Since we last reviewed fitness trackers two years ago, they have really moved on a pace. Today even more people can be seen with one on their wrist as they go about their everyday life.
So whether you want one to help you stick to a high-energy fitness regime or simply to measure how many steps you do in an average day, there’s now bound to be one out there to suit your particular needs.
But these days, they don’t only just tell you how far you’ve walked or how fast you’ve run – they can give you some impressive statistic-based insights into your whole life. Many now record your heart rate or chart your breathing, so detect if you’re under stress or suggest what level of workout would suit you next. They can also tell you how well you’re sleeping and if you’re resting enough.
All of this data instantly appears on your watch, or, by downloading an app, on your phone.
Here’s our guide to the top 10 fitness trackers to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Read on to discover our top fitness trackers and compare fitness trackers to see which one suits your needs. Don’t forget to read our detailed buyer’s advice on what to look for in a tracker. For more like this, visit our reviews section to find over 400 buyer’s guides including the best juicers, smoothie makers and meal prep containers.
The best fitness trackers 2021
Samsung Galaxy watch Active 2 Under Armour
Best motivational tracker
If you like the idea of a firm but friendly voice telling you to push yourself that bit harder, this could be the fitness tracker for you.
Its makers have teamed up with the popular MapMyRun app, which we found easy to download. Once paired to the watch, which has in-built GPS, you’ll get access to a vast range of stats as you progress along your fitness journey. You can see this on your watch, or in more depth, on your phone.
The watch itself is pleasingly lightweight with a snug-fitting silicone strap (other designs are available), to ensure it won’t move about when you are. You have a choice of watch faces and can even ‘ask’ it to match one with what you’re wearing. We tested the 40mm watch face, but there’s a 44mm model too.
Out running, the real-time Running Coach audio gives a clear breakdown of distance and pace (this information simultaneously appears on the screen). This can help you focus on your goals and motivate you to clock up increased miles.
As with many other fitness trackers, a continuous heart monitor sheds useful light on the intensity of any activity. It will also alert you if your beats per minute (bpm) are too high or low.
Our only downside was that having all this data at a swipe of a fingertip does eat up the battery charge rapidly. It needs powering up on its magnetic charger each evening if you use it every day to chart your workouts.
Teminice 2020 Version high-end fitness tracker
Best budget tracker
Although it looks much like many other standard slimline fitness bands, the way you charge this tracker is a bit different. After easing off the straps, you place the end with the chip in into a USB interface, meaning there are no trailing cables to worry about.
It comes with a comprehensive user guide, but we found it fairly simple to get going. A single button on the watch face takes you through its screens. Meanwhile, the VeryFitPro app was quick to download and easy to navigate.
You can swipe to see your total steps and current heart rate on the watch face, but for greater analysis, the app delves deeper into all these stats. We liked its graphic of the circle, and if you’ve done enough daily activity (there’s an alert if you’re being too sedentary) the ring is completed. It’s surprisingly satisfying when this happens.
We found the sleeping analysis fairly accurate, and it lets you see how much of your sleep is deep or light. Being able to stop the watch face illuminating when you move your wrist is handy, especially when you’re trying to nod off.
This is a sensible option if you want a reliable tracker which can collate your fitness metrics and give you an overview of how you’re doing without blowing your budget.
Available from Amazon (£23.99)
Garmin Forerunner 45
Best for runners
This watch has clearly got the runner in mind, but would also be an asset for those who enjoy cycling, yoga, gym workouts and a whole range of other activities. With experience of others in the Garmin range, we felt this was a more than adequate entry level device at a decent price for what you get. It’s robust looking and its screens (which you scroll through with four buttons dotted around the edge) are easy to see at a glance when on the move.
The key to it being such a reliable device for runners is its built-in GPS, which will accurately record the likes of distance, time and pace. You can also see your heart rate while you’re running. Back home, the Garmin app allows you to pore over this in much more detail once you have cooled down. If you’re a bit more serious about your training, the Garmin Coach app will give some solid structure to your sessions and even praise you when you set a new PB. The watch also has a reassuring safety feature which will send a real time location to the emergency services if you get into difficulty.
We liked the Body Battery feature which crunches up all the data from your heart rate monitoring, sleep, stress and how much activity you have already done, before working out how much energy you have left. It’s a bit like knowing how much fuel is left in your body’s tank.
Huawei Watch GT 2e
Best value tracker with GPS
Straight out of the box, this streamlined sports watch is certainly eye-catching. It doesn’t stint on practicality either, with touches like a perforated strap to stop your wrist getting too sweaty during activity. It boasts an impressive battery life of up to 14 days, but only if you changed the ‘always on’ setting so you can only see the display with a wrist flick. Of course, using GPS is a huge draw on any battery, but a single charge on the magnetic charging disc lasted us eight days. The screens are clear and bright, even in strong sunlight, and switching between them with two function buttons on the side of the bezel was simple even while running.
