You can’t improve what you don’t measure. That’s the basic premise behind fitness trackers—at the simplest level, they tell you how active you are and offer analysis of how you can do better. It’s like having your very own personal trainer who follows you around all day long, keeping track of your steps, heart rate, activity level and even how well you sleep. And these gadgets have come a long way in the last few years. Today, the best fitness trackers don’t just keep you honest about your exercise sessions but also offer tools to monitor your overall health and well-being.
And you have a lot of choices. Models from Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung, Amazfit and others can take the form of simple bands or a full-powered fitness watch. There are wearables that focus on a few key things like heart rate and steps or dive deep into cycling or running. Choosing the right one takes some care, because you probably don’t need the Garmin Forerunner 245—at least, not unless you’re training for a half-marathon, in which case it’s one of the best choices on the market. Likewise, if your workout needs are modest, the Amazfit Bip U might be all you need at a budget price. But if you want on-board GPS so you can track your running progress, you’re better off with something like the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 or Fitbit Charge 4.
Need to sort the fitness wheat from chaff? We’re here to help—we’ve rounded up no fewer than the top 14 fitness bands (including fitness-focused smart watches). Read on to see which one is right for you.
Best Fitness Tracker Overall
Fitbit Inspire 2
The Fitbit Inspire 2 earns our respect as the single best overall fitness tracker because it is, in many ways, the template that all other trackers are created from. It represents the culmination of everything Fitbit has learned about making wearables over the years and does pretty much everything you need in a fitness tracker. It counts steps, distance and has sleep tracking features. It automatically recognizes when you’re doing some common exercises and can track over 20 kinds of workouts in all. It’s waterproof to 50 meters and can be used in the pool to track swimming.
The Inspire 2 replaces the older Inspire HR and includes a full-time heart rate monitor. You also get an impressive 10-day battery life, but the coolest change in the new Inspire 2 is the lack of any buttons. You control the sleek, streamlined fitness monitor by squeezing the touch-sensitive side of the band.
It comes in three color colors and behaves like a smartwatch, after a fashion—it doesn’t have an always-on display, but the display is bright when it’s on and can show the time and fitness info, as well as receive notifications from your phone. So not only can you monitor your fitness data on the Inspire, but you can see the time, incoming text messages and calls, and calendar alerts as well. No, it’s not a complete smartwatch, but it does most of the most common things you’d look for on your wrist.
Best Fitbit Watch
Fitbit has a deep bench of products—both fitness bands and watches. The Fitbit Sense is the current flagship fitness watch, offering the most complete feature set in the Fitbit lineup. Of course, it has a price tag to match. If you don’t need everything the Sense has to offer, you can save a fair bit of money by getting the more affordable Versa 3, but if you do, you’ll miss out on a few health features like stress testing and ECG monitoring.
You’ll find almost every kind of sensor imaginable in the Sense, including Sp02, skin temperature sensing, ECG and sleep monitoring. Much of that works automatically while you sleep—the Sense measures your blood oxygen level and skin temperature at night to make some general assessments about your health. Of course, the watch has all the usual fitness and workout features, allowing it to track most forms of exercise along with step tracking and heart rate. The watch can even indicate when you should push a little bit harder during a workout to get the most out of your session.
The Sense has solid usability features like a bright and responsive color touchscreen and voice commands via Alexa and Google Assistant, and works with both Apple and Android phones. It also offers about 4-5 days of battery life between charges.
Best Fitbit for Women
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: the Fitbit Luxe isn’t “best for women” simply because the band comes in pink (sorry, “orchid”), and pretty much Fitbit’s entire lineup is suitable for both men and women. In fact, Fitbit pioneered female-first features like mensural health tracking, which lets you follow your cycle, log your periods and analyze trends. But the Luxe stands out because it features all the usual core Fitbit features (like almost two dozen exercise modes, heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring and step tracking, just to name a few) while delivering five days of battery life and being laser focused on aesthetics.
The Luxe is a slimmed-down Fitbit that is long and thin with a slimmer-than-average case. It’s bezeled in stainless steel, not plastic, and has a somewhat more fashionable look overall. If you are looking for a fitness band that is more reminiscent of jewelry than a smartwatch, then the Luxe could be just what you are looking for. Even better: You can swap out the band. Fitbit offers a number of accessory bands like a link bracelet, stainless steel mesh and a double-wrap leather strap.
