What Is An Activity Tracker?
In life, we tend to face a very strange dilemma. Many of us desire to stay fit, yet also desire to live comfortably with disregard to our health. Some experience a short-lived guilt when paying their monthly visit to the doctor, while soon after carrying on with a lazy lifestyle. Others grow genuinely concerned with their health and ask the obvious question, is there a way to stay aware of one’s health at all the times? In fact, there is. The solution lies in an “Activity Tracker.”
An Activity Tracker, better known as Fitness Tracker, is a device that measures the metrics that play a role in determining the health of an individual; namely distance traveled, steps walked, calories burned, heartbeat rate, and sleep patterns. Activity Trackers come in a variety of forms, such as badges, belts or wristbands. They all perform the same function: tracking your activity. This is achieved by an accelerometer which detects motion, among other things.
Activity trackers are different from the plain old pedometers in an evolutionary sense. While pedometers merely measure the step count and calories burned, activity trackers are much more sophisticated than that. They can store data with a timestamp, enabling you to measure your peak activity hours. They can also keep track of your heart rate and pulse. While most devices only measure activities that are variations of “walking,” some can also measure complex activities such as swimming and cycling.
Below are the three best activity trackers available online:
Fitbit Charge 2
While the Fitbit Charge and Charge HR have both been quite successful products, we felt that something was missing. Fitbit must have thought so too, as they launched the Charge 2 this year, and we already love it.
The Fitbit Charge 2 is the perfect fusion of style and functionality. The screen is now 4x larger, which means that you no longer have to squint your eyes to use it. The Charge 2 is also capable of creating custom reminders, insuring that you don’t forget anything important throughout the day. The Interval Training feature is also optimal, as it keeps track of each of your workouts seperately. There is also a host of other features, including the DND option, the Workout Pause function, a revamped clock, tap-sensitive navigation, as well as many others. The Charge 2 is also very easy to use, despite its larger size. And let’s not forget the interchangeable straps, assuring that you are never bored of the style.
Apple Watch Series 2
For those who can afford it, the Apple Watch has proven to be a superior product. While Apple has faced criticism for being overpriced, none could deny the quality that it provides; the Apple Watch stands true to that. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Apple Watch Series 2 is that it is a waterproof activity tracker. In case you decide to go scuba-diving, the watch will hold up just fine. The most important thing that the Series 2 features that the original watch was lacking is the GPS. This ensures that the distance measured is much more accurate. The AMOLED screen is quite visually appealing, with an improvement in brightness from the original. The watch also boasts a considerable improvement in performance.
Fitbit is leading in the fitness market for a reason. The company strives to consistently bring out the best products, presenting a vast variety of options to the consumer. The Blaze is but another of those options.
While the Blaze comes with all the basic functionalities of any other activity tracker, it also presents you with accurate heart and pulse readings. These can be classified according to your workout sessions. The multi-sports tracking feature also allows you to track different activities such as running, biking, and cardio. The GPS not only provides you with accurate readings, but it also informs you if you are running incorrectly. This is a great activity tracker to help set your goals and ensure that you achieve them.
Common Features Found In Fitness Monitors
Activity trackers, unlike pedometers, are not limited in their functionality. Much like our mobile phones these days, activity trackers tend to have many features. Let’s take a look at some of the most common features found in activity trackers today:
- Step Count: This is the most basic feature and is a must-have for any activity tracker. It keeps track of the number of steps you have undertaken in a specified period.
- Calorie Count: This feature informs you about the amount of calories you have burned so far, based upon of the number of steps you have taken.
- Distance: The distance feature keeps track of the total distance you have travelled in kilometers or miles.
- Heart Rate: One new feature that is quickly becoming a norm is the heart rate tracker. There are two variations of this feature – One merely tracks your heartbeats while you are engaging in a workout, while the other one keeps track of your heart rate at all times.
- Advanced Step Count: While the traditional Step Count feature monitors activities that are variations of “walking,” some advanced activity trackers have a more sophisticated feature. This feature counts steps even while you are engaging in activities such as swimming, cycling or climbing. The traditional accelerometer is combined with the altimeter to get better readings.
- Waterproof: Since activity trackers like wristbands can be worn at all times, it becomes important that they are waterproof or at least water-resistant. The level of water-resistance depends entirely on your personal preference. For those who do not mind taking off the device during showers and swimming, this feature is optional.
