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How to choose a fitness watch: Your most essential guide

Fitbit and Apple Watch. How to choose a fitness watch

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I know you will agree on this: It is really hard to start working out again after a long time let alone sticking to a routine. If you want to achieve your dream body, maximize your workout, or simply need some inspiration, a smartwatch or fitness tracker may be the solution. You may wonder how to choose the right fitness watch without breaking the bank.

This helpful post explains the health, fitness, and communication functionalities to help you make a smart and informed decision.

A smartwatch or fitness tracker is an electronic device used to track your progress, activity, and health/fitness data (calories burned, heart rate, sleep cycles, steps, etc.) that can help optimize your workout, inspire you to remain active, and enhance your lifestyle.

Looking for the perfect fitness wearable? Let’s get started!

What to consider when picking the right fitness watch

This process can be time-consuming, frustrating, and even stressful given all the overwhelming variety of features you can find. They can range from the most basic to the advanced ones. So how do you choose the perfect fitness watch taking into consideration the brand, lifestyle, fitness goals, budget, preference, and needs?

If you have no clue, no worries. This essential and comprehensive guide will help you select the right fitness tracker or smartwatch that you are looking for.

  • Budget

Unfortunately, fitness trackers are not free. However, you can find budget fitness bands like LETSCOM fitness tracker HR to the most pricey ones such as Apple Watch Series 5.

Although it might not always apply, the more features and better functionality the more you will invest. Keep in mind that picking an expensive fitness tracker does not guarantee you a better user experience.

If you do not have fitness wearable yet, you can consider an affordable and simple one first. Once you get used to it and become more familiar, you can upgrade it to a functional one with the features you need.

  • Brand

Many popular brands such as Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, and others have launched fitness trackers and smartwatches to encourage you to move more, stay connected, and help you lead a healthy lifestyle. However, each brand focuses on specific users or purposes.

For example:

  • Fitbit

Their products are designed for users who want to stay motivated and healthy.

  • Garmin

They have launched smartwatches, GPS sports watches, and multisport watches that focus either on active users or first-timers.

  • Apple

Their smartwatches are designed to help you lead a healthy life.

  • Samsung

Samsung’s fitness wearables are designed to keep you connected and engaged.

  • Misfit

They have created stylish and practical activity trackers that are designed to be worn alongside a watch.

  • Fossil

They have designed stainless steel watches that you can take anywhere as their main focus is style, practicality, and connectivity.

  • Designs for every taste and need

While many users may choose a stylish fitness watch others would invest in one with a larger watch face. Their buying decisions are based on preferences and needs. For example, fitness trackers with a touch screen have bigger screens so you can see stats and health data much clearer.

Also, smartwatches like the Fitbit Versa 2 will have a bigger screen than fitness trackers like Garmin Vivosmart 4. You will find fitness wearables that have a very discrete look while many smartwatches look so casual that you can wear them for almost any event.

  • Lifestyle

It is very important to select a fitness wearable that matches your lifestyle. For example, if you like running, walking, skiing, hunting, yoga, or weightlifting you want to buy a fitness tracker that tracks these activities.

Besides, many can monitor sports such as basketball, track & field, golf, soccer, and many others. Besides, they can give you detailed insights into your favorite activities.

Recommended reading: How can smart bracelets help you lose weight fast and safe

But first… Do you need a smartwatch or a fitness tracker?

Before discussing the features let’s mention the difference between them which will help you become familiar.

A fitness tracker can track calories, steps, heart rate, and other health data. Smartwatches not only can track these stats but also receive smart notifications for texts and alerts. However, some of them feature text/phone alerts and even quick replies.

On the other hand, a smartwatch can track your phone calls, emails, and notifications. It still tracks your health with a smartwatch but not as many aspects of your health as a fitness tracker.

They are called hybrids smartwatches. The Samsung Gear S2 (View this awesome product I found on Amazon) is a smartwatch that has a built-in S-Health app that tracks your steps, your heart rate, and even has an inactivity alert.

Is your health a priority? Users with high blood pressure, obesity, or other illnesses can benefit from a fitness tracker by monitoring blood pressure, stress level, and heart rate.

Choose the best fitness watch features that fit your needs

If you are planning to buy a fitness tracker or smartwatch you may be wondering which functionalities your device should have.

Here are the top functionalities to help you make the correct choice:

Health and fitness features

If your wellbeing is your priority this list of functionalities will help you make a wise and informed decision:

  • Activity tracker

Tracking your progress increases motivation and helps you make adjustments on your fitness plan. Also, they can give you feedback and stats to help you reach your goals.

