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10 Things to Look for in a Fitness Tracker

How to pick a comfortable, efficient and useful device

10 Things to Look for in a Fitness Tracker

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Here are 10 things to look for in a fitness tracker.

En español | Fitness trackers come in various shapes, sizes and materials. And they’re made for nearly everybody, whether you’re a serial triathlete or a fit wheelchair user.

Most fitness trackers cost between $50 and $250. More expensive models usually include built-in optical heart rate monitors and GPS. You can pay as much as $499.99 for the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, which gives pertinent information to triathletes.

If you’re shopping for a tracker, here are features that experts and users advise looking for:

Some trackers automatically tell how many calories you’ve eaten and even how many of those calories came from carbs, fat or protein.

1. Ease of use

It shouldn’t take a lengthy manual to understand how the device works, but instructions should be clear and complete enough to easily set it up and use it daily. Some reviewers have found the Fitbit Blaze the company’s best-looking tracker, with software that is easy for beginners to grasp. A review by Better Homes and Gardens called the Microsoft Band 2 a slim and sleek wristband that is “super easy, incredibly effective.”

2. Distance vs. training gauges

If you simply want to know how many steps you take, look for an all-day tracker. These generally measure steps as well as stairways climbed, duration of the exercise and calories burned. If you want to go beyond measuring distance to get details on the speed, pace and stride associated with your steps as well as the path traveled, look for a training tracker. These models can provide data tailored to swimmers, golfers, skiers, weight lifters or marathon runners. For example, Epson last year unveiled the M-Tracer MT500GII Golf Swing Analyzer, designed to improve your game by analyzing your swing.

3. Calorie counter

Some trackers automatically tell how many calories you’ve eaten and even how many of those calories came from carbs, fat or protein. FitBit offers the Aria Wi-Fi  Smart Scale, which records weight, body fat percentage and body mass index. For extra prodding, the Mira fitness tracker includes a “Need inspiration?” button that offers nuggets such as: “At the halfway point of a brisk 25-minute walk, stop and do 30 jumping jacks. That’ll get your heart pumping!”

4. Heart rate monitor

This allows you to control the intensity of your workout. In general, monitors that strap to the chest and transmit information to the tracker are more precise than sensors applied to your wrist.

5. Display size

Bigger displays provide easier navigation through various functions. Advanced trackers show words, numbers and symbols on a watch-face display. Others share data using an LED light display or through an app. When you sync the data onto your smartphone or computer, the tracker’s companion app not only archives the information but also helps interpret and analyze it. Consumer Reports advises shoppers to preview the tracker’s companion app in the Apple App Store or on Google Play to make sure it lives up to expectations.

6. Comfort and style

Many bands have slats or another way to adjust to your wrist. Some can be clipped to your clothing, which may be more comfortable to wear. And some are style conscious. For example, Misfit — maker of the Shine — has devices topped with a single light-catching crystal and nine crystal-bedecked accessories.

7. Wireless technology

Unfettered by cumbersome wires, this allows quick and easy connections to phones and other devices through special apps.

8. Water and sweat resistance

Moisture can shorten the life of the tracker. Some trackers are just splash-proof. Others, such as the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, can withstand a hardy shower or even swimming.

9. Sleep tracking

A good tracker can monitor the length and quality of your sleep. Two of the Shine models (one clear and one violet) track movement and sleep patterns and sync wirelessly with a mobile app to keep track of the data they collect. A tap on the face shows how far you’ve come toward reaching your goal, and LEDs light in a circular pattern.

10. Battery life

Some are more energy-efficient than others and can be used longer without charging or replacing the batteries. Battery life can stretch from one day to several months. A tracker with a color touch screen and lots of sensors will need to be charged more frequently than a simple band with a few LED lights. Some trackers are rechargeable, and some run on the coin cell batteries often used in cameras and calculators.

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