want from a fitness-tracking gadget. It tracks daily activity and sleep efficiency, comes with a supremely well-designed iPhone app, feels comfortable around my wrist, and includes a vibrating silent alarm, which anyone who shares a bed should at least try. If you want an activity tracker on your wrist, the Jawbone UP is one of the best you’ll find, although like Larklife (below), the device requires an iPhone to work, and that’s perhaps the biggest stopping block for many.
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Motorola MotoActv

$249.99 for 8GB, direct

The only fitness gadget we tested that’s built for serious athletes (runners in particular) is Motorola’s MotoActv. The GPS-enabled MP3-playing device cleverly correlates and displays data from your workouts, such as the map of your route and your pace during each song on your playlist. Among hybrid music player-fitness tracking devices, though, it’s on the pricier side.
Read the full review ››


BodyMedia Fit Core

$179.99, retail, plus $6.95 per month for data access

The BodyMedia Fit Core fitness band, when worn around the clock, collects good information about your exercise, calorie burn, and sleep. The armband calculates your exercise level and calorie burn based on a few metrics more than just motion. Two silver plates on the inside press against your skin to measure body temperature and galvanic skin response (perspiration, essentially). This, coupled with a three-axis accelerometer, helps BodyMedia calculate fairly accurate data. But there are drawbacks: You have to pay a monthly fee to see the data, and the armband itself is clunky, uncomfortable, and not particularly attractive.
Read the full review ››


Larklife

Larklife

$149.99 direct

The first time I launched the Larklife iPhone app, I thought, “How can an app this well designed and different from the competition go with a gadget that’s so clunky and awkward?” Larklife’s app could provide the motivation you’ve been hoping to find to get fit, but the gadget’s physical appearance and form is lackluster in comparison. This wristband simply doesn’t compare to the more slender and sophisticated models you’ll find in big brand names like Nike and Jawbone. You also need an iPhone to see your data, as Larklife doesn’t work with other platforms. Due to Larklife’s clumsy form factor and slightly high price, it sits somewhere in the middle of the fitness gadget pack. It’s not bad, but not great, and for less money you can probably find something you’ll like better.
Read the full review ››


Nike+ FuelBand

$149 direct

The retro-chic fitness-tracking Nike+ FuelBand looks like an understated gadget, and in fact, it is. The data it collects is very limited, making it little more than a glorified pedometer. But if all you want to know is a general measurement of how active you are in a day from a sporty wristband (with an LED dot matrix displayed clock), the Nike+ FuelBand isn’t a bad choice. Snap it on, wear it all day, and see all your movement, whether you’re running, dancing, or rock climbing, transformed into data points.
Read the full review ››

By Jill Duffy, PCMag


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