Table of Contents
- 1 Best fitness trackers
- 2 Apple Watch Series 7
- 3 Fitbit Sense
- 4 Oura (Generation 3)
- 5 Withings ScanWatch
- 6 Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6
- 7 Whoop 4.0
Picking the best fitness tracker for your needs requires a bit of thought. We’re going to run you through the best options in 2022.
As fair warning, there are quite a few different models included in this list. That’s largely because we wanted to include something for everyone, so we’ve got budget Fitbits alongside all-singing, high-end Garmin watches.
What should you look for in a fitness tracker? Well, that largely depends on your needs. We’d recommend a fitness tracker with full GPS for any keen runners or cyclists. If you want to exercise completely phone-free – but you still want to listen to your tunes – then you’ll also need a tracker that comes with music storage.
We’ll touch on these considerations and others as we run through the 10 best fitness trackers you can buy today. All the keen runners out there should also read our best running watches guide for more focused recommendations.
Best fitness trackers
The Apple Watch Series 7 is generally considered the default smartwatch, the obvious choice if you have the money to spend. That risks glossing over what makes it so special.
This is the only watch series that has a committed enough following to foster a truly vibrant app scene. Digging around in the App Store to find fresh yoga, mindfulness and gym apps is actually worthwhile, although if you are happy to pay a subscription and like working out from home, do check out Apple’s own Fitness+ service.
It plays video workouts on your TV or iPad, with on-screen stats recorded by the watch. The Apple Watch Series 7’s heart rate accuracy is also best-in-class – and its on-board GPS is reliable too.
Apple’s baked-in fitness software is well-suited to casual fitness fans, while the near-peerless support for third-party platforms means the hardcore exercisers are catered for too. There’s only one big drawback, which is battery life. You need to charge an Apple Watch Series 7 every day, or every other day.
This is far more upkeep than a fitness tracker that is not also a smartwatch. Many people will prefer living with a watch that does less, but lasts longer between charges.
A Garmin Fenix 7 is the best fitness tracker to get if you want the most comprehensive set of built-in exercise features available. These stand out when you bring other hardware into the mix.
The Fenix 7 series can connect to heart rate straps and foot pods, bike turbo trainers, and even Garmin’s bike lights. You can download continents’ worth of maps to the watch’s internal memory and plan hike, bike and run routes so you can leave your phone at home.
It lets you download music and podcasts from some of the most popular music services, including Spotify and Deezer. And the MiP screen only becomes clearer in bright sunlight, so tracked outdoor sessions won’t kill the long-lasting battery.
Its heart rate and GPS accuracy are great, and the presentation of stats like training load and VO2 Max seems tailored for the fitness enthusiast.
A Garmin Fenix 7 may be a bit much if you just want to track 5km runs a couple of times a week. It’s not light and it’s not cheap. The bulk isn’t ideal for sleep tracking, so consider Garmin’s Versa 2 if you like the sound of Garmin’s style but would prefer something smaller.
That said, Garmin’s watches are less intimidating than they once were. The Fenix 7 has a touchscreen and a quick swipe up from the watch face gives you a neat run-down of all your important daily stats. It has encyclopaedic features, but works well for casual all-day tracking too.
The Garmin Epix 2 is much like the Fenix 7, but it swaps that watch’s practical but dated-looking MiP screen for a much brighter, sharper and prettier OLED. It adds colour and gloss, perfect if you want a serious fitness tracker with a smartwatch-style sheen.
None of the core features are traded away. The Epix 2 software still has best-in-class depth and breadth, particularly handy for use without a phone. Downloadable maps, the ability to program routes on the watch itself and sync music to its internal storage: these make the Epix 2 feel more like a fitness computer than other trackers. Like other top-end Garmins, you can download additional apps too, although the library is limited.
Should you buy this over the Fenix 7? It’s a bit nicer to use indoors, when just acting as a watch or giving you structured workout instructions in the gym. There is a battery life sacrifice, though. The watch lasts around six days with the screen lit the whole time. This rockets to 16 days in the mode that only lights the display when in use, but the Garmin Epix 2 just isn’t as enjoyable to use like this.
