The Fit & Well team try out the best activity tracking devices - and tell you how to make the most of yours
Got an activity tracker or planning to invest in one? Join the club. The trend for wearable tech shows no sign of stopping, with more than 70 million devices expected to be in use by 2018. Here in our Reviews: Activity trackers we thought it was time to put these gadgets to the test.
These days they’re a lot more than glorified pedometers – the latest models come with everthing from sleep trackers to mobile notification alerts. And Microsoft’s latest offering, which is yet to launch in the UK, has sensors monitoring everything from stress to sun exposure.
Plus the savviest companies are focusing their attention on the apps that go with the devices, so you can interpret and act on the data you collect.
We’ve put some of the top trackers on trial and found out how to get the most out of them.
Jawbone Up review
WHAT: A stylish and slick activity and sleep-tracking band.
TOP FEATURES: I’m addicted to the sleep-monitoring function. If I haven’t had a regular eight hours during the week, the app will inform me what time I need to head to bed and get up to make up the deficit. Plus, I love that it vibrates when I’ve been inactive for too long – a great reminder to get up from my desk and get moving.
DOWNSIDES: I found the app difficult to navigate. The food logging system is particularly tricky and the barcode-scanning tool doesn’t work on UK products. However, I track my food on the Weight Watchers app and Jawbone will connect with it and convert you activity to ProPoints.
GET THE MOST FROM IT: Sync it up with a host of other apps too, including RunKeeper (a workout tracker) and MyFitnessPal (a calorie and exercise log).
Polar Loop review
WHAT: A stylish tracker that calculates all daily exercise and sleep.
TOP FEATURES: It’s quick and easy to view the time, steps taken and calories burned on teh LED display with just one tap. Plus you can see how much longer you still need to jog or walk to achieve your goal. Tracks total sleep time, which is broken into restful and restless sleep.
DOWNSIDES: You cut the band to fit, which is clever but means it’s also easy to make a mistake – they will replace it, however, if you do go skewiff with your scissors. It also, as yet, doesn’t integrate with any other apps, so you don’t have the ability to factor in food eaten.
GET THE MOST FROM IT: Pair it with a heart rate sensor (sold separately), which combines your heart rate with your tracking data to provide you with a more accurate picture of your activity levels.
Fitbug Orb review
WHAT: A good value tracker that records steps, exercise and sleep.
TOP FEATURES: Wear on your wrist or hip. Steps and aerobic steps (when you walk for more than ten minutes straight) are calculated separately, with daily targets. It also tracks sleep and you can sign up to a (paid for) tailormade health/fitness plan.
DOWNSIDES: No display, so you need to go into the app. If you wear it on your hip it can work loose.
Sony Smartband Talk review
WHAT: A smart watch that tracks activity and phone notifications.
TOP FEATURES: It records how much time you’ve spent still, walking and running, plus you can answer calls on the wristband and receive message alerts.
DOWNSIDES: You can only read the first line of your e-mails and you can’t reply to them. So ultimately, you still need to take to your phone.
GET THE MOST FROM IT: Set goals to push yourself – you’ll be alerted when you hit them.
Garmin Vivosmart review
WHAT: Sporty sleep and activity tracker that receives mobile notifications.
TOP FEATURES: It’s tough and water resistant. One tap on the display allows you to view steps and the time. The exercise mode records your activity and logs it on the Garmin app. Plus, it vibrates when you’ve been inactive. On top of all of that, you can receive notifications from your phone, too.
DOWNSIDES: It vibrates when you lose Bluetooth, which is annoying.
GET THE MOST FROM IT: Creat and download personalised workouts on the Garmin websites.
Jawbone Up 3 review
WHAT IS IT? A stylish wristband that tracks heart rate, sleep and workouts.
BEST BITS: As well as monitoring steps and sleep in great depth – and telling you when you’re not doing enough of either – it automatically recognises when you’re doing a workout. Very clever!
DOWNSIDES: It records your heart rate while resting (a good indication of overall health), but not during workouts.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: The Smart Coach app gives you personalised advice to help you reach your goals. You can also log your food intake.
Fitbit Surge review
WHAT IS IT? This multi-talented smart watch monitors steps, distance, workout sessions, sleep patterns and heart rate, but also features GPS to map walks and runs.
BEST BITS: It combines everything into one watch – you can even get your text messages! We loved the fact that Zumba classes counted towards the 10,000 daily steps target. Using the GPS function for weekend walks also encourages you to spend more time outside.
DOWNSIDES: It’s a pretty chunky watch, but all that data has to fit in somewhere.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: The Fitbit app now has a UK food diary, so you can track every single aspect of your life in one place. You can get a clear idea of how many calories you burn compared to what you eat.
Garmin Forerunner review
WHAT IS IT? A GPS running watch that also measures heart rate using a high-tech optical sensor on your wrist.
BEST BITS: The GPS feature means it’s great for training runs, as it calculates distance and pace, and the heart rate sensor is one of the best – with no fiddly wires. You can also wear it all day, so both regular runs and daily activity is tracked, including steps, calories burned and sleep.
DOWNSIDES: It only monitors running, not other workouts, and it doesn’t have phone notifications, letting you know when you receive texts or calls, which would be handy on a run.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Wear it 24/7, not just when running.
Swinmovate Poolmate 2 review
WHAT IS IT? A waterproof lap-counting swim watch.
BEST BITS: After a swim it tells you how many lengths you’ve done, how far and fast you’ve gone and how many calories you’ve burned. It’s not too pricey either.
DOWNSIDES: It can also be used to track open water swimming, but you need to swim a calibration lap first as it doesn’t use GPS.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Download the PoolMate app to review and share your swims with your friends.