Best Samsung Fitness Watch
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Samsung makes some outstanding smart watches, and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 takes many of the best bits of other watches like the Galaxy Watch 3 to deliver a device that’s superb for health and fitness. The Active 2 is a watch you can wear anytime and anywhere—the bright, large circular AMOLED touchscreen looks sharp in any light and is easy to use. One really cool feature: Some Samsung watches have a rotating bezel that lets you easily navigate the interface. The Active 2 takes that concept and does it without moving parts; just run your finger around the edge to scroll and select.
The Active 2 is chock full of health and fitness features, putting it in stiff competition with the Apple Watch for overall features. It can track about 40 different kinds of workouts and includes a running coach that can feed you advice while you work out. You’ll also find built-in GPS, full time heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, trip and fall detection, an ECG sensor, V02 max and more. Because it’s a Samsung device, don’t look for Alexa or Google Assistant—it has Bixby voice assistant instead.
Best Apple Fitness Tracker
Apple Watch Series 6
Like Samsung, Apple casts such a long shadow in the tech world that the company deserves its own category—in fact, many people are not looking for “the best fitness tracker,” but the best fitness tracker from Apple.” And that makes sense; if you want to keep all your devices in the Apple ecosystem—and there are some huge advantages for doing that—then it pays to know which of the Apple Watches works best as a fitness tool. The latest edition of the Apple Watch, called the Series 6, is a fairly incremental update from the Series 5 (and even the Series 4) so if you have one of those watches, you might not feel the need to upgrade. That said, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a few notable features which you might appreciate if you have an older watch.
Like the Series 5, if offers an always-on display, which it accomplishes without reducing the battery life – you still get about 18 hours between charges. And in addition to heart rate m0nitoring and the ability to perform an ECG (electrocardiogram) on demand, the Series 6 has an SpO2 sensor, which can assess the oxygen level in your blood. And while it’s not limited to the Series 6, there’s now an excellent sleep tracker built in which is tightly integrated with the iPhone’s alarm app and Do Not Disturb mode.
In a nutshell, the Series 6 is very health and fitness conscious. It features female health-tracking, a full-time heart rate monitor, is waterproof for swim tracking and can track stairs. The watch recognizes a slew of exercises and will start tracking them semi-automatically. Unlike Fitbit, which “just works,” Apple pops a notification on the watch when it senses a workout and asks you to allow it to start tracking, which may be an advantage for some.
Want to try an Apple Watch but don’t want to spend $400 on the Series 6? You can get most of these features for as little as $250 by getting the Apple Watch SE instead.
Best Budget Fitness Band
Xiaomi Mi Band 4
Is it possible to have a great fitness band for well under $50? The Xiaomi Mi Band 4 is evidence that yes, you can. It has many of the most common features you’d get in a much more expensive Fitbit model. It does activity tracking, for example, with a half-dozen workout modes including treadmill, outdoor running, cycling, walking, and swimming (yes, it is waterproof as well). That said, the number of programmed workouts is a little limited when compared to other activity trackers that know a much broader range of activities. In addition, it includes all the usual basic tracking features, such as steps counted, distance and calories burned.
You wouldn’t expect it at this price point, but the Mi Band 4 also includes a heart rate monitor and has the ability to alert you if it senses anything anomalous. You can also use it for basic sleep tracking, though the band can’t record detailed data like the quality of REM sleep you’re getting. For that, you’ll need to step up to a more premium band.
The inch-long AMOLED display is bright and colorful, making it easy to see in bright sunlight. Even so, you get a generous battery life—it can go nearly three weeks between charges. It manages to last this long by keeping the display off except when you need it—you can configure it to turn on when you lift your wrist, or only when you tap the screen.
Best Budget Fitness Smartwatch
Amazfit Bip U
Not all fitness trackers need to cost a small fortune. While most start around $100 and prices can easily climb as high as $300, the Amazfit Bip U—while not bearing the most professional or reassuring name—is a solid, dependable and surprisingly feature-laden budget fitness tracker. It’s inexpensive enough that it almost qualifies as an impulse purchase.
Despite the low price, it’s a smartwatch with a wealth of fitness tracking capabilities. Unlike many trackers and smartwatches, it has an always-on color display. And you get more than a week of battery life, not just days or (in the case of Apple) hours. You can expect to get close to 9 days out of the watch between every charge.
The Bip U does all the basic fitness tracking, such as steps, distance, sleep monitoring, heart rate and more. It also features an SpO2 sensor, meaning it can measure your blood oxygen level like the newest Apple Watch and other high-end fitness bands. There’s no GPS on board, though, so you need to bring your phone along if you want to track the details of your outdoor run. But the band can track more than 60 kinds of exercises and sports, including running, cycling, yoga, fishing, badminton and kickboxing. It’s also waterproof and tracks swimming.
