How to choose the right activity tracker
By David Hawkins – Physiotherapist
Okay, so you’ve decided to buy an Activity Tracker. Perhaps it’s because you feel you want or need a little extra motivation to exercise, or you want to count your daily steps? Perhaps you want an accurate and convenient way to monitor your heart rate – to measure the intensity of your workouts or your current level of fitness? Perhaps you want the ultimate convenience of a Smart Watch with all the bells and whistles of call and messaging functionality, along with access to an ever-growing library of Apps? Whatever the reasons for wanting an Activity Tracker or Smart Watch, we applaud you. After all, research has shown that these devices can help to increase motivation to exercise and boost your physical activity by up to 30%!
Following are a few points you may or may not have considered to help you make the right decision and purchase the best activity tracker for you:
- What is the intended use of your device? Do you want a simple Activity Tracker, the ultimate in Smart Watch functionality or something that lies somewhere in between? What activities do you wish to monitor on your device? Is the device designed specifically for running or for a wider selection of activities?
- Compatibility: Is your device compatible with your Smart phone?
- Device App: Do you like the device’s App (if it has one), what it measures and how it displays it?
- Water resistance vs. waterproof: Can you shower with your watch on? Are you a swimmer or do you think you might become one? What about summer? Are you likely to head to the beach or pool and want to wear your device there?
- Cost: Perhaps you’re determined to stick to a budget, or maybe you consider that for a little (or a lot) more money you could/should purchase a more versatile device?
- GPS: Are you a runner, cyclist or avid walker and want to track your distance, cadence, altitude etc?
- Display: do you want a constant display or are you happy for your screen to turn on at the raise of your wrist or touch of a button/screen? Do you want a digital, analogue or combined display? A colourful, animated screen perhaps?
- Device navigation: Is the device easy to use or a little cumbersome? Can you access all functions or Apps easily on the device? Would you prefer a touch screen or physical buttons, bezels, dials or a combination of such?
- Heart rate sensor accuracy: All wrist-based heart rate monitors are not created equal. Some have a lag-time, while others tend to struggle with monitoring heart rates at higher intensities. Some don’t cope well with darker skin pigmentation or penetrating tattoo ink. While some issues may be the result of the device’s fit, a little research into the accuracy of your device compared to the gold standard in fitness – a chest-based heart rate monitor, is recommended.
- Health monitoring: Some devices offer a gamut of monitoring options including sleep quality, stress and 24/7 heart rate for the detection of abnormal heart rhythms.
- Battery life and charging: How long will your battery last under normal or intended use (e.g. exercise monitoring, messaging and calls)? How easily and quickly can you charge your device? What method is used for charging – cable or wireless?
- Aesthetics: Consider the size of the device (is it chunky and cumbersome or sleek and appealing). Are the watch-bands replaceable or customisable? Are there a variety of digital watch-face options? Do you intend to wear your device 24/7 or only when you’re exercising? How much does the aesthetic appeal of your device concern you?
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