We’re not going to complain too much about roughly a week between charges when that’s the best Fitbit offers, and it is leagues ahead of the Apple Watch. Cost is the only major issue here, with a starting price a lot higher than the Fenix 7. It’s tricky to justify when much cheaper watches have OLED displays that look just as good. Still, it’s a killer fitness tracker if you have the money to spend.
We reckon that the Charge 5 is the best Fitbit for most people. If you have your heart set on a Fitbit, you just have to decide whether you’d prefer this or the bigger, more expensive Fitbit Sense.
This model is much smaller. It’s a band, not a watch. And you don’t get the downloadable apps available on Fitbit’s Versa and Sense — like Spotify, for example. If you want to go for a run and listen to music, you’ll have to use your phone if you’re using a Charge 5.
However, the sheer amount of stuff Fitbit packs into the Charge 5 is impressive. It has full GPS, for phone-free route tracking. It has the EDA stress sensor Fitbit introduced in the Sense watch, and even an ECG sensor. This analyses your heart rhythm to check for abnormalities, using hardware completely separate from the optical heart rate reader on the back.
It’s rare to see a fitness tracker this small that is so comprehensive in the stats it can gather, and Fitbit’s sleep tracking is among the best around. However, to see the Fitbit Charge 5 at its full strength you’ll need to sign up for Fitbit Premium. It costs $9.99/£7.99 a month and the watch includes a 6-month trial. While a Charge 5 works fine without it, fitness plans and even blood oxygenation readings sit behind this paywall.
The Fitbit Sense is Fitbit’s flagship fitness tracker. Back at its launch in late 2020 it was the most sensor-packed watch you could buy.
It has all the usual stuff, like GPS and an optical heart rate reader with the ability to measure blood oxygenation. But Fitbit went further with an ECG sinus rhythm sensor array and an EDA sensor. This takes a look at sweat production in your skin, as an indicator of stress.
Despite all this next-level tech, the Fitbit Sense comes across as a friendly watch. The interface is not imposing, the design is cute and its battery will last nearly a week.
You can also download a decent array of apps to the wearable, but there are a few caveats here. While there is a Spotify app, this does not let you download music to play offline — it just acts as a controller. Check out a top Garmin watch or Apple Watch for full Spotify skills.
If you’re keen on seeing more hardcore fitness stats like VO2 Max, you’ll also need to be subscribed to Fitbit Premium. While the Fitbit Sense includes six months of access, it costs $9.99/£7.99 a month once that runs out.
Not every fitness tracker is worn on your wrist. The Oura, now in its third generation, is a ring. There’s no outward sign this is a tracker at all, as all the sensors sit on the inside. The outside is titanium, a light and tough metal.
You don’t do anything with the Oura as such, not physically. There are no buttons. You simply wear it and let the ring do its thing. This may appeal if you want to wear a normal watch and don’t fancy filling your wrist up with wearables. The Oura ring harvests an impressive amount of information for its size too.
It records your heart rate all day and night, works out your heart rate variability, takes a note of your skin temperature, and can calculate your blood oxygenation level. The Oura counts steps too, of course. Passive activity tracking is its most impressive feature. Loads of wearables do this, recognising when you go for a run or walk, but the Oura also quietly snags location information from your phone to provide maps of your routes when you get back home.
There’s no screen here, but the Oura approach is all about offering meaningful advice in the phone based on the data the ring collates. It’s actionable stuff like avoiding high-intensity exercise one day because your HRV is a bit low, or taking some time to actively unwind before bed. You do have to pay for this, though. Access to Oura’s software costs $5.99/5.99 Euro a month following the six-month trial included with the ring itself.
The Amazfit GTR 3 is a fitness tracker that looks a lot like a smartwatch. It has a super-sharp 1.39-inch OLED screen similar to the display of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, which is a lot more expensive.
Its outer casing is aluminium, and it has a rotary crown controller similar to the Apple Watch Series 7’s. The back of the watch face, which sits on your wrist, is plastic. But this just sums up what the Amazfit GTR 3 is all about. Amazfit tries to pack in features and higher-end style where you’ll notice it, and leaves out more expensive parts where you won’t.