You might appreciate the fact that this band monitors your stress level and makes breathing exercises to help you keep it under control. You also get notifications from your phone, so you can monitor your texts and calendar appointments from your wrist.
Best Fitbit for Kids
Fitbit Ace 2
Most fitness trackers are made for adults, and that’s exactly what you’d expect. But not everyone is a grownup–what if you are looking for a simple fitness tracker for your kids? The Fitbit Ace 2 is made with children age six and older in mind. Not only is this a more affordable fitness band, but it disposes of features that kids don’t need.
The Ace 2 doesn’t have the ability to do cardio, calorie or heart rate tracking for example. Instead, it keeps things simple, with activity tracking that is limited to a step count and log of active minutes. It doesn’t track specific exercises, advanced sleep-tracking (though it does monitor the time slept), female health tracking or any sort of advanced insights. That’s because the goal here isn’t for a nine-year-old to stick to a fitness or weight loss plan. It’s to reward your kids for running around outside.
To that end, the Ace 2 is rugged–more so than most adult fitness trackers–and has a five-day battery life. And if your kids like the Ace 2, they might develop healthy lifestyle habits early and eventually graduate to something more capable.
Best Fitness Tracker for Runners
Garmin Forerunner 245
While many fitness trackers are good all-around health and fitness devices, dedicated runners might want to lean into a device that’s optimized for their particular sport of choice. Garmin’s Forerunner 245 fits that bill best. Shaped like a traditional round-faced wristwatch, it’s a GPS watch that has a deep and rich set of fitness tracking features.
First impressions are great. The Forerunner 245 has a bright, sharp and attractive display with a perfectly round face–there’s no notch or cutout like some smartwatches resort to. And it’s quite thin and light, making it feel more like a traditional watch than a high-tech device strapped to your wrist.
The Forerunner 245 automatically tracks a wealth of running and running-adjacent activities. Start to run, jump on a treadmill, cycle, row, or use an elliptical or stair stepper, and it’ll start to track the action. It also tracks yoga, walking and a handful of other activities. It’s also waterproof and can track swimming. You’re also paying a premium for it being a true GPS watch, eliminating the need to carry your phone with you when exercising.
And since you can leave your phone at home, Garmin added music support as well–you can store about 500 songs (that’s around 3.5GB of storage) on board, or play streaming audio through services like Spotify, Pandora or Deezer. Just connect a set of Bluetooth earbuds and you’re in business.
You’ll get about a week of use out of the Forerunner between charges, which means you can wear this tracker to bed. Yes, it has some cursory sleep tracking features, but if that feature is important to you, you might be better off with a Fitbit.
Best Multisport Smartwatch
Coros is a familiar name to cyclists, and the Apex watch leverages that goodwill with a superb fitness tracker for someone who lives a cross-training lifestyle. The watch tracks a wealth of exercises—some indoor ones like cardio, spinning and swimming, but also a veritable catalog of outdoor activities that include biking, skiing, hiking, triathlons and much more. The strength and training modes let you create a circuit featuring over 200 included exercises, or you can design your own complex interval workouts. Add in the option to download additional workouts from the Coros website and and three-week battery life, and there’s a lot to like here.
One of the more innovative features in the Apex is the AI Trainer, which estimates the energy you have left after your workout and displays an estimated time until your body recovers to full stamina. Running or cycling? A navigation feature lets you follow a pre-loaded route on the watch, and the integrated GPS lets you get real-time alerts to stay on course. The helpful alerts don’t end there—even without an internet connection, the Apex warns you of approaching storms via the integrated barometer. And a sunrise/sunset tracker can keep you appraised about how much light is left in the day.
The actual watch design is a bit unusual, and you’re likely to either love it or hate it. There’s no touchscreen—instead, you’ll find a large knob and button. All the watch settings and screens are controlled by spinning the knob and pushing it to confirm, or using the other button as a “back” button. The Coros is clearly a powerful device designed by people who truly understand what dedicated athletes need from a fitness tracker.
Best Fitness Band with GPS
Fitbit Charge 4
Fitbit’s Charge 4 looks like a lot of other fitness trackers; it’s a wristband with a rectangular display. The Charge 4 straddles the line between a band and a smartwatch in size, though. If you’re looking for a tracker with a somewhat oversized display, this might be right for you. The Charge 4 makes good use of the display with a sharp, monochrome screen. It shows time and basic fitness data, plus it delivers notifications from your phone. Not only can you accept and reject calls, but you can see texts and calendar alerts as well. You can also send Quick Replies—which are short, custom and pre-configured messages—without touching your phone. And it includes Fitbit Pay, which lets you use it to make digital purchases, something usually reserved for more traditional smartwatches.