- Applications: Most activity trackers today have dedicated applications. These applications can be used to sync data, set reminders, and set goals. They can also be used to view your overall track record using visualizations, thereby enabling you to better understand your exercise patterns. The applications also provide you with a host of other features, such as motivational quotes, health articles, and forming a social network with other users.
- Display: While most devices host a display, some have gone without it. Some of the lower priced wristbands are without display, along with most heart rate monitors. The display is important if you want to regularly check your stats without the bother of opening the application on your phone. For those who only choose to view the data at the end of the day however, the display is only an optional feature. Displays also come in touch and non-touch variants.
- GPS: Global Positioning System, or GPS, has become an integral part of most devices. In activity trackers, the presence of a GPS is a desirable feature as it ensures a more accurate reading. Other devices like heart-rate monitors can choose to ignore it, however.
The above-mentioned features are the ones commonly found in the market, and even more features are being introduced every day. If you want to know more details about how activity trackers actually work, you can find them here.
Which Fitness Trackers Are The Best?
With the rising awareness of personal health, manufacturers are actively participating in the competition. While this gives us a lot of options to choose from, it also leads to the dilemma of choosing the best one. Every activity tracker boasts numerous features. While they sound good to the ears, not all of them might be relevant to you. For example, a waterproof fitness band is of no special importance to someone who only wears it during their workout. We have come to the conclusion that there are 3 types of fitness enthusiasts.
Here is a brief description of each type and the best fitness tracker for them on the market:
Most beginners are not accustomed to using a workout tracker, nor are they accustomed to working out. These people are on a sort of test run; hence they do not require a host of features. They prefer a low-priced model with only the basic functionalities, which can help them decide if fitness trackers are their thing.
Our Choice: Mi Band 2
When the Mi Band arrived, it took the market by storm. It was fairly basic while still pretty accurate and at one of the lowest prices. While its successor is slightly more expensive, it is also a huge improvement.
The Mi Band 2 houses a small OLED screen, which is good enough to make out the essential data. It offers all of the basic functions such as step count, calories, distance, sleep, and heart-rate. All of this can be synced with the Mi Fit app. It is also extremely lightweight and pretty cool to look at.
The vast majority of people fall under this category. These people are interested in losing weight and remaining healthy, but can very easily deviate from the path. As such, they require a fitness tracker than can keep them engaged and personalize their workout routine. Also, they want devices that last longer and are robust.
Our Choice: Misfit Ray
The Misfit Ray, unlike its name, would be the perfect fit for this category of users. Misfit Ray boasts a beautiful design, thus you can wear it all day long just for the sake of looking cool. The device misses many popular features like GPS, altimeter, and heart-rate monitor; but it doesn’t affect the performance significantly. On the bright side, the vibration alerts are pretty useful, especially with light-coded notifications. The device is motivating, as it offers rewards for achieving targets. The batteries don’t require charging at all, and instead, have to be replaced every 6 months.
Advance Fitness Junky
For some people, being fit is not just an option, it is their only choice. Such people want a device that must be absolutely perfect at what it does. It must be able to withhold extreme usage, it should be durable, and it must give accurate readings. Money or style is not an issue; what matters is performance.
Our Choice: Fitbit Surge
Quite easily, the Fitbit Surge can be classified as the watch for the sports enthusiasts. While most models of Fitbit focused on the casual users trying to shed some weight, the Surge is for those who are really serious about their fitness. This is the reason why it has a spectacular combination of 8 sensors, including the gyroscope, compass, GPS, and heart rate, which can monitor almost every important vital of your body. The accuracy of the readings is unmatched by any other tracker on the market. The Surge can monitor you during almost every kind of activity, including running, climbing stairs, and strength exercise. You aren’t restricted to step-counts anymore; the customized functions built for sports can make your workout sessions truly amazing.
Still not satisfied? We don’t blame you- the market is full of tempting choices. Take a look at our detailed reviews of best fitness trackers here.
Common Questions About Your Workout Tracker
Activity Trackers are some of the newest additions to technology, and hence, not many people are accustomed to using them. There are a lot of doubts and speculations around them that stop potential customers from using them. Here, we try to resolve the 5 most frequently asked questions about fitness monitors:
Q1: How do I connect my activity tracker with my mobile device?
Answer: If your fitness tracker has a dedicated application, download it. If not, you can use any of the generic third-party applications. Once downloaded, it might ask you to create an account for yourself. Once you are done, you can synchronize your tracker with your mobile device. This is generally done by enabling Bluetooth on your mobile device. Once the sync is complete, all of the data will be available on your app.
