Which fitness tracker is best for your lifestyle? BestReviews explains how to choose the right one

By Sian Babish | BestReviews Staff

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Now that the fitness tracker market is flush with a broad range of models, it can be challenging to narrow the options. And because several models share similar features, it’s critical to examine differences in performance, functionality and price to choose the right one. 

BestReviews’ Jacob Palmer recently joined Gary Gelfand and Scott Moak of “Studio40 Live” to share expert tips for selecting fitness trackers. Palmer and the BestReviews team tested dozens of models, from Fitbits to Garmin watches, to find the best options available. 

Palmer begins by addressing the overarching appeal of these devices, noting they’re small, convenient and simple to wear. They “make it a lot easier to get up, get active and make those small steps that lead to a healthier life,” Palmer says. 

He next shows off a few of the leading fitness trackers that recently underwent the BestReviews testing process to illustrate differences among brands and features. “There’s something for everybody,” he says. 

For starters, the Garmin Vivoactive 4, a rugged design great for outdoor enthusiasts, tracks elevation changes and shares essential data often appreciated by hikers and other excursionists. It also has safety and tracking features, including incident detection, which sends real-time notifications to emergency contacts. 

Palmer next moves to the Fitbit. Calling the brand the “pioneers” of fitness trackers, he says the line has evolved over time with a lot of “cool technology.” The Fitbit Charge 5, one of the newest models, offers a well-rounded assortment of features with sleep monitoring, built-in GPS and stress-management tools. It’s affordably priced and offers bang for the buck with a free six-month Fitbit premium subscription.

Amazon has also entered the fitness tracker space, says Palmer. The Halo Band is a discreet entry-level option at less than $100. Although it has fewer features than most, Palmer maintains “it gets the job done.” One of the Halo Band’s most attractive features, however, is seamless Alexa integration for easy health metric reporting. 

Though it’s not a dedicated fitness tracker, the Apple Watch Series 7 has a robust assortment of health- and fitness-tracking features, including blood oxygen levels and anytime, anywhere ECG readings. Palmer points out it’s one of the most popular wearables at the moment, particularly among Apple enthusiasts. If they’re “already in that Apple ecosystem,” he explains, “it gives you those live updates and live notifications throughout the day.” 

After spending a few years testing all kinds of fitness trackers, Palmer and the BestReviews team share additional tips for choosing the best one for your lifestyle.

The more a fitness tracker has to offer, the more expensive it will be. Most models share the same basic features, such as step counting and heart-rate monitoring, but more sophisticated features, including built-in GPS and pulse oximetry, can drive up prices. 

Fitness trackers are generally well-made, but some are more durable than others. Models geared toward outdoor use often have rugged designs, better water resistance and withstand temperature extremes. Less durable models, on the other hand, fall short in these areas. 

A few leading fitness trackers are available with different display sizes, and there are benefits and drawbacks to each size. Larger displays are easier to read, but they add notable bulk to a fitness tracker’s profile. Smaller displays are sleek, but some people find they’re harder to navigate.

Of course, for those who have never tried a fitness tracker before, the big question is: Do I really need one? Says Palmer, “If you want it and it’s something that you think will help, ultimately, we found that it really does.”

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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

This segment is paid for by BestReviews and is intended as an advertisement. Opinions expressed by the guest(s) on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.