But the Charge 4 is first and foremost a fitness tracker. It keeps track of all the basics like steps and distance, and it also recognizes when you’re starting to exercise and tracks that for you as well. A feature new to the Fitbit family is called Active Zone Minutes, which tries to motivate you to keep burning fat. It’s also water-resistant and tracks swimming.
If you’re a runner, you’ll appreciate a feature that pauses tracking when you briefly stop running. That means stopping at a traffic light doesn’t ruin your stats. There’s also a built-in heart rate sensor, which increases the fidelity of your fitness tracking. And it has integrated GPS, so you don’t need to bring your phone to track a run—but if you do bring your phone, you may appreciate that the band includes Spotify.
If you wear the Charge 4 to bed, you’ll be rewarded with some fairly in-depth sleep tracking. The tracker also has female health tracking capabilities and does all this for about a full week between charges.
Best Garmin Fitness Tracker
Garmin Vivoactive 4
The Apple Watch is the obvious choice for health and fitness fanatics who want a fitness tracker that’s tightly integrated with the Apple ecosystem, but is there a similar choice for Android? Sort of—there are any number of excellent Android-compatible fitness bands and smartwatches, but the Garmin Vivoactive 4 is perhaps the best premium option. It looks sharp, with an enormous face displaying an always-on screen that’s protected by rugged Gorilla Glass. And Garmin’s small touches pay big dividends. It’s hard not to love the on-screen animated exercise demonstrations when you work out, for example. You get some cool Pilates and yoga routines that are indispensable for checking your form.
Speaking of workouts, the Vivoactive 4 features a full-time heart rate monitor, respiration tracker and increasingly common SPO2 sensor. It tracks over 20 sports and exercises, and you can create customized training plans so your watch will coach you to prep for that marathon, for example.
You also get built-in storage for playing music while you work out and a large library of workout apps. Integrated sleep and menstrual tracking help you manage other aspects of health. You’re not going to use this for workouts 24/7, so Garmin also includes Garmin Pay (contactless payments akin to Apple Pay or Android Pay) and a battery that keeps the watch running for a formidable eight days of usage.
Best Fitness Tracker for Hang Gliding (and other Esoteric Sports)
Garmin Vivosmart 4
You might think that Fitbit has the market sewn up on wrist-worn fitness trackers, and you’d be mostly right. The company has an extensive line of trackers at virtually every price point, which seems to leave very little air for other companies to breathe. But while Fitbit might be synonymous with fitness tracking in the minds of many, companies like Garmin offer their own line of trackers, and some are excellent choices for managing your health and fitness.
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is the latest version of the company’s successful wrist-worn tracker, and it tracks everything you’d expect it to, including steps and distance, as well as an estimate of your calories burned throughout the day. There’s also a built-in heart rate monitor and sleep tracking.
The display is a little smaller than what you’ll find on many trackers, but it’s framed with a stylish aluminum bezel, which adds a chic look to the device that is appealing for both men and women. That’s refreshing in a world where few fitness devices take the effort to look like anything other than a hunk of plastic.
You get about a full week of battery life out of each charge, and the Vivosmart 4 goes above and beyond with the ability to track a large array of exercises–not just the ordinary stuff like biking, running, and treadmill, but pretty unusual activities like BMX, motocross, rafting and hang gliding. That’s right, hang gliding. Overall, the Vivosmart 4 tracks a greater range of activities and records more in-depth data than most fitness trackers on the market, making this a superb choice for people who are deeply invested in quantifying themselves and their activities.
Best Step Tracker
3DFitBud Simple Step Counter
Smart devices like fitness bands and fitness watches are all the rage, but not everyone needs a high-tech wearable. If the only thing you need is a simple step counter—and you absolutely don’t want any bells and whistles like heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, SP02 or VO2 max—then a step counter like this 3DFitBud from 3DActive might be perfect for you.
The 3DFitBud Simple Step Counter is among the least expensive devices you can buy. It lists for $40, which is admittedly in the same price range as some budget fitness bands, but it’s routinely on sale for about $25.
It comes with both a clip case and lanyard and you can wear it in a variety of ways—clipped to your pants, in a pocket or around your neck—and you can choose from among four colors (black, white, pink or blue). The large display clearly reports your step count and you can reset the counter with the push of a single button on the back of the device. The battery requires no charging and should last for about a full year before you need to replace it.