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These Top-Rated Fitness Trackers Will Actually Motivate You to Get Moving

Prevention Logo By Jake Smith of Prevention | Slide 1 of 10: Planning to kick your fitness routine into high gear in 2021? It might be time to invest in a quality fitness tracker. These devices aren’t just for tracking steps anymore—the latest models can monitor everything from your heart rate to your sleep. (No wonder one in five people use one.)The best fitness trackers act almost like a mini-trainer, offering insights into your workouts and the motivation to push yourself harder with every sweat session. Best of all, you don’t need to be a serious athlete to use one; pretty much anyone can get their money’s worth from a tracker or smartwatch. As the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic begins, it’s the perfect time to take charge of your health and re-commit to your goals with a fitness tracker. Plus, if you’re training for the Prevention Virtual Walk on Saturday, May 1—our twice-annual walking event that connects people around the world in a DIY 5K—each of these devices will help you walk farther than ever before. What do fitness trackers do?Fitness trackers are devices that use sensors to track your health metrics. They’re usually worn on the wrist and most often track heart rate, steps, and distance traveled. The vast majority are also swim-, rain-, and shower-proof.But as fitness trackers have evolved, so have their capabilities; now, you can find devices that track sleep, active minutes, and progress in multiple forms of exercise. Some even have built-in features like GPS, music players, workouts, apps, and the ability to call and text people. Most fitness trackers come with an associated smartphone app so you can track your progress over time.Fitness trackers don’t just deliver data—research shows they can actually increase your activity levels. A 2017 study found that regularly wearing a fitness tracker improved active minutes, steps taken, and miles walked in type 2 diabetes patients over a 36-week period. How to choose the best fitness tracker for your goalsFitness trackers come in all shapes and sizes, each tailored for a unique kind of user. To make the best choice, take these simple steps.Consider your specific needs. Are you a swimmer? A weekend warrior? A 15-minute YouTube workout aficionado? Your tracker should be able to keep up with your desired fitness routine and activity level—otherwise, you’ll find yourself leaving it at home. If you’re into cardio, a slimmer model is less likely to get in the way of your workout than a bulkier one. If you like to leave your phone behind when you go on walks, pick an option with built-in GPS. And if you’re a serious athlete, you’ll appreciate a device that puts a premium on deep-dive data.Pay attention to battery life. Most fitness trackers can go days or weeks on a single charge, even if you wear them nonstop. Smartwatches usually require more frequent charging than simple trackers. And be aware that battery life decreases in any device when you’re using active features like GPS, music, and calling.Decide between a tracker and a smartwatch. Pure fitness trackers are usually cheaper than smartwatches, but they offer fewer amenities; most have a watch face, heart-rate monitoring, and powerful sensors, but limited abilities to perform non-fitness-related tasks. The most powerful fitness trackers might not even have a screen at all—they’re so data-driven that they save that space for more sensors.Smartwatches, meanwhile, often include additional bells and whistles like integrated music, contactless payment, texting, calling, and the ability to download apps. Both fitness trackers and smartwatches might require a nearby smartphone to offer full features, so be sure you know what to expect from whichever model you choose. Ready to invest in a device for yourself? Here are the absolute best fitness trackers for every type of workout and wellness goal.

Planning to kick your fitness routine into high gear in 2021? It might be time to invest in a quality fitness tracker. These devices aren’t just for tracking steps anymore—the latest models can monitor everything from your heart rate to your sleep. (No wonder one in five people use one.)

The best fitness trackers act almost like a mini-trainer, offering insights into your workouts and the motivation to push yourself harder with every sweat session. Best of all, you don’t need to be a serious athlete to use one; pretty much anyone can get their money’s worth from a tracker or smartwatch.

As the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic begins, it’s the perfect time to take charge of your health and re-commit to your goals with a fitness tracker. Plus, if you’re training for the Prevention Virtual Walk on Saturday, May 1—our twice-annual walking event that connects people around the world in a DIY 5K—each of these devices will help you walk farther than ever before.

What do fitness trackers do?

Fitness trackers are devices that use sensors to track your health metrics. They’re usually worn on the wrist and most often track heart rate, steps, and distance traveled. The vast majority are also swim-, rain-, and shower-proof.

But as fitness trackers have evolved, so have their capabilities; now, you can find devices that track sleep, active minutes, and progress in multiple forms of exercise. Some even have built-in features like GPS, music players, workouts, apps, and the ability to call and text people. Most fitness trackers come with an associated smartphone app so you can track your progress over time.

Fitness trackers don’t just deliver data—research shows they can actually increase your activity levels. A 2017 study found that regularly wearing a fitness tracker improved active minutes, steps taken, and miles walked in type 2 diabetes patients over a 36-week period.

How to choose the best fitness tracker for your goals

Fitness trackers come in all shapes and sizes, each tailored for a unique kind of user. To make the best choice, take these simple steps.

Consider your specific needs. Are you a swimmer? A weekend warrior? A 15-minute YouTube workout aficionado? Your tracker should be able to keep up with your desired fitness routine and activity level—otherwise, you’ll find yourself leaving it at home. If you’re into cardio, a slimmer model is less likely to get in the way of your workout than a bulkier one. If you like to leave your phone behind when you go on walks, pick an option with built-in GPS. And if you’re a serious athlete, you’ll appreciate a device that puts a premium on deep-dive data.

Pay attention to battery life. Most fitness trackers can go days or weeks on a single charge, even if you wear them nonstop. Smartwatches usually require more frequent charging than simple trackers. And be aware that battery life decreases in any device when you’re using active features like GPS, music, and calling.

Decide between a tracker and a smartwatch. Pure fitness trackers are usually cheaper than smartwatches, but they offer fewer amenities; most have a watch face, heart-rate monitoring, and powerful sensors, but limited abilities to perform non-fitness-related tasks. The most powerful fitness trackers might not even have a screen at all—they’re so data-driven that they save that space for more sensors.

Smartwatches, meanwhile, often include additional bells and whistles like integrated music, contactless payment, texting, calling, and the ability to download apps. Both fitness trackers and smartwatches might require a nearby smartphone to offer full features, so be sure you know what to expect from whichever model you choose.

Ready to invest in a device for yourself? Here are the absolute best fitness trackers for every type of workout and wellness goal.

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