A Fitness Tracker for Every Lifestyle
Wearable devices are a growing category and fitness tracker bracelets and smart watches are at the epicentre of the boom. As technologies that double as accessories worn on the body, they can range from the affordable to the completely absurd, but they also help people set goals, keep count and live healthier lives. We take a look at five of the most popular ones around.
Best Entry Level: Misfit Flash (RRP approx. $64)
The younger, more affordable cousin of the Misfit Shine, the major difference of the Misfit Flash lies in its design where aluminium has been replaced with flexible plastic. It tracks different activities including swimming and tennis, and lasts six months on a replaceable coin battery. You can specify when your activity is about to start and attach the piece anywhere on your body – a major advantage. Connect it to your laces and unlike other fitness wearables that rely on GPS, you can track running and cycling at the gym. As for its faults, the level of analysis within the Misfit Flash partner app isn’t as comprehensive as its competitors’. Press on the tracker too hard and you’ll also cause the disk to slip from the band.
Best for Gym Junkies: Fitbit Charge HR (RRP $199.95)
This wearable’s band is sleek and subtle, and regardless of its size, the OLED display screen is simple to read. It buzzes and displays the name of a caller when your mobile phone rings, yet despite its name, the Fitbit Charge HR needs to be charged every four or five days using an easy-to-lose, proprietary cable. It’s monitoring is about as accurate as it gets – thanks largely to its ability to constantly monitor heart rate – and the result is a better estimation of workouts and daily activity. And while sleep tracking isn’t the most detailed, it is automatic. There’s plenty of data to explore but the app won’t show you improvements as you gain fitness like other wearables can. It’s also not waterproof and lacks GPS and distance estimation. There’s data on heart rate, calories and time, but nothing on distance or pace – not ideal for active runners.
Best ‘Barely There’ Band: Jawbone UP2 (RRP $149.95)
One of the lightest options out there, this mid-range tracker that replaces the original UP24 has most of the same features but a more stylish and discrete design. It tracks daily activity and sleep, although if you want heart rate-accurate readings, you’ll have to buy the more expensive UP3 or UP4 (once released). The most attractive feature is the app, Smart Coach. Extremely user friendly, it offers lifestyle advice based on your habits and activity, but you need to manually enter food tracking and specific forms of exercise. The alarm feature can wake you up as you’re emerging from deep sleep, while the UPcoffee app tracks how caffeine affects your sleeping patterns. The UP2 is splash proof and lasts for a week before needing to be charged. There’s no display screen but its ease-of-use makes it a great all-rounder.
Best for Outdoor Activity: Garmin Vívoactive (RRP $339)
For a GPS smartwatch geared at active lifestyles, Garmin’s Vívoactive is unusually slim and lightweight. The battery lasts up to three weeks in ‘activity tracking’ mode and the colour display is easily visible in daylight. Although it’s focused on fitness instead of convenience, vibration alerts can still be activated for incoming calls, texts, emails and more via Bluetooth. The default widgets can control music and also display daily activity, the weather and your calendar. Other apps and widgets can be added through Garmin’s Connect IQ store. While a vibration alarm can gently rouse you from light sleep and tell you when it’s time to get active, the best part about the Vívoactive is its GPS capabilities. They allow you to measure runs, cycles and even laps of the pool (it’s waterproof up to 50 metres), while accurately tracking your route and providing statistics on distance, pace and calories.
Best Looking: Withings Activité (RRP $580)
It only takes two words to turn a watch into a designer timepiece: Swiss made. Designed in Paris and manufactured in Switzerland, the Withings Activité is the Rolex of activity trackers. It comes with a brown leather strap and an easily interchangeable silicone strap for when you don’t want to risk sweating on the leather or plan on taking to the pool (it’s waterproof up to 50 metres). With a battery life of eight months, the watch features a secondary dial on its face that shows percentage completed of your daily activity goal. Information is collected and displayed via the Health Mate app on your smartphone, including highly accurate and automatic sleep tracking. As there’s no in-built GPS, the Activité is more suited to those after a beautiful gadget to keep tabs on their daily activity and goals, rather than dedicated fitness junkies.
Best All-Rounder: Apple Watch Sport (RRP $499-$579)
The Apple Watch is perfect for those seeking a stylish all-rounder that doubles as a fitness tracker for both everyday movement and serious fitness goals. The durable strap is lightweight and comes in both neutral and vibrant colours, while the built-in heart rate monitor, GPS and accelerometer combine to provide an accurate picture of the quality and frequency of activity. Three colourful rings indicate your daily progress towards moving (calorie goals), standing (for at least a minute every hour) and exercise (more intense activity). The Workout app displays time, calories, distance, pace and speed for indoor and outdoor activities while the watch learns your habits by analysing data over time before using the information to offer reminders and set tailored goals. With so many features and a full range of apps, the Apple Watch is obviously more expensive than other, less comprehensive wearables.
Even though these fitness trackers provide plenty of data on fitness and lifestyle patterns, it’s what you do with the data that counts. The key to getting the most out of your wearable is to build it into your routine. Don’t let it become a gadget that only sees the inside of a drawer once the novelty wears off.
Depending on the one your choose, there are many ways to use the data gathered to influence behaviour and create meaningful change. Be sure to set realistic goals that gradually increase in difficulty and always remember to reward yourself whenever you hit a target or smash a personal best.
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.