Best Fitness Watches

Is it a watch, a fitness tracker or other smartphone?

Innovation has certainly made wearable tech part of everyday life. For anyone looking to improve their fitness, fitness watches provide added information and motivation to keep moving and pushing harder each and every day.

Fitness watches are convenient and cost effective compared to medical office technology. They allow you to track various fitness metrics that you would otherwise need to see a doctor or fitness specialist for data collection.

Keep in mind, not every fitness watch is a smart watch. Not every smart watch is a fitness tracker. And some athletes like older designs that give just basic information but withstand the punishment of serious physical challenges.

Choose a fitness watch based on overall activity tracker needs or find a specialized watch to help with specific fitness goals, activities or sports. Accuracy and reliability are essential when choosing a fitness watch. It needs to do more than just tell time accurately.

If you track fitness metrics, having a fitness tracker that gives real-time and accurate data is a fundamental reason most people are buying a fitness tracker. And while a fitness tracker doesn’t need to be stylish, it won’t hurt to have a watch that goes from the office to the mountains.

Last Updated: December 14, 2017
By Kristina Nelson:

We updated this buyer’s guide to provide you with the latest products from all of the major brands. 

 

Garmin Forerunner
  • Garmin Forerunner
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Price: See Here
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
  • Suunto Ambit3 Peak
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Good battery life
  • Multiple fitness metrics
  • Price: See Here
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
  • Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
  • 4.5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Stylish
  • Water resistant
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Fitness Watches

 

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

Garmin Forerunner 920XT
The Garmin Forerunner 920 XT starts as a serious fitness tracker and give you smart phone capabilities. There isn’t much to dislike about this fitness watch, except the price as it is on the higher end of the fitness watch spectrum. Measured metrics include speed, distance, and ascent along with real-time GPS recording. With the power meter is attached, you can also measure VO2 max during cycling challenges. This is a fitness tracker for athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.
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Brand Recognition

Garmin is a leader in GPS technology and innovation. Garmin fitness watches are no different when it comes to integrating a lot of technology into a small device.

Extras

Race predictors for serious cyclist and runners with additional attachments and pairing. Running dynamics metrics measure cadence and ground contact time to help stay on pace.

Summary

A good investment for serious athletes who want to as much information as possible to improve results. The Garmin Forerunner 920 XT is a fitness watch that will provide results for years.
Pros
  • Advanced training metrics
  • Lightweight waterproof design
Cons
  • High-end cost

Suunto Ambit3 Peak

Suunto Ambit3 Peak
The Suunto Ambit3 is designed for adventure and fitness. With real time GPS and route navigation, you won’t get lost on the trails. The altimeter and weather information will also keep you safe while trekking new paths. It includes a swimming heart rate, respiration and temperature monitor and tracks speed, distance and pace. Battery life is 30-days when in “time only” mode and up to 18 days when using fitness features, ahead of the curve on most fitness watches on the market. The Ambit3 is waterproof to 100-meters and syncs to smartphones for easier tracking.
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Brand Recognition

Suunto is a brand known for dive computers and precision instruments including dive watches. The brand history lends itself to integrating technical data into durable wearable tech.

Extras

Push features for incoming weather keep you safe and healthy. Bike power support is available via Bluetooth Smart.

Summary

Designed by those and for those who love being out in the elements. The Suunto is a smartly designed fitness watch for everyone from the weekend warrior to a career triathlete.
Pros
  • Advanced training metrics
  • Lightweight waterproof design
Cons
  • High end cost

