Fitness trackers have a sneaky way of making workouts more fun. For starters, they give you a precise look at what you’re doing when you exercise. No step goes unlogged, no heartbeat goes unmeasured, and no sweat sesh goes unremembered—and there’s something really gratifying about that. They also acknowledge all the work you’re doing outside the gym. (Every step you take matters—even if you’re just walking around the house.)
Perhaps most importantly, though, fitness trackers are built with the understanding that health is a holistic process. Many of them don’t stop at measuring steps, calories, and heart rate—they’ll track your sleep quality, your stress levels, and your time spent recovering, too. Because health isn’t just about working up a sweat. And using a fitness tracker can be a great way to recognize everything you’re doing for yourself, whether that means training for a marathon or logging a killer nap on a Sunday afternoon.
Obviously, the best fitness tracker is the one that works for you. But Dorian Cervantes, a HIIT instructor at obé Fitness, has a few tips for finding a fitness tracker you’ll genuinely love using. Start by finding a fitness tracker that monitors all the metrics you care about. Then, consider the cherry-on-top features that will make you want to use your fitness tracker. “[Maybe] you want a fitness tracker that will connect to your smartphone easily,” Cervantes says. “This will keep you connected to your favorite playlists, and you can text or email without having to pick up a phone.” Or if you plan to work up a serious sweat during your workouts, you may want to invest in a water-resistant option.
Ahead, we share the best fitness trackers out there—you're bound to find one you love.
Best Overall: Fitbit Charge 4
The Fitbit Charge 4 covers all your fitness tracker bases—and looks good doing it. Forget about carrying all your must-haves to the gym. The Charge 4 will send texts, play music, and even make payments (if you hook it up to Fitbit Pay). And of course, it will ply you with tons of helpful data. You can use the Charge 4 to track things like your heart rate, your sleep quality, and your workout intensity—even if your workout is taking place in the pool. Plus, Charge 4’s band is so sleek you won’t have to worry about it clashing with your outfit.
Price at time of publish: $150
Best Budget: Xiaomi Mi Band 5
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly fitness tracker, the Xiaomi Mi Band is a seriously sweet deal. The device looks and feels like other fitness trackers. It monitors classic metrics—heart rate, sleep quality, and workout intensity—and it’ll even send you a notification if your heart rate is particularly high. With its versatile feature set and sleek appearance, you’d expect the Mi Band to cost a pretty penny. Instead, you can score it at a fraction of what you’d pay for one of its competitors.
Price at time of publish: $55
Best Luxury: Polar Vantage V
The Polar Vantage V is a data lover’s dream. It breaks every workout down into precise chunks—think cardio load, muscle load, and perceived load. To some, this level of specificity might sound like too much. But if you’re looking to level up your workouts, it can’t be beaten. Plus, the Vantage V is waterproof, durable, and long-lasting, making it a particularly worthwhile buy.
Price at time of publish: $300
Best Value: Garmin Vivosmart 4
Sleek, smart, and stylish, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 offers everything you’d want in a fitness tracker—which makes its under-$100 price point even sweeter. You can use the Vivosmart 4 to track your workouts, monitor your stress levels, and see how well you’re sleeping. And since the Vivosmart 4 is waterproof, you can safely take it in the pool with you to track your swims. What’s nice? The Vivosmart 4 can receive calls, texts, and notifications. So you can leave your phone behind without staying totally out of the loop.
Price at time of publish: $130 for Large with Monitor
Best for Beginners: Fitbit Inspire 2
Fitbit is known for its best-in-class fitness trackers, and its Inspire 2 doesn’t disappoint. The beginner-friendly tracker makes it easy to measure your workouts, heart rate, and day-to-day activities. And its advanced sleep tracker—which breaks down your time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep—will help you understand exactly how well you’re sleeping each night. As if that weren’t enough, the Inspire 2 will also send you call, text, calendar, and app notifications. And since the tracker is water-resistant, it’s also swim- and shower-friendly.
