The Best Fitness Trackers 2020: Polar, WHOOP, Withings, Suunto - Rolling Stone
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The Best Fitness Trackers For Recording Your Exercise, Heart Rate and Sleep

Use a fitness tracker to monitor your activities and sleep to find ways to improve your health

Polar Vantage M

Amazon

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Technology can often seem like it’s distracting you from being more active, but fitness trackers are a big exception to that rule. Worn around the wrist, these gadgets can monitor your activity throughout the day, and log all of that data into an app, so you can view it on your phone. By seeing your fitness trends over time, you can begin to make changes to your routine that may improve your health over time.

Modern fitness trackers are slim and sleek, so you won’t have to feel self conscious about wearing them all the time, and transfer data to your phone wirelessly, so you don’t have to think about syncing it at the end of every night.

Getting a fitness tracker does not guarantee that you’ll see improvements in your health. Your diet and the intensity and frequency of your exercises will play a huge role in the results you see. A waterproof fitness tracker can give you the information you need to succeed, but how you use it is entirely up to you.

What Are the Best Fitness Trackers?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best fitness tracker for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Health Features: The point of wearing a fitness tracker is to monitor activities that impact your health, so we made sure that all our picks cover some basic health features. All of them can track your calories burned, distance traveled, heart rate and sleep.

Battery Life: You never want to go for a long run only to find your fitness tracker died and didn’t record your progress. The fitness trackers we’ve selected can go at least one day without charging, but some last over a week. The way you use your fitness tracker (cranking up its screen brightness, recording long runs frequently, etc.) will have a big impact on how long it lasts per charge.

Durability: Your fitness tracker is going to be exposed to everything from sweat and rain, to sand and dirt, which is why durability is the most important feature to consider. An electronic’s resistance to dust and water is typically measured on the IP (Ingress Protection) scale, but some fitness trackers use the ATM (atmosphere) measurement instead. All of our fitness tracker recommendations are designed to handle water.

Smart Features: While fitness trackers have traditionally been used for one purpose — monitoring your health — the ones in our guide have smart features, too. Whether it’s displaying your text messages, or the ability to use a smart assistant to help guide workouts, these features are meant to complement its primary function.

1. Withings Steel HR

Withings Steel HR

Amazon

Withing’s Steel HR is a great entry-level fitness band that lets you track your health without looking overly techy.

The fitness tracker, which looks like an analog watch, can record your steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, and sleep. The Steel HR will automatically detect when you’ve started exercising, figure out what you’re doing, and determine how many calories you’ve burned. If you’re a runner, you’ll appreciate this fitness tracker’s GPS, which will map out where you’ve gone. All of this data can be accessed inside the Withings app (iOS and Android), or synced with third-party apps like Strava or Health Mate.

By monitoring your heart rate and movements, the Steel HR can track how long you were in light and heavy sleep, and how often you were interrupted. The fitness tracker will tabulate all of this information and give you an easy-to-read sleep score, so you can tell how well the night went at a glance. Withings says the Steel HR can last up to 25 days on a single charge, and 45 days if it’s put into power reserve mode, which disables its heart rate sensor and sleep tracking features.

The Steel HR hasn’t earned an IP rating, but Withings says it’s designed to survive up to 150ft (feet) under water. It even has an automatic workout mode for swimming, so you should feel comfortable wearing this fitness tracker in your pool or the ocean.

The Steel HR doesn’t have all the smart features of a smart watch, but it covers the basics pretty well. You can receive notifications — calls, text messages, social media updates — on your wrist, but the screen is very small. While you can receive this information, there’s no way to interact with it on the Steel HR itself.

If you’d like a fitness tracker that covers the basics well, and don’t care too much about smart features, Withings Steel HR is your best choice.

Withings Steel HR, $179.95, available at Amazon

2. Whoop Strap

Whoop Strap

Facebook / Whoop

If you’re truly serious about getting into better shape, but need some help getting there, the WHOOP STRAP deserves your attention. The fitness tracker (called the WHOOP Strap 3.0) is included as part of the company’s subscription, which costs $30 per month.

Rather than focusing on discrete elements of your health, the WHOOP Strap takes all of them together to determine how much strain your body is under. The corresponding app (iOS and Android) will check factors like your heart rate and the amount of time you’ve exercised and recommend a “strain goal,” which you can push towards to improve your health.