Apple Nike+ Sportwatch

Apple Nike+ Sportwatch
Apple’s Nike+ Sportwatch is made to offer you a wide variety of health and progress data as you train and work out. You’ll be able to track your training well, but it does really depend on how long you plan to train. If you train for too long, this watch won’t really work out great for you. It doesn’t offer a very long battery life, which is one of the biggest problems we could find with this watch. If you just plan on working out for a couple of hours on a time, you’re going to have a problem with this watch dying on you. If you only work out for about an hour at a time and want to charge your watch up after each workout, then you’ll probably get some decent use out of this watch. Aside from the battery life, however, this smart watch offers a lot of features that you’ll love having whenever you are on the go. If you are considering purchasing this watch, you’ll just need to figure out whether or not the battery life issue is going to be right for you. But as far as tracking your progress and the GPS features, this watch does perform well and can give you very accurate readings to help you track how well you are doing. This watch does come with an aluminum case for extra protection when you aren’t using it, which is a nice bonus. It also features a Nike sport band. You’ll get a heart rate sensor, WiFi access, Bluetooth 4.0, and a built-in GPS with this watch. This watch is also water resistant, so there are a bevy of benefits here. However, the watch advertises it has up to 18 hours of battery life—which isn’t a lot, but if you like the features you see and only plan on completing short work outs, then this watch might work for you.
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Brand Recognition
Both Apple and Nike have their names on this watch, but really, this watch is using Apple’s technology to work and track your progress. Apple, of course, is a famous manufacturer of high-quality technological products. Not only do they continue to use inventive technology to make their products better while also offering new and innovative products on a yearly basis, they are also well-known for having some of the best customer service around. You’ll be able to call them anytime you need assistance, and Apple is always quick to help with returns or replacements of its products. Apple did a good job with this watch, and Apple is one of the first brands on the market that decided to make a smart watch that was targeted towards athletes. Smart watches for athletes didn’t exist until Apple thought of it and then did it, and they do have a decent watch with their product here.
When compared to some of the other products on this list and other brands, it’s obvious that some other manufacturers of athletic smart watches have been doing this with more focus and force than Apple. However, Apple has made a good watch here, with only one major drawback: the battery life on this watch isn’t great. If it had a better battery life, this might be one of the best watches on our list here, since it has a lot of great features. It does the job of giving athletes what they need while still making a watch that is very easy to use. All of that is a real plus since their isn’t a huge learning curve with this watch, just like there isn’t much of a learning curve with many of Apple’s other products.
Apple as a brand has always done a good job of taking the innovation of other brands and then refining them, adding their own unique ideas to the product and then creating something that’s got a very large mass market appeal. Combining their branding technique with the use of Nike’s name makes this an attractive and appealing watch simply based on those two brands. And you won’t be disappointed by either company if you select this watch. You’ll be able to customize this watch pretty much endlessly, since there are a wide variety of apps for it as well as data management concepts. It also syncs very well to your smart phone, which makes it easy to use, and the interface is quite simple.
Apple has made this watch to be very simple and easy to use, which is a real bonus. Of course, Apple’s been known for doing that to their technological products for many years now. You get an intuitive watch you can customize to no end, and that makes it a fun product to have. It’s easy to get this watch to do whatever you need it to do. While new apps does require a little bit of time learning new things and figuring them out, by design, the interface is simple and easy, and most of the apps are pretty easy to figure out. Plus, if you are a fan of Apple products, this shouldn’t be a difficult product to use.
Extras
Apple’s watch has a bevy of features, and some fall under the hardware category, while others are software. Since you get a customizable watch you can endlessly update with an infinite amount of apps, the features on this watch also seem to have no limits, which is really a nice bonus if you want a good, all-around watch. In reality, the apps you’ll get on this watch use sensors and antennae to help track your data and activity. And you also get some fixed hardware in this watch that works very well, with nice sensors and good technology that keeps track of just about everything. This watch can track sleep data, time, step count, GPS distance, give you GPS navigation, measure altitude, measure temperate, heart rate, and other concepts. All of these measurements work very well since Apple gives you a watch that uses built-in internal sensors as well as the GPS tracking technology, so you get pretty reliable and accurate readings with this watch. As far as the software in the watch is concerned, you’ll get so many customizable options with this watch with all of those apps, it would be difficult to ever get tired of this watch. You’ll be able to track just about anything and customize your work outs however you’d like with this watch. So, you’ll get a whole bevy of app features whenever you need them.
Summary
While the thing we like least about Apple’s watch is its short battery life, if you are able to get past that and you really love Apple products, then we’re pretty certain you are going to love this watch, too. Since it offers a lot of customizable apps, you’ll be able to track just about anything endlessly with this watch, and get everything you need and want out of your work outs. Another very nice thing about this watch is how accurate its readings are. In comparison to some of the other watches on our list, this is a very accurate watch, and you’ll get readings that are very close to reality. We could only find that the Apple Watch GPS distance data might be off from time to time by, at worst, 1%. That’s not too bad, and makes this watch far more accurate than some of your other choices. Having that level of accuracy with your GPS combined with a lot of customizable features certainly makes this a nice watch to have on when you are trying to track your work out progress. Plus, the watch is also pretty easy to set up, especially if you have an Apple iPhone. This watch connects and syncs easily to any Apple iPhone, making it simple to use. However, if you don’t have an Apple iPhone, then move onto a different watch, since you won’t be able to set this watch up at all. With an iPhone, this is one of the easiest watches to setup, and you’ll be ready to use it anytime and sync it to your phone easily. Since everything is so easy to track with this watch, you’ll love using it and working out with it.
Pros
  • Steel bezel for easy smart watch toggling
  • Traditional and stylish appearance
Cons
  • Water resistant, not waterproof

Apple 7000 Series Smart Watch

Apple 7000 Series Smart Watch
The Apple 7000 Smart Watch is everything you expect from Apple; stylish and sleek with a lot of extras. However, this is more of an urban activity tracker than a hard-core outdoor tracker. It is water resistant, not waterproof and the finish on the colors will rub off with extended use. Charge at night to get the most out of the 19-hour battery life; the magnetic charger is very convenient and easy to use. It has a heart rate sensor, accelerometer, and gyroscope.
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Brand Recognition

Apple is known for its sleek efficient designs and smart technology. The Apple wearable tech continues to improve in both function and design.