This tracker can be personalised in many ways, from the watch face to your own fitness workouts. As well as the usual activities such as running, walking and swimming, you can even track your skateboarding and street dance workouts if that’s your thing. If you are keen on knowing what your body is up to while exercising, you will like its SpO2 setting which allows you to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood; too low and maybe you are working that bit too hard.
This was a likeable and reliable piece of kit at a modest price among rival sports watches in this category. It has plenty of genuinely useful features to fire up your fitness mojo.
Fitbit Charge 4
Easiest tracker to use
This Fitbit marks a step up from the Charge 2 version we tested two years ago. The inbuilt GPS means you don’t have to walk/run with your phone any longer, or alternatively rely on the step counter to estimate your distance.
Fitbits have always been excellent fitness trackers, keeping count of your steps, monitoring your heart rate and your sleep, as well as active minutes. A pleasing feature is that it now tells you how much distance you’ve covered without even leaving the house – all that pottering around really does add up. With the added GPS, it is now a more effective exercise watch as well. A likeable feature is that you can set ‘goals’ if you’re off to exercise – you can program it for distance or time and it will tell you when you’ve achieved that.
The tracker itself is slim and sleek while also being water-resistant up to 50 metres. We did find GPS took a few minutes to connect, as well as rapidly eating through the battery life.
The Fitbit app gives you more insight into activity for the day, so you’ll need to connect to this for maximum information. There is a Premium version but we found the basic more than adequate.
Best for frequent exercisers
This pleasingly chunky but handsome watch gives out a clear message that the wearer is someone who takes their fitness pretty seriously.
In simple terms, once you put this on your wrist it will record everything you do 24/7, adding a depth of insight into various aspects of your fitness. This includes how active you are – be it how many steps you walk a day or your split times in a long run. But you don’t even have to be active to provide data to be analysed; it also records your sleep quality and how much stress is in your life.
All these stats are easy to study in bar charts and graphs thanks to the Suunto app, which was easy to explore. It also works well with other popular apps such as Strava and MapMyRun. The GPS is great for tracking runs, walks and swims, although doing so drains the battery life – if you’re using it heavily you’ll need to charge it every other day.
It records any indoor activities, so is equally useful if yoga or the gym is more your bag. We really liked its seven day training plan, which allows you to plug in your weekly goals; it will then tell you if you’re hitting your daily targets and staying in the ideal intensity to do so.
Apple Watch 5
Best high-end tracker
It’s the most expensive watch we tested, but for some the hefty price tag will be worth it, especially if you’re a data geek.
As you would expect from Apple, this watch looks stylish (it has 30 different watch faces to pick from) and is intuitive to use too. The digital crown on the side of the watch and a gentle swipe of the screen guide you around all the many features it has to offer. To be fair, it may take a few hours or longer to master everything it can do, but you can be up and running with its basics almost immediately once it’s quickly charged up.
Once the stud popper locks it into place on your wrist, it feels as if your entire life is being recorded – but in a good way. Along with steps, calories burnt and active minutes, you’ll be getting those nudges to move (and stand up at least every hour) if you want to achieve your daily target. We felt unashamedly smug after completing the coloured rings which appear on the watch to show you’ve hit all your day’s goals.
But it’s the level of the stats you can pore over on the app which really wowed us. Take the heart rate for instance; by holding your finger on the digital crown for a few seconds, you can get an ECG-like trace of your heart (the sort you would have in a cardiac unit) on the watch face. Other apps reveal when you’re in a setting with excessive decibels that could affect your hearing, while another tracks your menstrual cycle and tells you when you’re most fertile.
The real beauty of this watch is that it ticks all the boxes, including several boxes you never knew needed ticking. If the price tag isn’t a stumbling block, we think this is certainly worth buying.
Best for heart monitoring
This fitness tracker is a bit different from the others we tested, because you wear it around your chest instead of your wrist. This tracker is primarily focused on showing what your heart is doing when you’re exercising and claims to be 99.4% accurate – much more so than many of the wrist-based fitness trackers.
It’s worn close to your breastbone against your skin after it’s attached to its soft fabric band. At first this feels a bit odd, but you quickly become less aware of it. You can see the data it picks up on your phone or smart watch at the time or later when it downloads.
As well as showing your heart rate, we really liked that it displayed the percentage of effort put into a workout compared to taking it easy. It’s very motivating to achieve more. You can also hook up the tracker with others in the Myzone community. Your efforts gain you points so you can compete with others – including friends or others in your training group. A great way to challenge each other or celebrate successes on social media.
