Activity trackers

Created date

January 5th, 2016
FitBit fitness trackers
FitBit fitness trackers

The number one resolution almost every New Year is to get healthy. Activity trackers now make reaching that goal easier than ever. The term “activity tracker” refers to any wearable device that monitors and records physical activity.  The great news is there’s a tracker for everybody; the bad news is there are almost too many choices.  

How they work

Most activity trackers work because of an internal accelerometer. An accelerometer is an instrument that measures movement by tracking the start, stop, and intensity. This piece of technology allows the activity tracker to monitor steps, sleep rhythms, and calories burned. Most trackers are designed as stylish watches or bracelets that can be worn all day. Information is collected and then shared with an app on a smartphone or tablet, allowing you to keep track and manage health goals. 

How to choose

Since there are so many options, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. There are three types of activity trackers; watches, bracelets, and clip-ons. Prices vary greatly. The difference in price will generally reflect the tracker’s accuracy, the amount of features available, and stylishness of the device. Last fall, the Tribune reviewed four popular fitness trackers. Below are a few more examples of market leaders.

FitBit (Charge & Surge)

FitBit was founded in 2007 and exclusively creates and markets activity trackers. The FitBit Charge (starting at $129) is a stylish rubber wristband that comes in a multitude of colors. It tracks sleep, steps taken, stairs climbed, and calories burned. It is water-resistant but not waterproof, so swimmers should look elsewhere. The Charge is not recommended for serious runners, but it is reasonably priced and accompanied by a top-notch mobile app and website.  

The FitBit Surge (starting at $249) is the Charge’s big brother. Costing close to a $100 more, the Surge can track a wider range of activities such as yoga, hiking, and weight-lifting. The Surge can also sync with phones and alert users to incoming texts and calls.  

Garmin (Vivoactive & Vivosmart)

The Vivoactive (starting at $250) is a sports watch that has the ability to accurately track a multitude of athletic activities, including running, swimming, golf, and cycling. While not the most stylish smartwatch on the market, it does have an accurate GPS and long battery life.  

A cheaper Garmin option is the Vivosmart (starting at $150). The Vivosmart is a bracelet, not a watch, but has many of the same functions. The Vivosmart is best for individuals who are entry- to mid-level fitness enthusiasts.