Extras

Various color finishes make it a stylish accessory for work or play. Access to the plethora of apps the App Store offers.

Summary

The Apple Series 7000 Smart Watch is everything you want in a smart watch, integrating phone, text and fitness needs into a sleek design. For all this watch offers, it doesn’t have a rugged design for hardcore athletes.
Pros
  • Optional colors to match your personality
  • Multiple fitness sensors and other health apps
Cons
  • Susceptible to screen damage

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch
Fitbit is a fitness tracker with smart watch capabilities. Track activities across several sports and measure distance, floors climbed and cardio runs. Measured metrics include calories burned, pulse and heart rate. Connect to the phone to see the GPS routes and take advantage of the Bluetooth connection for your favorite apps like email and Facebook. Its battery life is longer than most fitness watches, extending up to 8 days. Smart watch functions are limited. The band can lead to irritation after extended fitness activities.
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Brand Recognition

Fitbit is the leader in fitness trackers and has crossed over to the smart watch market. For those who love the original Fitbit series, the new smart watch design delivers more than ever.

Extras

Various color finishes make it a stylish accessory for work or play. Access to the plethora of apps the App Store offers.

Summary

The Fitbit Blaze gives the stylish looks of the Apple Watch with the reliable data known expected from the Fitbit line of activity trackers. Expect more smartphone features as Fitbit integrates more apps with the tech.
Pros
  • Reminders to Move keep you active
  • Interchangeable bands and watch face for personalization
Cons
  • Very large watch face

Huawei Watch 2

Huawei Watch 2
The Huawei Watch 2 is a smart watch that does a lot without needing the smartphone. Stream music, GPS tracking, and heart rate monitoring don’t need to be synced with your phone. Monitor VO2 Max and recovery time. The watch isn’t waterproof but is water-resistant up to 1.5 meters. This is designed for Android wear but has limited syncing with Apple iPhones. The Huawei boasts a three-week battery life when in watch mode and 2 days on fitness tracking mode. When in constant GPS mode, it reduces to approximately 10 hours.
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Brand Recognition

Huawei is an emerging Chinese brand, currently considered in the top 3 for smartphone and wearable tech. Huawei is aggressively seeking to improve its products to be more competitive on the Android and iOS platforms.

Extras

Download additional Android health apps for extra fitness tracking. NFC and Google assistant to pay on the go without your phone.

Summary

A stylish smart watch with many features for a mid-level fitness buff. Ceramic bezel gives a real watch look with a rugged design for moderate activities on land.
Pros
  • Voice activated coaching metrics
  • Lots of features and metrics for price
Cons
  • Syncing apps not always reliable

Ticwatch 2 Smartwatch

Ticwatch 2 Smartwatch
The TicWatch2 is a solid beginners fitness tracker for the price. It’s a newer brand on the lower end of the price spectrum but does well to offer as many features and metric trackers as possible. It syncs to Android and iOS systems, though not all apps are limited. It has an easy to use a magnetic stand with a battery life of two days in time only mode. The battery life diminishes greatly when using fitness sensors or smartwatch functions. Track pulse and distance while listening to music via a Bluetooth headset. The touch screen is very responsive.
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Brand Recognition

Mobvoi is a startup without a long track record in the fitness watch market. Initial testing is positive with bugs being addressed with updated firmware.

Extras

Customizable alarms with an easy to swipe round screen that fits better than most square smart watches.

Summary

The Ticwatch 2 Smartwatch delivers fitness tracker metrics for a fantastic value. Make sure you have the latest firmware updates to reduce any connectivity or real time data issues.
Pros
  • Customizable bands and watchfaces
  • Android and iOS compatible
Cons
  • Connectivity issues

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio

TomTom Spark 3 Cardio
For the price, the TomTom Spark 3 is a good fitness watch with most of the bells and whistles you could want. It does however have some bugs that can make it unreliable or frustrating to use. A built-in heart rate monitor doesn’t need additional attachments and you can measure distance, speed, calories and time on this GPS watch. While it is waterproof to 40 meters, some of the metrics are not as reliable in the water as they are on land. Although it touts real-time metrics, it does take the GPS time to sync up in new locations. When not in tracker mode, the battery charge is good for weeks; this drops to approximately 9 hours when in heart monitor and GPS mode.
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Brand Recognition

The TomTom brand started in 1991 as a Dutch start-up for PDAs and has morphed into a global brand for wearable tech.