If you are into sports, you will want to know your progress. Some fitness watches with sports tracker can automatically monitor sports or activities such as swimming, running, hiking, yoga, or gardening. At the end of the routine, you will see your progress and feedback.

I would recommend the Fitbit Versa 2, one of the bestsellers on Amazon. Not only can you track over 20+ activities like run or tennis but also, record your exercises to track your progress. Battery life is 6+ days and water-resistant to 50m.

If losing some weight or staying in shape is your goal, you can choose a fitness watch that has this functionality.

  • Breathing guidance

A fitness watch with breath guidance will give you the peace of mind you need. This feature will help improve your breathing and decrease your stress levels.

This is a great feature for those who want to relax throughout the day or after their workout. It uses your heart rate to help you breathe efficiently, which is important to reduce tension, lower your blood pressure, and control anxiety.

Many fitness wearables like Fitbit (Charge 3, Charge 2, Versa 2, Blaze, and Ionic) and Bellabeat (Leaf) have focused on our wellbeing especially on breathing exercises that are personalized using your heart rate.

  • Calorie tracker

Who does not want to know the calories burned after a workout? Knowing this information helps determine how well you are doing and the intensity of your workout. It also helps you get more precise data to determine whether your workout plan is working.

Therefore, you need a calorie tracker to keep you in the know! The Garmin Vivofit 2 (Read more about this popular fitness watch on Amazon) is an affordable alternative. Not only does it track calories burned but it also has a battery life of more than 1 year.

Note: I’ve heard that a heart rate monitor helps you figure out the calories burned. While there is a relationship between the two, in some cases your heart rate can go up due to stress or anxiety without doing any workout.

  • Heart blood pressure

Self-monitoring your BP can help motivate you to take care of yourself. Choose a fitness watch with this feature to learn how your physical activity impacts blood pressure. Not only you will know where you stand but also you can share your data with your doctor.

  • Heart rate (HR)

Measuring heart rate is important to determine the intensity of your workout. Many fitness trackers with heart rate monitors calculate resting heart rate and maximum heart rate which helps you customize your workout to fit your goals.

Also, it not only helps to adjust the intensity but also determines your maximum heart rate. This important piece of data shows how long it takes you to achieve your resting heart rate as well.

One of the best fitness trackers with a heart rate monitor, Amazfit Bip (Check out this budget fitness band on Amazon), can do a good job with its continuous/manual heart rate feature. It is affordable, stylish, easy to use, and has long battery life.

In case you are not aware, it is launched by Huami, one of the largest wearable device companies in the world with over 50 million units sold.

What is a Continuous Heart Rate Monitor

Yes, you can track your heart rate continuously without any chest strap. This feature allows you to track your heart rate during the day and night which can give you an insight into your heart health and fitness levels.

This is very advantageous because you can track your activities while you move to get a broader idea of your fitness performance. You can get more precise data, such as calories burned, changes in your heart rate during the day and night, and how harder you can train.

This feature varies depending on the device. For example, Forerunner 235 (For more details check out this popular Garmin fitness tracker on Amazon) can monitor heart rate continuously and estimates the maximum volume of oxygen you can use during activity.

Most of the users like to choose a fitness watch with this functionality to help them monitor their health.

Heart rate variability: a great indicator of your fitness level

If your overall health is your priority, monitoring your heart rate variability is the feature you should consider when buying a tracker. Heart rate variability is the variation in time in intervals of heartbeats. The higher the number the greater you are doing. The lowest score is related to heart problems, diabetes, and other health-related conditions.

Want to know more about HRV? Don’t miss our post “Best HRV Monitor Watch: Maximize Your Fitness Routine Nowto help you understand how important your heart rate variability is, how you can improve it, optimize your plan.

  • Integrated or Connected GPS?

It is very important to see your run or walking stats, such as pace, duration, and distance.

If you like to see your stats without connecting to your phone then you may choose a fitness watch with integrated or built-in GPS, like the Garmin Forerunner 35 (Check out this fitness watch for runners onAmazon).

On the other hand, connected GPS, just like the Fitbit Versa, is when you can see your stats only when you connect to your smartphone.

GPS vs GLONASS: Which one is better?

GPS (Global Positioning System) tells your current position with 31 satellites while GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) is a Russian version of a GPS but has 24 satellites. A watch with the Global Navigation Satellite System only will not be as accurate while one that has both. Also, the latter will cover 55 satellites all over the globe and if your GPS gets stuck you will be tracked by the GLONASS.