It has full GPS, provides blood oxygenation readings and has an optical heart rate reader with six light-sensing photodiodes. Amazfit packs in a dizzying 150-plus workout modes, menstrual tracking, Amazon Alexa support, 5ATM water resistance and fantastic battery life of up to 21 days (6 days if you use the always-on screen mode).
The message is clear: the Amazfit GTR 3 does a lot, for not all that much money. It’s important not to expect stellar depth or accuracy, though. The heart rate sensor is not as good at tracking interval workouts as an Apple Watch or Garmin Instinct 2, and unlike the “Pro” version of the GTR 3, you can’t load this watch up with music for phone-free workouts.
The Withings ScanWatch belongs to a special, and very much lovable, class of fitness tracker. It’s a hybrid, where activity smarts are built into a classic analog watch with moving arms.
Classic hybrid watches typically only offer surface-level fitness information, but the Withings ScanWatch digs much deeper. It has a tiny little porthole screen built into the watch face, letting it display data live rather than making you open up the companion app on your phone.
The ScanWatch records your heart rate 24/7, calculated blood oxygenation and — the real surprise — even has an ECG sensor. It seems flat-out unlikely to see an advanced health feature like this on what appears to be a classic timepiece, for the most part.
A second physical dial at the bottom of the screen can be used to show you how close you are to meeting your daily goal, perhaps a step count. You can also start tracked activities like runs from the watch itself. While the Withings Scanwatch does not have its own GPS to map out walks, runs and rides, it can take location data from your phone over Bluetooth.
You get much of the substance of a dedicated fitness watch in a sleeker, less techy-looking package. Battery life of up to 30 days is wonderful too. You do have to value the design, as more traditional runner’s watches at a similar price do more. But when has the appearance of a wearable not mattered?
Fitness trackers do not have to cost a fortune. A few companies produce ones cheap enough to be considered almost “pocket money” buys, and the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 is one of the very best.
How much you get for your money here is quite remarkable. The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 has a large lozenge-like 1.57-inch OLED screen. It’s sharp, colourful and bright enough to appear clear outdoors — far better than the relatively dim monochrome display of the more expensive Fitbit Inspire 2.
The touchscreen interface is responsive too. You might expect glaring shortcomings at this price, but what limitations there are do not spoil the fun of using a Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6.
And the bad bits? The Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 does not have GPS, but it can connect to your phone during runs for full stats and maps. You don’t get the guided workouts of a pricier fitness tracker either, and smart features pretty much begin and end with phone notifications.
However, it does an awful lot for the price, including capturing blood oxygenation readings. Even the heart rate recording feature is responsive and reasonably accurate, although you don’t get the same kind of performance here for interval workouts as in an Apple Watch Series 7.
The Whoop 4.0 is a screen-free fitness band you wear on your wrist. Or on your arm if you buy Whoop’s bicep band.
This isn’t a fitness tracker for those who want to see maps of run routes, or know fast they are cycling. Its vision is much narrower, or more focused. You wear the Whoop 4.0 24/7, and it analyses your heart rate and sleep patterns to help you hone your workout routine.
Are you hitting it too hard and running yourself down or risking overtraining? Is there more juice left in the tank that means you could push harder? That is the Whoop 4.0’s game. As such, most of the time this band simply gets out of the way — it’s a silent partner as you actually do your workouts and doesn’t even offer step counts.
Instead it records your heart rate, skin temperature and blood oxygenation, from which it extrapolates its advice on how hard you should train each day. The Whoop 4.0 is made for the hardcore crowd, even if it is in some ways the polar opposite of a top-end Garmin like the Fenix 7.
Despite significant improvements for this generation, stat accuracy still isn’t quite as good as a Fenix 7’s or Apple Watch Series 7’s. And you had better factor in how you pay for a Whoop 4.0 before signing up. It’s part of a membership program that costs $30/£30 a month (with a 12-month commitment), $288/£288 for a year or $480/£480 for two years.