Fitness trackers have been around in some form for more than 10 years now. From basic pedometers which counted our steps, we have come a long way in terms of technology. However, what kind of fitness tracker you should get depends on multiple things. Features of the device and your specific requirements are a good way to start. Lets talk about what fitness trackers are and what you should think about before purchasing one.
What is a fitness tracker
A fitness tracker or a smart watch or an activity tracker is a device which you wear that tracks various aspects of your physical activity. Depending on the amount of technology loaded on the device, it can be anything from a simple tracker that counts the number of steps you have walked to a device that constantly monitors your heart rate and alerts you when it detects irregularities. The range is indeed vast. Lets talk about some of the common features that fitness trackers have
Top Features found on fitness trackers/smart watches
The most basic fitness related tracking done by fitness bands or activity trackers is counting the number of steps you have walked. This is done by an on-board accelerometer which measures the vibrations that the watch goes through and infers the number of steps you have walked from this. This is useful if walking is your primary mode of exercise. After all, walking 10,000 steps every day is proven to be a good way to get enough daily exercise. Most fitness trackers however, offer a few more features than that of a simple step counter.
Watch and Alarm Clock
The next basic feature found on most activity trackers is the function of a watch and alarm clock. Most fitness trackers have a cool feature where the display lights up to show you the time when you turn your wrist to see the time. Not only does this save battery, its also very cool.
The second very nice time-keeping function of fitness trackers is their alarm clock. Most fitness bands have the option of setting up silent alarms. In silent alarms, the fitness band does not make any noise when it rings the alarm. Instead the entire band vibrates and since it has been placed on your wrist, only you are able to feel it. This is great for not disturbing your partner when you have to wake earlier than them.
Sleep tracking is another cool feature that is incorporated by most fitness trackers. Your fitness band can infer when you have gone to sleep based on your movements. The tracker can also figure out the durations of deep sleep and more shallow sleep and can thus track the quality of sleep that you are getting. Another interesting feature related to sleep tracking is setting up natural alarms.
The science of sleep says that it is ideal to wake up once a complete sleep cycle has come to an end. Your fitness tracker can figure out when your sleep cycle is ending and wake you up at that time which will ensure that you wake more rested and ready to go rather than waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle which is supposed to disruptive.
Smart Phone Integration for Data Visualization
There are two types of integrations for most fitness trackers when it comes to syncing up with your smart phone. The first type of integration is syncing for sharing data and showing visualisations. This can be via bluetooth or WiFi with the lower end fitness trackers tending to use Bluetooth. The data gets sent from the fitness band to the smart phone and you are then able to see visualizations like your walking and activity data and your sleep data.
Smart Phone Integration for Notifications
The other type of integration that most fitness trackers have with smartphones is the integration for seeing notifications and messages directly on your fitness tracker/smart watch. This also can be done by Bluetooth provided your smart watch is within Bluetooth range. This can help you in checking the notifications from your phone on your watch. In some cases, you can even read messages and Whatsapp chats on your smart watch/fitness tracker.
Heart Rate Tracking
Heart rate tracking is another popular integration that fitness bands are coming up with. With this, the fitness band can continuously monitor your heart rate. This is very useful for when you are working out as you can know whether your heart rate is in the zone that you want it to be. The fitness band can also monitor your heart rate through the data and you can then look through the data to look at interesting patterns.
Other types of monitoring
Some fitness trackers also have other types of tracking built-in. One of the common types of tracking is the movement tracker. In this, the fitness band tracks if you have been regularly moving about. If it detects that you have not moved for a while, it sends out an alert reminding you to get up from your seat and move about. This is very useful for anyone who works at a desk and wants to be more active during the day.
Fitness Band Buying Guide – What you should look for
So now that we have seen all the major features that fitness bands/activity trackers come with, lets talk about what you should be looking for for your next fitness tracker.
Consider the main kind of physical activity that you participate in
If you are mainly looking to track your steps walked and your sleep pattern then you might not need anything more than the most basic fitness tracker and this should not cost more than Rs 5000. However, if you are a serious runner or cyclist, then you might need to get a band that is more suited for these activities. For example, many higher end fitness bands are equipped with a GPS chip which enables you to track the distance that you have run/biked/swam more accurately.
Consider if you need smart phone notifications
The main advancement for fitness bands when it comes to higher end features is the deeper integration with your mobile phone. Showing notifications, reading messages and even taking calls is possible from the higher end fitness bands. Think about whether these features are important to you and whether you will end up using them. This can make a big difference in the cost of the fitness band that you purchase so do think carefully.
Make sure the fitness band is well integrated with your phone operating system
Another thing to consider is that some fitness bands are more tightly integrated with particular mobile phone operating systems. For example, the Apple Watch will also work with Android but the experience is much better when you use it with an iPhone. Similarly, there are other fitness bands which work better with Android phones. So make sure the fitness band you are planning to get works well with your mobile phone.
Fitness Band/Smart Watch/Activity Tracker Buying Guide – Wrap Up
So that was our quick buying guide on how to choose a good fitness band that works for you. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments.