Dieting to lose weight is typically an unpleasant chore. To increase the likelihood that you will successfully meet your goals, it helps to have a good support system. Because of their self-monitoring capabilities, fitness trackers have been shown to be effective in supporting behavior modification in the pursuit of weight loss, which includes increased activity and dietary changes.
The global market analysis company CCS Insight forecast that 84 million wearables devices (including smartwatches) would be shipped globally in 2015, increasing to 245 million units in 2019. This expected growth is generating an increasingly crowded fitness tracker market, which can make choosing the right one confusing.
For most people, price will at least be a factor in their decision. You can spend as little as $30 (and get what you pay for), or more than $300, which may be overkill. It just depends on how many bells and whistles you want, and your comfort level with technology.
Some other important considerations are the look of the tracker, compatibility with your other devices, battery life, connectivity (GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi), and whether it’s water resistant or waterproof. If you are specifically looking for support in your dieting goals, you’ll want to make sure that the associated app provides the kind of tracking and data that will keep you motivated. If you’re already using fitness apps, you’ll want to make sure the device is compatible. A new Google Fit update gives Android users real-time exercise tracking.
To help you navigate through this crowded field, here are some details about some of the more popular fitness trackers.
Although the premise behind all fitness trackers is monitoring your activity, tracking is more accurate when it’s done using your heart rate. The Charge HR accurately and continuously measures your heart rate, using LED lights to track the expansion and contraction of capillaries in your wrist. This facilitates a more accurate measure of how many calories you’ve burned throughout the day and during your workouts.
The Charge HR’s app and a robust dashboard allow you to set goals, see your progress, set notifications, and connect with friends to keep you motivated, and log your food. If the food log isn’t robust enough for you, the device is also compatible with many third-party apps that track activities and calories, including MyFitnessPal, which is free and is incredibly robust, even allowing you to manually enter ingredients for your own recipes and then calculate calories per serving.
The device does not have GPS, so if you are a runner or cyclist and knowing things like distance and cadence are important to you, you’ll want to use an app like Strava or MapMyRide on your phone and then sync with your Fitbit. Charge HR also isn’t waterproof, so if your primary exercise is swimming, this probably isn’t the band for you. The Charge HR does offer an extensive list of tagable activities within the app, however, enabling you to track everything from weight lifting to tennis to dancing.
According to the manufacturer, you can get a decent five days of use before you need to recharge. The device also has a clock and features call and text notifications. It’s compatible with Android, iOS, and can sync with Windows or Mac. It comes with a USB dongle that syncs data wirelessly to your computer, or you can connect via Bluetooth 4.0.
This activity tracker includes an optical heart-rate monitor which means it’s going to be more accurate at measuring calories burned during activities. Like other devices, it continuously tracks your activity throughout the day. The Vivosmart HR automatically vibrates if you’ve been idle for more than an hour. To reset the timer, just get up and move around.
The tracker also has a function that allows you to track a specific activity, giving you more detailed information while you’re doing specific exercises. You can also see your heart rate on the display, so you’ll know whether you’re in your target zone.
The display also functions as a watch and, conveniently, sends notifications of emails, texts, calls, calendar, and social media, so you know whether you need to find your phone.
The “smart” part about this device is that it tracks your activity over time, each day urging you to do a little more than you did the day before. You can also connect with friends and communities for support and to urge each other on as you get closer to your weight loss and fitness goals.
Using Bluetooth technology, the device automatically syncs with your phone throughout the day to record your heart rate, steps, activity intensity, and calories burned, and includes an altimeter to track how many floors you’ve climbed. This information is then compiled in the associated Garmin Connect app on your smartphone or computer, where it’s shown in easy-to-understand displays.
For detailed calorie counting, Garmin’s website instructs users to link their Connect account to MyFitnessPal so you can compare calories consumed with calories burned. The Vivosmart HR uses Bluetooth technology to sync with Android and iOS phones and gets about five days of battery life. It’s also waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower and take it for a swim.
The newest version of the Jawbone UP2 is a simple activity tracker. It doesn’t track your heart rate, and it doesn’t have a display, but what it lacks in on-board technology, it makes up for in its robust app, which features “smart coaching” to keep you motivated. The more you wear the band, the more it “learns” about you, enabling the smart coach to provide increasingly personalized advice to keep you on track in meeting your weight and fitness goals.
The device itself is small and light with a nifty design. It looks like a piece of jewelry. You’ll need to have your phone constantly handy to see your progress and check in with your coach. If you are a runner or cyclist you’ll need to have your phone anyway to track distance and pace. Fortunately, Jawbone syncs with a ton of third-party apps. It’s not waterproof, though, so swimmers should look elsewhere.
In addition to activity tracking, the app offers mood, food, and drink tracking. Again, if you prefer a more robust calorie tracking app, Jawbone syncs with many. You can also customize your goals, set alerts to get up and move, join communities, and challenge friends.
The device does vibrate to get your attention. You then need to look at your phone to get the message. The device syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart and has a battery life of about 7 days. The app is available for both Android and iOS.
The Withings Pulse O2 offers the versatility of being worn in a wrist band, clipped onto your clothing, or dropped in your pocket. It also has a display that includes a clock so you can easily check your progress and the time. The device does measure your pulse and your blood oxygen levels, but it has to be removed from the band (the sensor is on the back), and you have to be standing still. It can capture your resting or recovery rate, but not your heart rate while you’re working out.
Still, it’s considered one of the most accurate pedometers on the market, and the Withings Health Mate app is rich with data that shows steps taken, distance, elevation climbed, and estimated calories burned.
Similar to the Jawbone, the Withings app offers coaching based on your data. It has also recently teamed up with the popular food logging app, MyFitnessPal, to make tracking your calories a snap. It then syncs the information with your activities in the Withings app to give you an overall health picture.
Although not GPS enabled, the Pulse O2 does have run detection and is accurate with distance, not so much with pace. An option is to sync it with one of the over 100 third-party apps it’s friendly with to fill the gaps. The device syncs with both Android and iOS systems and automatically uploads information to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The battery life is an impressive two weeks. It is not waterproof, so you’ll have to be careful not to get it wet when doing things like washing your hands.
The Mio Fuse has an optical heart-rate monitor and is advertised as being for people who are on the sporty end of the exercise spectrum. The thing that makes this activity tracker unique is your choice of programming in three or five heart-rate levels indicated by different colors of the display. It also gives you a little buzz on your wrist as you move from one heart-rate zone to another, so if the device is covered by your sleeve you can still get a general idea of what training zone you’re in.
Like the Vivosmart, the Fuse has a separate function for tracking your heart rate and pace during your workout. And the heart-rate monitor will work with an app like Strava, for example, when you go for a run or a ride.
The Fuse also does all of the usual functions, tracking your daily steps, calories, distance, pace, time, and progress toward your goals, which you can view in the Mio GO app. The app can be customized to adjust the target heart-rate zones, and you can make other adjustments for how the device displays data from within the app. It also plays well with others, supporting a wide range of other fitness- and calorie-tracking apps.
The Fuse is also fully waterproof, making it a good choice for swimmers. The battery life is about seven days. It’s compatible with Android and iOS phones and tablets, syncing via Bluetooth Smart or ANT+, but you can’t download the app to your computer.
November 23, 2015