The Fitness Tracker Buyer’s Guide: The 5 Best Fitness Trackers For 2016-2017
Looking for the perfect last minute Christmas present for your favorite fitness junkie? Stuff their stocking with the perfect fitness tracker.
Getting into the gym consistently is already hard enough. Especially when it’s beyond freezing, endlessly dark, and binging a full season of Westworld seems oh-so-attractive. Choosing the ideal fitness tracker, smartwatch, or pedometer (semantics) to fit your workout needs shouldn’t add any more friction to the process.
Over the past few years the market for fitness trackers and wearables has exploded. Yet with 100’s of complicated options to choose from—and even more complex features to consider—making a decision on how to track your training has become stupidly overwhelming.
Lucky for you, we tore apart the fitness tracking landscape, tested the behemoths and niche options (over 50 deep), and pulled out the top 5 fitness trackers and smartwatches on the market for the 2016-2017 season.
Whether you’re an avid runner and rely on GPS to track routes; a HIIT aficionado who wants detailed heart rate monitoring; a do-it-all, multi-sport junkie who wants to track their runs, strokes, and slopes; or someone who just wants something simple that isn’t uber-dorky, there’s a fitness tracker for everyone.
They’re a fantastic gift option this Christmas and/or the perfect way to kickstart a new fitness habit in 2017.
The 5 Best Fitness Trackers For 2016-2017
1. Best All-Around Fitness Tracker — Fitbit Blaze
Meet the king of the fitness tracking universe. The Fitbit Blaze Fitness Tracker is Fitbit’s most complete and versatile fitness tracker. More than a tracker, it looks and functions like a full-blown smartwatch—it’s basically a fitness-forward version of the Apple Watch—but available at a fraction of the cost.
One of the things we were most impressed by was the absurd versatility and breadth of features. There’s nothing it can’t do. The Fitbit Blaze has multiple sensors that knock out all of the basics, including steps, distance, floors climbed, and calories burned.
Additionally, it packs almost every advanced feature you could ever want in one tight package, including: continuous heart rate monitoring directly from the wrist, connected GPS for run-routing and route-mapping, automatic sleep tracking and silent alarm functionality, multi-sport tracking, and on-screen workouts (with step by step instructions).
It also offers classic connected smartwatch functionality in the form of smartphone notifications and music control.
On top of its robust functionality, the Fitbit Blaze is GORGEOUS. It’s beautifully designed with a vibrant full LCD touchscreen, and comes in a wide range of sexy colors, including gunmetal and pink/gold.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift, the Fitbit Blaze is currently the gold standard in the fitness tracker market.
Standout Features: Wrist-based heart rate monitoring. Connected GPS. Sleep tracking. Smartphone notifications and music control.
GET IT: Fitbit Blaze — $179.95, Amazon
If you’re a man/woman of many talents and skills, who loves to do it all, the Garmin Vivoactive HR needs to be your go-to.
Think of it as the Swiss army knife of fitness trackers.
It covers all of the basics in incredible detail—activity tracking, music control, wrist-based heart rate monitoring, GPS tracking, smart notifications—and packs a whopping 8 day battery life. But where it really excels and differentiates itself is with its multi-sport tracking capabilities.
It does EVERYTHING through a collection of native sport-based apps. Some of the incredible things it can track:
- Running — tracks heart rate, pace, time, and distance, and also includes built-in run/walk interval functionality.
- Golf — connects to over 40,000 courses worldwide and shows greens (and front/middle/back), shot distances, and stroke counts from your wrist.
- Swimming — it’s waterproof graded at 5ATM and the swim app spits out total/interval distance, pace, stroke count, stroke type, and swimming efficiency (strokes per pool length).
- Rowing — the built-in paddle boarding app tracks row pace, overall time, distance, and stroke.
- Cycling — tracks time, distance, speed, and calories.
- Skiing — measures 3-D speed (takes incline into account) and provides splits automatically.
If the Fitbit Blaze is 1A, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is 1B — and a more robust option for anyone that takes fitness beyond running and the gym.
Standout Features: Multi-sport apps and tracking capabilities. Wrist-based heart rate monitoring. Connected GPS. Smartphone notifications and music control.
GET IT: Garmin Vivoactive HR — $199.99, Amazon
By far, my favorite intro fitness tracker is the Withing Activité Pop.
Three things I adore about the Withings Activité Pop: (1) it comes in a bunch of cool colors and doesn’t look dorky, (2) you can get one for under $100 bucks, and (3) you don’t have to charge it.
No friction. No hassle. No fashion faux pas. No excuses.
Effectively, it’s a watch disguised as a fitness tracker, which is a huge plus for me. And likely for anyone that’s trying to get in shape but vehemently hates doing it.
Tracking-wise it’s not a heavyweight like the others, but it does more than enough. It tracks all of the basics like steps, calories, running, and distance, and even stuffs in sleep tracking and swim tracking from one easy-to-use app interface.
Standout Features: Budget pricing. Mix-and-match color options. Sleep tracking. Swim tracking. 8 month battery life.
GET IT: Withings Activité Pop — $90.99, Amazon
…and if you’re looking for something for your bougie, debonair fitness friend (I’m putting myself in that category) go with the polar opposite.
Withings Activité Sapphire packs all of the features of the Pop, but its design is impeccable—it’s Swiss Made and designed in Paris—in a way that’s timeless and fit to go from the gym to drinks in an instant.
Standout Features: Swiss Made. Gorgeous design and aesthetics. Swim tracking. Sleep tracking. 8 month battery life.
GET IT: Withings Activité Sapphire — $477.33, Amazon
5. Best Fitness Tracker for Sleep Tracking — Jawbone UP4
Most nouveau fitness trackers are equipped to handle sleep tracking. And frankly, there are a ton of free apps that do it too. But for the most part, they’re inaccurate, gimmicky, and there’s a lot left to be desired.
The Jawbone UP4 is the one exception, and the only tracker I’d buy if sleep tracking is your main priority. The app is incredibly granular and spits out detailed charts, graphs, and data by the hour, all of which provide a detailed breakdown of deep/light sleep cycles, REM cycles, and your resting heart rate throughout the night.
It’s not as robust as other trackers, but it’s an incredible value just north of $50 bucks.
Standout Features: Sleep tracking. Extremely inexpensive. Heart rate monitoring.
GET IT: Jawbone UP4 — $52.95, Amazon
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto.
I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP
, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid
, and all-around fitness junkie.
I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine
When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses
and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO)
& Snapchat (BRYDISANTO)
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