Additionally, many fitness watches are focused on specific sports or activities. For example, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is a running watch with GPS built-in that tracks distance, pace, and places you run. Also, it is easy to use and does not require to use of a strap.

Distance and pace

They are two features that use GPS.

If you like to walk or jog, I suggest you choose a fitness watch with a distance tracker. Using GPS, helps you set up your fitness goals based on distance. For example, my cousin tries to walk at least 4 miles as a goal either on a treadmill or outdoor walking.

Walking and jogging are great exercises. The amount of calories burned is determined by weight and pace. Walking at a faster pace means more burned calories. Like the distance tracker, it uses GPS.

  • Move alert

It is not easy to leave your desk when you are too busy. However, the move alert reminds you when to move, and how long you have been sitting. It makes you aware of the importance of moving even when you are swamped. Leaving your desk for a couple of minutes helps to lower stress levels.

Besides, if you want to stay active and keep moving a fitness tracker with a move alert is a great option. It will remind you when to move when you are seated for too long. Depending on the tracker, you can configure settings to remind you to move every hour or even 15 minutes. This is a great way to rest your body and ease your mind.

  • On-screen coaching

What a great way to know which exercises are right for you and how they can be done correctly. The on-screen coaching uses heart rate, or calories burned to provide you workout recommendations when you complete the personalized workout.

If you need some guidance, feedback, or how to work out, this advanced feature can deliver a great user experience. Fitbit has launched the Coach app, available on Ionic, Versa, and Versa 2.

  • Oxygen tracker

An oximeter integrated into the fitness watch is becoming more common. Fitness trackers like Garmin Vivosmart 4 feature Pulse Ox which monitors your blood oxygen levels. Also, Fitbit’s Ionic, Versa, Versa Lite, Versa 2, and Charge 3 are some of the best fitness trackers that monitor oxygen saturation levels.

How about VO2 max?

This data can determine the condition of your cardiovascular fitness and weight increase as your fitness level improves. VO2 max is the maximum oxygen you can use at your maximum performance. Garmin has included this feature in some of its fitness trackers and smartwatches, such as Vivosmart 3 and Marq Athlete.

Also, Fitbit’s Ionic and Charge 4 brought “Cardio Fitness Score”. It uses heart rate and workout data to estimate VO2 max. The bottom line is the highest VO2 Max the better fitness level. As you exercise more and improve your fitness levels, this number will go up.

Our interesting article “How To Measure VO2 Max On Vivosmart 3 Quick And Easy” explains how important VO2 Max is to determine your fitness levels and how you can improve them.

  • Period/Ovulation tracker

Also, Fitbit has designed the Versa, Charge 3, and Ionic with female health tracking to track periods, record symptoms, estimate ovulation and fertility windows.

  • Real-time heart rate zone

If you want to burn fat faster or find your cardio zone you may want to choose a fitness watch with this feature. Find your heart rate zone to know how intense your cardio should be.

Fitness trackers like Fitbit Charge 3 (check out one of the best fitness trackers on Amazon) use real-time heart rate zones to see whether you’re in the Fat Burn, Cardio, or Peak zone. You can use this data to know the impact of your workouts.

Another great benefit of using this function is that it helps you determine the amount of time it takes you to recover from your workout. That’s one of my reasons why I like to wear a fitness watch.

  • Sleep cycle

If your sleep is not that great or you want to improve your sleep quality, this feature will help improve it. For example, the sleep tracker will show the time you went to sleep, how many times you woke up through the night, your light, and deep sleeping.

  • Steps tracker/pedometer

For those who like to keep it simple, tracking your steps helps determine if you are exercising enough. For example, If you reach 10,000 steps a day you would burn around 400 to 500 calories a day depending on the intensity of your walk.

Choosing a fitness watch with a step counter can be a great way to challenge yourself to reach an x amount of steps taken.

If you love to stroll just like me you will need a fitness tracker with a pedometer or simply a pocket pedometer to help you keep moving and lose weight.

Utility features

These are essential functionalities to stay connected and get notified. They help you keep your smartphone away.

  • Battery life

No matter which fitness watch you choose, battery life is a very important feature that determines your user experience. If you are not into charging your device all the time, you want to choose one with a month of battery life or more. However, keep in mind that battery life is affected by settings, use, and other factors.

I am very sure you prefer a long-lasting battery life just like me. You can find fitness wearables with a long battery life that stays on for days or even more than a year without having to change the battery.

