Fitness trackers are relatively new to the health and fitness industry but they are starting to catch on, fast.
Now you might be wondering “what exactly is a fitness tracker?” – and that’s a very good question. Basically, a fitness tracker is a wearable electronic device which contains a variety of built-in sensors that work together to provide you with an overview of your active lifestyle. These sensors measure things such as steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned, skin temperature, heart rate and hours slept.
This cache of information is then synced to your smartphone or computer and available for viewing/analysis at a later time. The main difference between these wearable trackers and fitness apps, already discussed here at FashionBeans, is their ability to provide a more in-depth and accurate view of your physical lifestyle, without having to manually input information.
With that being said, some of the devices listed today will actually work in harmony with many of the fitness apps you already have. Below are some of the most recognised, popular and fashionable trackers currently on the market, along with their distinguishing features and where you can buy them.
Fitbit is a company solely dedicated to producing fitness trackers, and has been since its inception in 2007. The company offers a range of devices with features catering to every potential user’s needs.
The Force, their newest and most advanced tracker to date, is able to track and record number of steps taken, stairs climbed, distance travelled, active minutes, hours slept and quality of sleep (how many times the user awoke during the night), in addition to acting as a silent alarm.
Its clear OLED display is able to provide instant, real-time access to stats being generated and, when synced with the user’s phone, call notifications (a feature soon to be released). These stats are then organised into easy to read graphs and charts once they have been uploaded online to the user’s Fitbit personal dashboard.
Push notifications sent via the iOS or Android app to the user’s phone notify them of how close they are to achieving their daily goals, and when they have unlocked ‘Achievement Badges’ by reaching, exceeding or setting new records of these goals.
Fitbits answer to social media networking allows users to interact with and motivate each other via personalised messages that can be sent and received. Users are ranked based on a leaderboard type system; the better the users stats, the higher their rank (most steps taken, stairs climbed, etc.).
Inter-app support allows users to sync data from other applications such as Endomondo and Map My Run. Similarly, meal tracking through apps such as Lose it! and Myfitnesspal help to provide more accurate measurements of caloric intake versus expenditure.
The Fitbit Force is available in either black or slate and can be purchased online at Fitbit.com for $129.95.
For UK residents, the Fitbit Flex, the brand’s previous model which offers similar characteristics, can be purchased at Fitbit.com/UK/ for £79.99.
Nike+ FuelBand SE
The FuelBand SE is the newest model and successor of the original Nike+ FuelBand, released in 2012. Like the original, the SE is able to track steps taken, calorific expenditure and physical activity. New features include Bluetooth 4 syncing and sleep tracking.
To measure physical activity, Nike has developed a proprietary unit of measurement known as NikeFuel. NikeFuel measures whole body movements as opposed to sport specific activities, in order to determine just how active you are. A user’s ‘Fuel Rate’ indicates how much NikeFuel is being earned per minute and utilises the devices LEDs, which change from green to red, to indicate workout intensity.
Many of the features this band provides are through its accompanying app, Nike+. The app tracks how often and how intensely the user moves, giving them feedback to help them ‘Win the Hour’, if they are missing their daily goals.
Nike+ Sessions allow users to log specific activities throughout their day, with each session representing a different activity like running or weightlifting. Sessions, along with Daily goals and push notifications, help users identify which activities provide the most benefits with regards to physical activity.
Nike+ Groups allow users to interact online with like-minded and goal-oriented individuals. Groups help motivate members by awarding Nike+ Trophies, celebrating milestones and allowing them to compete for top spots and recognition within leaderboards. The app also allows users to share their information on other social media sites such a Facebook or Twitter, if they so wish.
Nike+ Fuelband SE is available in black with either volt (neon yellow), total crimson (red), or pink foil accents and can be ordered now at the Nike store for $pound;129/$149.
The Basis is the most advanced tracker on this list. An optical blood flow sensor tracks heart rate patterns; a 3-axis accelerometer detects body movements to measure activity levels and sleep quality; a perspiration monitor calculates workout intensity based on changes in sweat levels; and a skin temperature sensor measures exertion levels based on changes in skin temperature in relation to ambient temperature.
Data syncing is achieved via Bluetooth or usb to either the user’s iOS or Android device/computer. This information is automatically organised into an easy to read feed in the user’s dashboard, which displays activity, sleep and resting heart rate metrics.
If users wish to dive deeper into their physiological data, charts and graphs help outline patterns, which vary across days and weeks. The B1 encourages you form healthy ‘Habits’ by choosing ‘Tiles’ (goals) that represent ideal lifestyle changes. Choosing Tiles like ‘More Sleep’ or ‘Move It’ allows users to accumulate points as they reach their goals through consistent effort, like regular sleeping hours and daily activity levels.
In addition, not only does the B1 help push the user’s limits by upping daily and weekly goals but it also dials them back when it believes they’ve been having a particularly busy or rough week with little sleep. By incorporating this type of built-in flexibility, it allows users to not only build healthy habits, but also maintain them over the long term.
The Basis B1 lacks a social media component, unlike the other trackers on this list. This may be a drawback if the user likes to interact with friends and is motivated and inspired by their peers.
The B1 is available for $199 from the Basis online store and comes in either black or white with interchangeable watch bands.
The B1 has not yet been officially released in the UK, although sellers on eBay.co.uk currently have some available.
The Jawbone UP is able to track a user’s activity levels, sleeping patterns and, through its accompanying application, eating habits. Activity tracking is broken down into caloric expenditure, steps taken and total active and inactive time.
In order to differentiate between activities, users must manually log which activity they were doing, how intense it was and how long they did it. Actigraphy measures when the user is in light sleep, deep sleep or awake based on tiny movements in their wrist. The Up uses two different alarm features to wake the user from sleep with vibrations.
When the user is asleep at night the tracker will begin to wake them thirty minutes before their alarm is set, allowing them to wake up with less grogginess. The second alarm wakes the user up from a nap between 25 to 45 minutes later, based on when they fell asleep and what stage of sleep they are in.
Meals must be manually entered into the application and gives the user a greater understanding of how many calories they consume throughout the day. Because the UP lacks a visual display, information can only be viewed on either an Android or iOS device. Syncing is done by plugging the device into the user’s smartphone via the headphone jack.
The application itself displays user data in a simple graphical layout and outlines hours slept, steps taken and calories consumed. UP’s ‘Insight Engine’ gives pointers on how to make lifestyle changes based on trends in user data and provides positive feedback for healthy habits.
Jawbone’s approach to social media is simplistic and allows users to follow friends, view their data and leave feedback.
The UP is available in a plethora of colours, including onyx, mint green, blue, light grey, navy blue red, orange and hunter green. It is available at their online store for £99.99.
Certain fitness trackers are better than others for specific tasks and thus, are suited for different lifestyles. Depending on your needs and budget, it shouldn’t be hard to find the one that is right for you.
The trackers above are a great place to start if you are shopping around for something to help take your training to the next level. If you use a tracker or any of those listed here, make sure you leave some feedback in the comments section below…