Instead of simply telling you how much you’ve slept the night before, the WHOOP Strap knows your habits, and can suggest how much sleep to get (and when to go to bed) depending on how hard you want to train the next day. WHOOP says that these analytics have helped members of its community consume less alcohol, decrease their resting heart rate, and get additional sleep after four months of regular use. Keep in mind that your experience will be unique, and based on your personal goals.

One of the big draws to WHOOP is the opportunity to team up with friends, family members, or fellow fitness enthusiasts through the WHOOP app. You can create teams, and keep tabs on everyone’s performance to help motivate you to push yourself a little bit harder.

WHOOP says its third-generation fitness tracker can get up to five days of use on a single charge, although your experience may vary based on how often you exercise. The company says the band is designed to survive under 100ft of water, but shouldn’t be used for scuba diving, and is totally dustproof.

The WHOOP Strap 3.0 is incredibly smart when it comes to fitness tracking, allowing you to get finite details about your health, but isn’t designed for much else. It won’t display your texts, vibrate when you receive a call, or alert you when someone commented on your social media post.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive fitness tracker, which can make suggestions on ways you should improve based on your performance, you should consider signing up for a WHOOP subscription to get the WHOOP Strap.

Join WHOOP For $30 Per Month Here

3. Polar Vantage M

Polar Vantage M

Amazon

The Polar Vantage M is a highly sophisticated fitness tracker that can help guide runners toward self improvement.

It has over 100 exercise modes, which allows it to determine how hard you’ve worked out. One of the key metrics it monitors is your heart rate, and Polar touts that the Vantage M uses a mix of physical electrodes and optical sensors to get an accurate reading. By tracking your heart rate and specific workout, the Vantage M can determine your “cardio load,” or how much strain your cardiovascular system was while you were training. Polar doesn’t go into specifics, but does say the Vantage M can track your sleep if you wear it at night. All of this data can be tracked in Polar’s Flow app (iOS and Android), so you can track your progress.

Although it’s a great general fitness tracker, Polar designed the Vantage M with runners in mind. You can set up a running plan on the watch itself, and it’ll automatically adjust your next challenge based on your performance. The fitness tracker can also show you key metrics, like your current running speed, overall distance, and location at a glance. Some of these features are available during other activities, like its swimming mode, which tracks your style, distance, pace, strokes, and rest times.

Polar says the Vantage M can last up to 30 hours in training mode on a single charge, but you may be able be able to push it a bit longer if you don’t work out as much. The company also calls the Vantage M a “waterproof watch,” but doesn’t give any specific metrics about how far you can push it.

Although it can’t compete with popular smart watches, the Polar Vantage M can display all of your incoming notifications on its display. You’ll get an alert each time someone sends you a message or gives you a call, but you won’t be able to respond to them without picking up your phone.

If you’re a runner hoping to improve your time before the next 5K, or want a fitness tracker from a trusted brand with a long history in this space, Polar’s Vantage M should be your first choice.

Polar Vantage M, from $259.21, available at Amazon

4. Suunto 9 Baro

Suunto 7

Amazon

The Suunto 9 Baro is a deluxe fitness tracker built around custom technology, and excellent performance.

The fitness tracker records your steps taken and calories burned, and suggests activity targets to aim for based on your performance. Its heart rate sensor can help determine how hard your workout was, and both the quantity and quality of your sleep. Suunto’s 9 Baro has over 80 sports modes, so it can track your exercise more accurately, and uses a built-in barometer to factor your altitude into the intensity of your workout. All of this information is all available in Suunto’s app (iOS and Android), which also contains training goals you’ve set for yourself.

Suunto has gone through great lengths to optimize this fitness trackers battery performance under heavy use. It can last up to 14 days on a single charge in time mode, seven days when tracking your fitness and allowing incoming notifications, and 25 hours in training mode with GPS enabled.

One of the ways it reduces battery strain while running is using a Suunto-designed technology called FuseTrack, which blends GPS and motion sensor data to accurately determine your location. GPS tracking requires a huge amount of energy, so this hybrid approach should make a big difference.

On the durability front, Suunto says its 9 Baro fitness tracker is water resistant in up to 330ft of water, which makes it suitable for undersea activities like diving. Like most of the fitness trackers in our guide, Suunto’s 9 Baro can display notifications from your phone on its display. You’ll be able to see notifications as they arrive, and the ones you’ve missed will wait for you in the fitness tracker’s notification history section.

If you want a fitness tracker that can give you a pretty sophisticated picture of your overall health, and factor in as many external forces as possible to ensure accuracy, Suunto’s 9 Baro is our recommendation.

Suunto 9 Baro, $499.99, available at Amazon

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