Furthermore, many have a feature that allows you to customize battery settings like the Huawei Watch 2 (Find out about this stylish fitness watch on Amazon).

You can choose the Watch mode, Smart Power Saving Mode, and 7 hours of GPS usage.

  • Cellular functionality

Although this feature comes with a cost, the cellular function can be convenient for those on the run. You will not miss calls/texts and will keep you away from your smartphone.

However, make sure your carrier can add your fitness tracker. Carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint may help you add your tracker for a monthly fee.

For more details, you can read our articleCan a smartwatch make calls without using a phone?which explains how a smartwatch with cellular capability works, the best smartwatches with a SIM card, and more!

  • Instant pay

Yes, it can be possible thanks to some fitness trackers that allow you to make secure payments to your smart fitness app. Not only, it gives you peace of mind but also, it can save you time and it is safer than opening your wallet.

  • Music Player

I love to include music in my workout. Why? Because it keeps me energized, motivated, and adds variety to my workout. Many fitness trackers feature MP3 players so that you don’t have to use your smartphone.

Besides, you can download a music app for a fee. You can also relax listening to your music while you do your favorite workout or sports.

  • Notifications

Many smart bracelets can send calls, emails, texts, and calendar alerts. A quick reply is also added to many fitness trackers so you can see your messages without opening your app.

As of now, the quick reply is for all Android devices only and you need to have your smartphone nearby.

Other notifications include the “drink water” alert or move alert which notifies you when you are sitting for a long time. Also, low/high heart rate notifications that Apple Watch Series 4 has included. Other devices can remind you to drink water.

  • Technology

Many fitness trackers with Bluetooth capability can be linked to, not only smartphones, but to tablets, and computers while other trackers don’t need to be connected to any device.

However, although they may be cheaper they may not deliver a great user experience such as checking your progress on your cell phone.

Also, many smart bracelets are compatible with Android, Windows, or iOS. Which one is better? It depends on your goals and preferences. They all have the pros and cons but Android has more apps, flexible, and easily customizable.

What is the most accurate fitness tracker or smartwatch? A study done by the Stanford University Medicine Center concluded that 6 of 7 devices “measured heart rate with an error rate of less than 5 percent.” However, none of the 7 devices measured calories accurately. You can see the research here.

  • Touchscreen

Many activity trackers can be a touch screen that automatically adjusts to lighting conditions which makes it easier to see notifications and your stats.

Waterproof or Water-Resistance

Waterproof means that your fitness tracker or smartwatch can be submerged in water and remain unaffected for some time. Water-resistant means your device can resist water, but it’s not completely water-proof.

While waterproof fitness trackers can give you the flexibility to track your activity while you swim and do other sports, others are not swim-proof.

For example, the Fitbit Charge HR (check out current pricing here) is resistant to rain, splashes, and sweat but this fitness watch is not swimming-proof or shower-proof.

However, Garmin Vivosmart 4 fitness watch can be used for swimming as it is waterproof up to 50 meters.

Keep in mind that a water-resistant tracker resists the water although it does not entirely prevent the penetration of water.

What is an ATM?

ATM stands for Atmospheres Rating which is used on smart fitness watches. For example:

  • 1 ATM – This means poor water resistance. It should keep away from the water.
  • 3 ATM (around 100 feet) – Although it is protected against splashes, rain, or water exposure is not recommended to use it for swimming.
  • 5 ATM (around 165 feet) – It is suitable for short periods of light swimming.
  • 10 ATM (around 330 feet) – Suitable for snorkeling
  • 20 ATM (around 660 feet)- For water sports such as jet ski or surfing

Also, diving watches are rated by ISO 6425, an international standard introduced in 1996. They can be used at least 100 meters with a system that controls time.

IP Codes explained

Many fitness gadgets come with added protection from water, dust, and humidity. You may see a code like this IP67 or IP68.

IP stands for Ingress Protection rating, an international standard that shows you the level of ingress protection, that is the unwanted introduction of dust, water, etc. into a device that might malfunction if introduced to these ingresses.

The first number is solid particle protection and the second is liquid particle protection. You will find a detailed chart here.

Final words

Choosing a fitness watch can be complicated unless you know what you want. We hope that our post “How to choose a fitness watch: Your most essential guide” can help you pick the one that fits your needs.

Both smartwatches and fitness trackers can be used as guides to help encourage physical activity and remain motivated. However, this helpful tool will not be of use unless you keep moving. Use the health data to challenge yourself, remain active, and inspire others.

Keep yourself informed about the new fitness wearable trends, interesting articles by visiting our blog.