This arrives more than 80% charged and only needs a boost every six months. If you’re keen to know if you’re really putting in the effort, this tracker will give you the answer straight from your heart.
Available from Myzone (£129.99)
Best for overall fitness
With its sleek, unfussy design, this lightweight watch is a good choice for anyone keen to keep an eye on their overall well-being. Not only does it record your exercise, it also analyses your down time and tells you how well you will bounce back.
As it’s constantly measuring all manner of metrics, we found that this watch with built-in GPS needed charging every couple of days, especially if used for runs, walks or rides.
Its Polar Flow app content is vibrant and easy to follow; there is a clear breakdown of steps, active time and calories burnt. Offering a whole host of workouts based on your current fitness and what you want to achieve, it’s like having your own PT instructor on your wrist urging you on.
But just as engaging are its features relating to being more chilled. The Serene function encourages you to regulate your breathing, with mesmerising bubbles flowing steadily into a larger circle on the watch’s touchscreen. We also liked the Nightly Recharge mode, where your sleep and rest are analysed (factors such as heart rate and breathing are measured) in a cheery graph the next morning. Based on this data, it suggests what workouts you should do that day depending on how well you have recovered.
It’s a tracker for those who want all the numbers on both their active and the non-active aspects of their life.
Xiaomi Mi Band 5
Best for beginners
We found this an extremely easy watch to get to grips with, and its sleek appearance adds to its charm.
Charging via a magnetic USB cable is quick – it took about an hour – and on low use we found it lasted the promised 14 days advertised, and over a week with moderately heavy use.
Its discreet look is enhanced with its popper fastening which would fit even the slimmest of wrists snugly. There is a choice of different coloured bands.
Its Mi Fit app is very user-friendly and lets you really analyse all the personal data later on your phone.
There are no side buttons to worry about, but instead a single home button, and you navigate your way around by swiping the screen. The screen itself is bright and easy to read.
It has a dozen different sports modes to pick from, including swimming – it can even identify your stroke. Being water resistant up to 50m, it’s ideal for those who love the pool, sea or just forget to take it off in the bath.
It not only records all your steps, activity and calories, it also tracks your heart, sleep quality and stress levels. Luckily, the watch itself doesn’t add to the latter as it doesn’t try to complicate things.
This band also has the female user in mind as it can track your menstrual cycle too.
Overall, it combines good looks with lots of properly useful features which cover all aspects of your health. In short, all the newbie might need.
Available from Amazon (£27.47)
What is a fitness tracker?
Usually worn as a wristwatch, fitness trackers do things like count your daily steps, tot up active minutes and buzz to remind you to move if you’ve been sedentary for too long. Many now have heart rate monitors so you can see how hard you’re exercising. Some track your sleep so you know if you’ve slept lightly or soundly. Lots have GPS (satellite) built in, so you will get an exact location and and distance for every walk, run or ride. Most now notify you of texts and calls, even if (on most) you can’t respond to them.
What do you use fitness trackers for?
It depends on how fit you are, and how fit you want to be. If you spend most of your day sitting down, you might want to use it to increase your daily steps, boost your active time and burn up extra calories. If you’re already very active, you can see how far and fast you’re running, walking or cycling (some have a wide choice of sports to pick from) and compare it to last week/month.
How to choose a fitness tracker
Whether you want a basic model, a fitness tracker with GPS or a stylish wristwatch, think about the following when making your purchase.
Functions: consider whether you need the extra functions that will push up the price. For instance, a heart monitor might not appeal if you’re just trying to boost your daily steps. Similarly, decide if you really want GPS (satellite) to track your walks/runs, as that can be a costly add-on and also eat up a lot of your battery.
Style: if you plan to wear it all the time, make sure you like the look of the tracker. You can personalise some by changing the watch face or straps.
Waterproof: keen swimmers should find one you can wear in the pool. Many are now water-resistant to 50m.
Apps: you don’t have to connect your device to an app, but if you do, you’ll get access to more data. Some apps are those specially designed for that particular watch but there are free generic ones for cheaper models too.
Motivation: do you want a watch that will congratulate you when you reach a daily target? It might sound cheesy, but it can actually increase your likelihood to get moving.
Price: the ones we tested – we tested 14 in total – were between £20 and £400, so there’s a wide selection whatever your budget.
How do you set up a fitness tracker?
Most come out of the box with some charge, but its best to give them a blast for an hour or two as these devices can devour battery life rapidly. The chargers are becoming less fiddly now, with many magnetic ones that clip on to the back of the watch, so no need for trailing cables.
Some have their own dedicated app while others use established ones. Most can be downloaded and hooked up to your fitness band in under five minutes. The apps usually give much more detail than what you see on the watch face. They also give you a chance to spot trends and chart progress.
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This review was last updated in September 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.