Extras

Stores up to 500 songs and includes Bluetooth headphones. Audio feedback gives real time performance information.

Summary

The TomTom Spark 3 offers the plethora of fitness tracking metrics but isn’t always reliable with real time data. Some might be disappointed with a toggle button instead of a touch screen.
Pros
  • Toggle button rather than touch screen effective when sweaty
  • Android and iOS compatible
Cons
  • Slow GPS pinning

Garmin Fenix 5

Garmin Fenix 5
Garmin’s Fenix 5 is a high-quality watch that offers you a bevy of features. It’s a great watch that comes about average sized and it offers you a very long battery life, which is a real plus when you are an outdoor enthusiast that loves being on the go. In fact, the battery life in this product is so great, it’s probably one of the best in this review. The Fenix 5 offers a lot of sensors and other measurements you’ll love, and you’ll never need to worry about the battery dying on this product. You get a GPS watch that includes Elevate wrist heart rate technology, and it is made to go with you on all of your adventures. Comprised out of durable stainless steel bezel, it also comes with easy to use buttons and a nice rear case. You get plenty of stats as well on this watch that are all measured on a performance widget that covers the progress of your workouts, which is a huge plus since you’ll always know exactly where you stand whenever you wear this watch. You can also use the connected features on this watch which will provide you with smart notifications if you link it to your phone. The watch also works with Garmin’s Connect app which lets you store and track your progress, and you can even personalize your workouts. Plus, you can use other apps to do similar things with the Connect IQ app store that comes with this watch. You’ll get a lot of outdoor sensors, including GPS, and a 3-axis compass. Not only will you always know your workout progress, you’ll also never need to worry about getting lost when you wear this watch, since you’ll know exactly where you are at whenever you use it.
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Brand Recognition
Garmin, as a brand, is well-known for producing high-quality outdoor products, and they have a nice focus on sport watches. Their Fenix 5 watch is no different, and you’ll get outstanding customer support when you purchase this product. Garmin makes sure their products are very high-tech and include all the latest features in their designs. You’ll not only be able to track your workout progress well and know where stand at all times with that, but you get a lot of safety knowing you’ll be able to track your location with the GPS and compass features on this watch. You’ll be able to track all of your exercise progress and even use personalized apps from their app store. You can track different types of sports and workouts as well with this watch. Garmin is well-known for making some of the best products you can expect, and you’ll get a lot of great customer service and support if you settle on purchasing this watch. Basically, Garmin will always be able to lend a helping hand whenever you need it if you decide to purchase their watch.
Extras
You’ll get a lot of great extras and features with Garmin’s Fenix 5. This watch offers a bevy of features, and really, we can’t think of one thing it is really missing. That’s nice, since you’ll be able to use pretty much anything you can think of with this watch, and you’ll get great functionality. The Fenix 5 doesn’t really seem to be missing anything, since it has all of the workout progress tracking technology you can think off, maps you can use, and a great GPS feature built into it. You can track just about anything you’ll need to with this watch, and you are also able to use several of the applications that you can download to the watch. In fact, this watch comes with so many features, it’s very hard for us to think of what else it could possible need. Garmin’s Fenix 5 watch offers more features than most of the other products on our review. Honestly, you may not really need all of the features that are compacted into this one watch, but we can’t complain about the extra bonuses. It is really nice to have every feature you can think of designed into this one watch. Also, the fact that so much is compacted into this watch, and the watch is still very small and lightweight, makes it a great option.

Summary
Garmin’s Fenix 5 watch is an excellent technological opportunity for you to grab a nice working watch. Garmin has done a great job over the years of updating this watch, making this product better and better as the years pass with more technology and more applications. Because of all of this hard work, Garmin’s produced a very nice watch here, and their watch comes with an extra-long battery life, a built-in heart rate sensor, and it is also a pretty compact watch by design. You’ll also be able to pick from two different sizes with the Garmin Fenix 5, which means you’ll be able to get a great fit and the right size in this watch. Not all watch manufacturers offer their watches in different sizes, and the fact that Garmin does means this watch is a huge plus since it will fit comfortably. Plus, Garmin designed this watch with a very nice user interface that uses the latest technology, and it’s also very easy and simple to use. You’ll be able to easily access extra apps when you want it, and also customize the watch with a lot of ease. The watch is designed to be simple even with all of its functionality, so it’s great if you are looking for a watch that will be easy for you to use and understand. Garmin’s been around for so long, in fact, that they’ve been able to use a lot of technology updates to create a great watch. They also have a nice reputation for actually listening to their customers and making their products better, so that people want to keep buying the products they put out on the market. This watch will allow you to use extra apps either through your PC with the Garmin Training Center, or online with Garmin Connect, so that you can track, monitor, and personalize your workout progress. You’ll also get a great GPS system and the ability to plan routes and maps when you use this watch. That means you get a lot of great features, and you’ll have everything you need in one small, compact sports watch.
Pros
  • Fashionable analog face
  • Android and iOS compatible
Cons
  • Phone integration glitches with updates

