Whether you're taking your first tenative steps into fitness or you're a gym fiend who's used to pushing as hard as you can, five times a week, a fitness watch can be a handy tool when it comes to keeping on top of your physical health. Some people use them to track steps and give themselves a little extra motivation to move throughout the day; others want to know every last detail about their physical health, right down to their blood oxygen saturation levels.
Initially dismissed by some as a fad, it seems fitness watches are well and truly here to stay. But with more on the market than ever before, picking the one to meet your needs can seem, at times, a slightly overwhelming task. Nonetheless, before you part with your hard earned money you're going to want to do your research. Let's be honest, we wouldn't even order a pizza without first reading what other people thought of it.
So, to save you spending hours of scrolling though Amazon, scouring the comments section without a clue what you're really
reading for, here are the pointers we'd recommend 'watching' for in the reviews.
Consider What You’re Tracking
It’s important to pick the right tracker for your needs, so think about what you’re going to be tracking. If you’re simply using it to make sure you’re getting your 10k a day in – footsteps, that is – then you wont need anything with too many gadgets. However, if you’re a keen runner or cyclist then having an accurate GPS system will likely be of more importance to you. Similarly, if you’re going to use it to actively monitor your fitness progress then consider investing in one that can tell you not only your heart rate, but how long you’re spending in each heart rate zone.
What Features To Look For
If you’re a committed runner or cyclist the having a high quality GPS will be high on your list of priorities but, unfortunately, not all GPS is created equal. Having built-in GPS is handy, as you’ll be able to leave your phone at home, but it can push the price of the device up. Alternatively, some trackers now have ‘connected GPS’, which allows you to tether to your phone’s GPS, lowering the cost of the overall tracker but meaning you will
have to carry your phone with you.
Read the reviews for
: If the GPS is built in then pay attention to how accurate it is and how reliable the connection is – there’s nothing more frustrating than finishing a run to find that it hasn’t been tracked properly and you’ve got no idea how you did for time or distance.
If you’re likely to leave your phone at home, it’s also worth considering how much music – if any – your watch can store. We’re yet to get to the stage where you can control your music on the go in the same way you would using your phone, but you can sync many watches with a Spotify Premium account, so you can access your playlist on the go.
Read the reviews for
: How easy is it to get music onto the device? Does it drain the battery? Is it limited to being compatible with certain music services, for example Deezer? Realistically, there’s not much point paying extra to have features if you’re not going to use them.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Most fitness watches will track your heart rate while you’re wearing it, and so can give you a good indication of what your resting heart rate looks like, how it varies through the day and how much it rises when you’re doing a specific type of exercise.
However, there is
only so much data you can get from your wrist; as it stands, a chest strap will still be the best option if you’re after the most detailed analytics and highest levels of accuracy. This is especially the case if you’re doing a HIIT or gym-based workout, where your heart rate will rise and fall sharply, depending on where you are in your workout.
Read the review for:
What limitations have people found with the heart rate monitor? Is it fine with steady state cardio but struggles with HIIT?
This doesn’t just mean what the watch does, but how simply it does these things too. After all, no one wants to be all gear and no idea. Making sure the screen is big enough for you to glance at easily is an important one. And if you’re the kind of person that refuses to read the IKEA instructions before you start building, then you’re going to want to look for one that’s simple to set up.
Read the reviews for:
How easily does the touch screen react? How easy is it to set up? How is the battery life?
While the functionality is hugely important, so too is the design. Fortunately, the days when all fitness trackers could be confused for ASBO tags are long gone; they now come in all kinds of sleek designs and beautiful hues. If you’re spending good money on a fitness watch, you’re going to want to wear this on your wrist all day, every day.
Read the reviews for
: How heavy is the watch? Is it subtle enough to wear to work or when you’re out and about during the day?
Models To Consider
Despite looking as subtle and classy as a classic time-telling watch, Withings ScanWatch
bills itself as the "world's most advanced health wearable" and is so sensitive that it can record a medical-grade electrocardiogram. These readings can then be shared with your doctor, via an app. Among its main features is built in GPS, automatic activity detection, in-depth sleep tracking and even an alarm that wakes you at the optimal time, based on your sleep cycle.
Garmin Venu Sq
A good option for those comitted to keeping a close eye on their own health and fitness goals, without the need for the top-tier features found on more expensive watches, the Venu Sq
tracks your heart rate, your pulse and your activity, as well as boasting built in GPS, stress and sleep monitoring. What's more, it even includes contactless payment, for those days when you've promised yourself a frothy coffee as a reward for getting out and getting it done.
Fitbit Inspire 2
If you're flirting with your first fitness watch but aren't yet sure if you're ready to go all in, the wallet friendly Fitbit Inspire 2 is a good option. It'll recognise what activity you're doing - running, cycling, swimming - and is waterproof up to a depth of 50m. However, with no built in GPS, so this might not be the device for you if tracking your running or cycling is your primary objective.