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Choosing an Activity Tracker

       In my previous post “Step Up Your Health”, I discussed the benefits of being more active in your day to day life with the help of a little motivational tool called an activity tracker.  Here, I will dive into a little more detail about how to choose the best activity tracker to suit your needs and compare a few of the most popular devices available.

There are a few things to consider when deciding on an activity tracker:
  • Compatibility.  Almost all devices will sync with a smartphone.  It is important that your phone and activity tracker are compatible with one another.
  • Wearable vs. Clip style.  A wearable device is worn on your wrist like a bracelet, so it is much more obvious.  The clip style can be clasped onto your pants or to your bra.  The clip is more subtle, but also more likely to be lost or sent through the wash.
  • Water resistant.  Thankfully, almost all activity trackers are now made to be water resistant.  Apparently it didn’t take long for developers to realize that sweat kills.  Water resistant devices are not the same as waterproof, though.  Unless your devices is waterproof, don’t wear it in the shower or swimming.
  • Price.  Most activity trackers range from $50 to $200.  In general, the more features your device has, the more expensive it will be.  Think about what features will be most helpful for you to know, and don’t waste your money on the extras.

The following devices are some of the most prevalent ones on the market currently:

Garmin Vivofit
Picture 1$100
Wearable style

In addition to tracking the basics like steps, calories, distance, and sleep, it also has the capability to track heart rate if worn with a compatible chest strap.  It is completely waterproof and the battery lasts around 1 year before it needs to be replaced.  One of my favorite aspects of the Vivofit is the “red bar of shame”….with extended periods of activity, red bars will appear on the screen, shaming (i.e. encouraging) you to get up and move!  The Vivofit does not track stairs.

Fitbit Charge / Fitbit Charge with Heart Rate
Picture 2_copy1
$130 / $150

Wearable style

This device is available either with or without heart rate monitoring capabilities.  The Charge with heart rate monitoring does not require you to wear a chest strap.  It also will track your steps, sleep, stairs, calories, and distance.  You can sync the device with your phone to get caller ID right on the screen of the device.  The battery lasts about 5-7 days before needing to be charged.  The main disadvantage to the Charge is its size.  It is about 1” wide, one of the larger wearables.

Fitbit One
Picture 3
Clip style

The One has been around for a few years and still tops the list of activity trackers.  It’s an oldie but a goodie.  It tracks steps, stairs, sleep, calories, and distance.  The battery lasts around 1 week before needing a charge.  Being that is it the clip style it may be easier to misplace or forgotten. 

Nike+ FuelBand SE
Picture 4
Wearable style

The Nike+ FuelBand SE tracks steps and sleep.  It does not track stairs or distance.  The FuelBand uses “Fuel points” to measure activity, but this is a completely arbitrary measurement.  The battery lasts around a week before needing to be charged.  Its design is especially sporty for something that is intended to be worn regularly.  

Jawbone Up24
Picture 5$130
Wearable style

The Jawbone Up24 does not have a screen on it, just LED indicator lights, so it requires a smartphone in order to see progress.  There is also not a website interface like most other brands.  The “Idle Alert” feature will vibrate, letting you know that you have been inactive after a certain period of time.  It is available is many colors and is water resistant enough to be worn in the shower, but not swimming.  The battery life is a little longer than most competitors- closer to 10 days.  It tracks steps, sleep, distance, and calories.  It does not track stairs.

Fitbit Zip

Picture 6
Clip style

The Fitbit Zip is a more basic version of the Fitbit One.  It does not have all the features of the One, but it is still a great option.  A nice feature is the replaceable battery that lasts around 6 months.  It tracks steps, distance, and calories.  The biggest disadvantage is that the screen is not backlit, making it nearly impossible to see in the dark.

Please contact me at with any questions or if you have a suggestion for other specific activity trackers you would like to see reviewed.