Casio G-Shock Mudmaster

Casio G-Shock Mudmaster
With a name like G-Shock Mudmaster, you can imagine this watch is built to withstand the toughest trail or beach conditions. This analog atomic watch is waterproof to 200-meters. It’s designed for wet, rainy and diving conditions with a digital compass, temperature readings, altimeter and barometer. This isn’t a fitness tracker; it’s a fitness watch that will give you situational metrics as you challenge yourself.
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Brand Recognition

Casio G-Shock is known for durable activity watches. For a reliable watch in almost any adventure, G-Shock continues to prove why it’s a leader in the sports watch industry.

Extras

A digital compass for navigation through tough terrain. The double LED light illuminates the watch at night for improved readability.

Summary

The G-Shock Mudmaster is an old school sports watch that will take some serious abuse and continue to provide reliable data. While many athletes love the G-Shock brand, this is not a true activity tracker.
Pros
  • Reliable and durable in any condition
  • Altimeter and barometer for wilderness adventuring
Cons
  • Doesn’t track standard activity metrics


Criteria for Evaluation

Pricing and brand recognition

A fitness watch is an investment. Even lesser known brands will cost a couple of hundred dollars. Plan on spending anywhere from $180 to $600 when shopping for a fitness watch. Don’t assume that just because something is a big brand name like Apple, Fitbit or Garmin, that the fitness watch meets your needs.

Most brands have a background in either smartphone tech, GPS tracking or standard watches. As they integrate into fitness watches, some brands will be better than others at certain functions.

Set a budget and shop wisely. Even the most expensive brands have deals on Amazon that include free shipping.

Functions and fitness measurements

Determine what functions are most important to you. Common functions include heart rate monitor, calorie tracker, movement tracker and GPS location. But these certainly aren’t the only functions relevant to all fitness activities.

Let’s take a look at some of the metrics and ancillary functions your fitness watch may have.

Heart Rate Monitor: Keeping track of the number of heartbeats per minute helps you know if you maximize your cardiovascular workouts. Know that heart beat metrics are less accurate the farther from the heart you are and rarely give true beats per minute (bps) reading during the activity. Heart rate is still a great function to keep you moving in the right direction of fitness, closing in on more consistent and accurate data.

Movement Tracker: Everyone has the friend who is counting daily steps. You can opt to measure movement throughout your day to keep yourself making more discipline activity choices like taking the stairs or walking to the park instead of driving. At the same time, you can focus on the movement during an activity. Many devices will track movements ranging from walking, running, biking and swimming.

Caloric Consumption: Don’t we all want to know exactly how many calories we burned so we don’t feel too guilty with that Friday cheat-day dessert? Once again, realize that your fitness watch isn’t an exact measurement but should be within 10 percent. The fitness watch is using an algorithm to calculate these numbers based on your age, gender and height/weight basics. Metabolisms do vary which is another reason for the accuracy range.

GPS Location: Fitness trackers use GPS to determine your location. This is great to map out your running route, making sure you ran the distance you intended. It also can be a fundamental safety feature for hikers and adventurers to not only help keep you from getting lost, but help others find you if you do.

Sleep Tracker: Sleep trackers monitor your sleep cycles. Not getting enough REM sleep means you are probably waking up and still feeling tired. Understanding how long it takes for you to move through each sleep cycle and how much sleep you actually are getting help you adjust habits such as reducing caffeine or changing your bedtime.

Attachments: Some fitness watches also allow for more accurate and more metrics with attachments. Heart rate chest straps and VO2 monitoring are common attachments for serious athletes seeking performance data. Skin temperature and perspiration are additional metrics with armbands. These additional metrics help you ensure your body is maximizing oxygen consumption and sweating effectively to keep your core body temperature regulated properly.

Waterproof: Not every fitness tracker is waterproof. This feature is a must for those who spend time at the beach, lake or pool. Most people don’t need a dive watch. Having a waterproof watch to 30 meters is normally plenty to cover their lifestyle needs with some fitness watches extending to 200-metere depths.

Battery Life: Just like your smartphone, your fitness watch’s battery life will depend on how many functions are working at any given time. Usually, GPS mode sucks the battery life out faster than other metrics. Ideally, your fitness watch should get through the day of activity and still have 20% battery life. The fitness watch should also be easy to charge.