Q2: How do I add the activities that I did while I was not wearing the tracker?
Answer: Most applications support the feature of manual logging. Using it, you could enter the details of the activity missed, alongside the duration and calories burnt. This is useful in cases where the activity cannot be measured simply by counting steps, like tennis, swimming, and cycling. Keep in mind however, that not all applications support manual editing.
Q3: How does sleep tracking work? How is it useful?
Answer: For sleep tracking, the activity tracker must first be put in the “Sleep” mode. Once done, it will track and classify any movement into 3 categories:
- Awake, when you leave the bed or sleep-walk.
- Restlessness, when you are turning around in your bed.
- Deep sleep, when there is almost no movement in your body.
This data can later be viewed to decide how your sleep was. Multiple occasions of “Awake” without remembering them could indicate sleep walking. Too many instances of “Restlessness” may indicate that you are not getting proper sleep.
Q4: Is it necessary to sync the tracker every day?
Answer: While it is recommended, it is not entirely necessary. The tracker has a built-in memory that can store data for some days. The exact capacity varies from 3-7 days. However, in case you forget to sync with the activity tracker app within the specified period, your data for an entire day could be irretrievably lost. Hence, it is important to sync your tracker daily.
Q5: How are my calories burned calculated?
Answer: There are two types of calories that are calculated:
- Workout calories, which include the calories you have burned while engaging in physical activities. This takes into consideration your weight, gender, the number of steps and duration. This feature is present in almost every activity tracker.
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories burned by the body while sustaining itself. This includes breathing and sleeping. Since BMR takes a lot of factors into consideration such as weight, height, age, and gender, only few trackers support it.
Once your doubts have been cleared, you might want to go shopping for the best fitness tracker for yourself. To help you out, we have managed to find some of the best ones on Amazon right here.
The Best Fitness Tracker Mobile Apps
The Activity Tracker app is today almost as essential as the activity tracker itself. This is largely because people love to play with data. They could easily write the readings on a daily basis, but where would be the fun in that? The Fitness apps, however, now seek to provide much more than a way to view the fitness data; they are aiming to be an entire world in themselves. Here are some of the most popular features you could find in fitness apps:
- Data Visualization: This is a very common feature provided by most apps today. The various data accumulated from your workout tracker (steps, calories, distance etc.) can be visualized as graphs, pie charts, and even 3-D visuals. This greatly helps to understand the patterns in your workouts and infer results.
- Nutrition Info: Some apps provide the option to log in the various food items you ate, and their calorific value. This, when compared to the calories burned, gives you an idea of your overall progress.
- Social Networking: One of the most innovative ideas regarding fitness apps was to create a social network among fellow enthusiasts. This creates an environment of competition, which helps to keep you motivated.
- Rewards: One of the biggest motivators behind working out is the prospect of rewards. Most apps do this by giving out points, which would reflect your overall rank among fellow users. Some apps give away points that might be used to unlock additional features. A few apps actually award monetary rewards.
- Training Plan: Some apps offer a custom-made training plan for you, including reminders and alarms. This is pretty useful in workout sessions and can keep you on track. Some apps also offer a personal trainer for you, although it might be a paid feature.
Now that you know about the most common features of fitness tracking apps, let’s take a look at the best activity tracker mobile apps on the market:
Starting with a general application, Runtastic is a really popular activity tracker app among users. Apart from the expert GPS system that provides accurate step-tracking, the app has a host of other features. These include a Personal Fitness tracker with Voice coach, running Leaderboard, and an interesting Shoe Tracking feature, which tells you when it is time to buy a new pair of shoes. And the best part is that it is absolutely free.
Like Runtastic, Runkeeper also aims to make it interesting for the fitness enthusiasts. Though it seems to have a simpler interface than Runtastic, it apparently provides more features. This includes GPS-enabled track workouts, setting goals and reminders, and following a training plan. Through social networking, you can form running groups to compete with. The map is optimized for providing the best routes. There are challenges that keep you motivated and engaged. There is also a premium version that provides even more features.
For those who want to focus more on their sleeping patterns rather than their workout, SleepBot is the perfect app for them. This app is great for finding out how you sleep at night, whether you are getting adequate sleep, or if you suffering from sleepwalking. The best feature is perhaps the alarm system, which you can set both for yourself and your partner. The sound graphs can even tell you if you talk in your sleep or snore.