Ease of use & reliability

Technology is no help if you can’t use it. Fitness watches have a lot of integrations, but if something is too hard to use, it probably won’t get used at all. Some people are just techier than others.

This is why a fitness watch that has smartphone integration should easily sync with your phone. Apps and push notifications should work seamlessly between phone and watch. The apps themselves should be easy to use and easy to read on the fitness watch.

As a fitness tracker, the information to should be accessible quickly and easy to understand. Real-time data and GPS tracking make the fitness tracker a better tool for athletes to monitor progress.

It should be easy to toggle through apps and get the data needed at any given moment. Fitness watches should have adequate battery life when in fitness mode.

Of course, as with anything new, there are always questions. Part of the ease of use means there is a reliable body of support, either through customer support at the company or a large body of peer-reviewed support. Getting accurate answers quickly builds is important for any technology product.

Does the watch cross over for daily use?

Watches have once again become a serious fashion accessory. Fitness watches are no exception and are not an inexpensive investment. Additionally, you might be keeping a fitness watch on all day and night, tracking everything from your walk to the grocery store to your sleep habits.

As such, style and customization are important features to consider. For most, it is a secondary feature to the metrics and functions of the fitness watch. But a stylish fitness watch ensures it will still be worn for a big pitch meeting rather than sitting on the dresser at home, measuring no metrics at all.

Additionally, when the fitness watch is in smart watch mode, users want to get calls, texts and emails notifications. If these functions don’t work well, then the smartwatch features become a battery-sapping waste, not to mention extremely frustrating.

 

Additional features to consider 

While athletes have been training for decades without the use of high-tech metrics, more information helps fine tune workouts and maintain the motivation to push harder. Using your fitness watch isn’t going to make you a better athlete.

Setting realistic goals and using the fitness watch to measure your progress is what makes you a better athlete. Before you even buy a fitness watch, develop a fitness plan.

Are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to run your first 5K? Are you a conditioned athlete trying to shave off 10 seconds per pool lap? Do you plan on exploring new mountain biking terrain? Will your activities be on land or in water – or both?

Setting your goals and your motivation will give you clarity on how to best use your fitness watch. Once you have these clearly laid out, you can select the proper fitness watch for your needs and goals. As many coaches will tell you, winners keep score.

Your fitness watch helps you keep score against your daily progress.  Don’t only compare yesterday to today. Set benchmarks such as 30 or 90 days to see where the real progress is. Use that to motivate yourself and set new, more challenging goals.

And if you find yourself stuck, find a support group (either in person or online) to share your goals and results with. Accountability partners, coaches, and friends are important factors in any successful fitness regime.

 

FAQ

Q: What do fitness watches do?

A: Fitness watches seem to be Inspector Gadget do-all gizmos to help with all fitness needs. While the options vary, and we are yet to find one that will blend the protein shake for you, expect at the very least for fitness watches to track steps and distance.

Most fitness watches are equipped with GPS and can also remember routes and trails for training metrics. A rudimentary heart rate monitor and calorie tracker also help maximize workout output by keeping you on track for cardio workout.

Some fitness watches have a sleep tracker, perspiration, skin temperature and blood oxygen levels.

Q: What does a sleep tracker do?

A: We’d like to convince you that the sleep meter helps you burn more calories while sleeping, but that would be just plain crazy. What isn’t crazy is monitoring sleep patterns, making sure you are properly cycling through the sleep cycles. Sleep trackers do just that.

Sleep trackers monitor when you hit different sleep cycles and how long you stay in them. Know when you are in light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep along with total sleep. This information helps determine if you really are getting enough quality sleep; if you aren’t, you may want to make some lifestyle adjustments.

Q: What’s the difference between a smart watch and an activity tracker?

A: An activity tracker, also known as a fitness band, specifically measures fitness metrics. Yes, it may tell the time as well, but it is designed to measure movement, heart rate, and calories.

A smart watch is designed to pair with a smartphone and has many other integrated features and apps beyond fitness. It received text and email notifications. It notifies you of phone calls and integrates with Bluetooth technology.

A technology builds, higher end smart watches and activity trackers merge, becoming more similar with each generation. Even as the two mesh together, there are differences in durability with smartphones still being vulnerable to extreme athletic activities.

Q: How to choose fitness watch?

A: Once upon a time, the only ways to measure fitness was to either get on a scale and weigh yourself or time your workout to see if you ran the mile or swam a lap faster. But there are times that athletes plateau with these metrics. This can be demoralizing to long-term goals. Having other ways to measure success is where the fitness watch helps athletes and lay-people alike.

Choosing a fitness watch starts with knowing what your fitness goals are and what your budget limits are.

If your goal is simply keeping track of time and counting laps, you don’t need much more than your dad’s old Timex that “takes a licking but keeps on ticking.” However, more and more people seek advanced technology with more information tracked.

Determine what key features you need. You might not need a watch that is waterproof, just water resistant. If you only run around a track, you might not need a fitness watch that tracks elevation gain designed more for hikers and trail runners. Are you concerned about your sleep patterns, or do you just want to know if you’ve hit your target heart rate and improved your resting heart rate.

Q: How do fitness watches calculate heart rate?

A: Fitness watches use one or more sensors to capture data and computer algorithms to interpret it. For example, many heart rate monitors use a LED light that shines through the skin and calculates the refraction of light. Blood absorbs light, thus the heart rate is calculated in this process called photoplethysmography based on changes in light differences.

Q: How do fitness watches calculate calories?

A: Fitness watches take into account your height, weight, age and gender and use this information with step count, heart rate and potentially perspiration to estimate the calories burned during activity.

As with other metrics, calories burned is an estimated metric on fitness watches. They aren’t 100% accurate, just as your calorie counter is not 100% accurate in telling you exactly how many calories are in the brownie. But both bits of information certainly help in maintaining a healthy balance between caloric intake and calorie usage.

Q: What is a route tracker?

A: Route trackers use the GPS in your fitness watch to see where you are in your normal running, biking or hiking routes. It records your pace so you can see how you fare from one day to the next on the same route. Some trackers integrate buddy systems that let friends and family see each other in real time during a training session or a race.

Q: What fitness watch is right for me?

A: With so many options available, choosing the right watch is a very personal choice. First look for a fitness watch that meets the fitness evaluation metrics you want to track. Once you find the fitness watches with the metrics you want, look at the style and cost to finalize the perfect watch for you.

If you are tracking activity 24 hours a day, you’ll probably want a device that offers as many extras as possible such as the smart watch. However, for those looking to use a fitness watch only during training durations, you’ll want to make sure the metrics measured are applicable to your training and as accurate as possible.

Q: Are fitness watches gender neutral?

A: Yes. Most fitness watches don’t some in men or women’s models. That being said, certain fitness watches and smart watches have sizing options that allow a more tailored fit on smaller wrists. Look at the product specs to determine if the fitness watch is one-size-fits-all or has other options.

Q: Do fitness watches really work?

A: Yes and No. We aren’t trying to be coy in this answer, but yes, fitness watches collect and track data. While data such as heart rate, core temperature and calories burned are not 100% accurate, regular use will calibrate to your workout specifics.

At the end of the day, the fitness watch should serve as a reminder for fitness goals. When you are conscious about caloric intake versus what it takes to burn those calories, you are better able to adjust your daily habits. Additionally, if you find yourself on a Netflix binge, a fitness tracker will remind you to get up and get active.

Higher end fitness watches with attachments help individuals or athletes with specific training goals monitor metrics more accurately. The most common attachment being a heart rate monitor attached to the chest for more accurate detection compared to the wrist.

Q: Which is a more accurate heart rate monitor, strapless or chest-strap model?

A: Chest-strap models use Bluetooth technology and send data to the monitor. Strapless monitors use information on a sensor touching the wrist.

While a strapless monitor is more comfortable than having something constrained around your chest during activity, the chest-strap is more accurate. This is true for fitness watches and any medical device capturing heart rate because the information is more accurate closer to the heart. Unknown variable can affect the accuracy of information at the wrist.

Even with the chest-strap monitor, your doctors EKG is still a more effective method of monitoring heart rate.

Q: Are all fitness watches waterproof?

A: No. Don’t just jump into the pool or lake because you assume that your fitness watch is waterproof. All will be water resistant, ready to deal with the sweatiest of wrists, but if you need something for swimming laps in the pool or training for a triathlon, make sure you list that as a required feature for your fitness watch.

Q: How do I maintain my fitness watch?

A: Of course you will have general maintenance for your fitness watch like any other watch. You’ll need to charge your fitness watch regularly, especially on days when you are tracking a lot of metrics or using GPS for extended periods of time.

As with all watches, watch faces are vulnerable to scratching and shattering. On fitness watches with touchscreens, this is an even bigger issue. A protective screen helps reduce potential problems.

Because your fitness watch is using ever-changing technology, updating the firmware as instructed helps prevent glitches and bugs from interfering with accurate data collection. That being said, if the watch doesn’t update when the phone does, you may be stuck with limited features on the fitness watch.

Q: What do I need to consider when I’m looking at how accurate my fitness watch will be?

Accuracy is an important factor to consider with your fitness watch, since the less accurate the watch is, the less you’ll probably want to use it. You want to get good readings on what you’re doing when you work out, and if you are using maps and the GPS to plan out your work out routes, you also want to make sure the watch is going to be both accurate and effective so you don’t get lost. Even if you get a really great watch, if it isn’t accurate, it’s not going to do you a lot of good. Most of the watches on our product list are designed to be fairly accurate, even watches that are very basic and more affordable. That’s a nice thing to know, but you still need to consider how much little variations and accuracy could still affect you, since you might not be able to get full readings if your watch suffers even in the slightest with accuracy.

How accurate your GPS receiver is will be very important since you won’t want to get lost, and will want to know where you are if you are tracking progress on the map feature. Some devices are better at measuring other work out data like steps and heart rate than others, so that is another thing you’ll want to look at. Most of these watches have a very small GPS antennae, and satellite signal isn’t always perfect, as much as we like to think it is. So, while you are running or walking, you want to make sure you are able to check your GPS and get accurate readings while you are on the go. Distance is usually important when you are trying to track progress, as is knowing exactly where you are on the map. Also, if you are trying to track yourself over a certain distance to improve your time, you are going to want to make certain that your watch can also effectively measure that. When the watch starts giving you inaccurate data and bad readings, it’s going to affect the way both your distance and speed are reading, perhaps making you think you are performing better or worse than you really are. When you are training and you really need to know the truth to track your progress, this can all be frustrating.

The watches on our list below all measure distance with a GPS signal, and it can be hard to sometimes verify how accurate each product is. Some of them use other measures like accelerometer information to compare with the GPS readings to see how accurate the measurements really are. Having an extra data system in the watch to back up your own tracking can really help improve the data you are getting out of the watch. So, if you need your data to be as accurate as possible, go for a watch that has not only a GPS system in it, but something else it uses to compare that GPS information with it. Watches that have these double systems do a much better job of telling you all about your progress when you are trying to detect and locate improvements each time you work out.

So, if you are seriously concerned about accuracy, make sure you purchase a watch that not only use GPS tracking on it to measure time and distance, but also has an accelerometer it also uses to compare both types of data on the watch. The combination of these two factors will help give you more accurate measurements as you are trying to track your work out progress. The more accurate readings you get, the better you know how you are performing and improving. These factors are all important whenever you are trying to train for something, or simply want to improve your progress to make sure you are getting back into great shape. Purchasing an inaccurate watch can make you think incorrectly about your progress, which is something you should want to avoid.

Q: What do I need to know about ease of use before I purchase my watch?

Ease of use is always important whenever you are purchasing a piece of technology. Most people, nowadays, are very used to smart devices and are pretty savvy at using electronics, but even with this knowledge, it is still sometimes hard for manufacturers to create technological products that will be easy and simple for everybody to use. However, what you do need to know about all of these watches is that even though you probably already know a lot about how to use technology, you will have to set the watches up and get passed some kind of learning curve, especially if you have never used a watch like this before in your life. Still, what’s nice about most of these watches is that they guide you through the initial set up process, like most smart phones do, so you can get the watch ready to go more easily. All of the watches on our list also work and sync to smartphone apps, and allows you to use your phone with the watch. That part of the setup process is pretty easy to get past. Then, you’ll need to charge the watch and if you aren’t able to figure out what apps you need on the watch, then follow the directions that come with the watch. These watches all provide instruction guides that are there to help guide you through the apps you will need or want to use, how to get them on the watch, and how to make the watch work right so it syncs to your smartphone.  Some of these watches will take longer to get past the learning curve than others, especially the first time you use them, so you’ll need to be prepared for that. A few of the watches can take an hour or more to set up, but some other watches are very easy and you can simply plug them in to get them going. While the watches can vary with the amount of time it takes to set them up, it’s still important to remember that just about any one of these watches you buy will require some kind of learning curve.

If you really need to purchase a watch from a brand that is known for easy set-ups, then consider the watches offered by FitBit. All of their watches are made to be easy to connect right to your smartphone. Although the company hasn’t been around for a long time, they’ve managed to build a good reputation by offering some watches that are very easy to set up. You might still have a bit of a learning curve, but it’s going to be a much smaller one when compared with some of the other brands on our list.

 

Final thoughts

There is no “best fitness watch” on the market. Features and benefits range from real-time activity measurements, smartphone features and even whether or not it sync completely with your other tech.

Finding the best fitness watch for you means establishing fitness goals, setting a budget and determine what type of tech syncs with your existing technology. A fitness watch is an investment and its also something you’ll more than likely be wearing beyond your workout sessions, so make sure you like the look and feel of it as well. Once you find the watch for you, spend time to learn how to use it properly so you get the most out of your workouts and your investment.