Price at time of publish: $100
Best for Running: Garmin Forerunner 245
If you're an avid runner, the Garmin Forerunner 245 is worth the splurge. The tracker will break down each of your runs into a bunch of precise metrics—like stride length, ground contact time, and vertical ratio—which will help you understand exactly what’s happening during your workouts. If you’re training for a race, Garmin will hook you up with a free training plan. And if you ever get in an accident, you don’t have to worry—the Forerunner 245 will send your real-time location to your selected emergency contacts.
Price at time of publish: $350
Best for Swimming: Garmin Swim 2
The Garmin Swim 2 is a must for anyone who swims regularly—especially if you’re logging swims outside the pool. Many fitness trackers are water-resistant, which means they’re shower- and swim-friendly. But the Swim 2 will hold up during swims in lakes, oceans, and rivers. Not only that—the tracker will also measure your swims in great detail. Swim 2 will keep track of your stroke count, stroke rate, stroke distance, and swimming efficiency. And if you happen to get lost during an open-water swim, you can use the tracker’s built-in GPS system to find your way back to shore.
Price at time of publish: $250
Best for Hiking: Polar Grit X
The Polar Grit X is an avid hiker’s dream come true. The watch won’t just track your hikes in terms of steps, distance, and heart rate, but it’ll also detect when you’re moving uphill or downhill, helping you understand exactly what happened on your hike. If you don’t want to carry a map, you can use the Grit X’s turn-by-turn route guidance to stay on track. And there’s no need to worry about the Grit X holding up in intense outdoor conditions. The watch can withstand extreme temperatures, drops, and humidity. True to form, it’s also water-resistant.
Price at time of publish: $381
Best for Triathlons: Fitbit Versa 2
Training for a triathlon? You want the Fitbit Versa 2 on your wrist. The smartwatch will track your running and cycling workouts. And since it’s waterproof, you can take it in the pool with you to log your swims. Naturally, the watch doesn’t stop there. It’ll also let you check the weather, stream your favorite music, and receive text, call, and app notifications. Given all this helpful functionality, it’s little surprise that Cervantes says she’s dying to try it out.
Price at time of publish: $150
Best Battery Life: Garmin Vivofit 4
Most of us are lucky to find a fitness tracker that lasts a week between charges. But the Garmin Vivofit 4 lasts a full year. That’s right—charge this tracker once, and you’ll be able to use it for a whopping 365 days without a recharge. But battery life isn’t the only thing the Vivofit 4 has going for it. The tracker will also measure your workout intensity and sleep quality (no heart rate measure, though). And since the Vivofit 4 is waterproof, it’s swim- and shower-friendly.
Price at time of publish: $70
Best Apple-Compatible: Apple Watch Series 6
You don’t have to be an Apple ride-or-die to appreciate how great the Apple Watch Series 6 is. The smartwatch doubles as a cell phone, letting you take calls, reply to texts, and stream music. And it triples as a seriously high-tech fitness tracker. You can use the watch to track your workouts, your heart rate, your sleep quality—even your blood oxygen level. And if your heart rate gets unusually high or low, the watch will send you a notification letting you know.
Price at time of publish: $399
Best Android-Compatible: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
The Apple Watch gets a lot of love (with good reason). But Android users need not worry—the Samsung Galaxy Watch is just as incredible. The watch acts as a holistic health and fitness tracker, monitoring your workouts, your sleep quality, and your stress levels. And of course, you can use the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 to send texts, take calls, stream music, and (if you have Samsung Pay) pay for stuff.
Price at time of publish: $326
What to Look for in a Fitness Tracker
Heart Rate Monitor
When choosing a fitness tracker, Cervantes considers a heart rate monitor to be an essential feature. “It’s important because it measures energy and calories spent during a workout by monitoring heart rate zones,” she says. “It also indicates when to intensify energy levels during a workout—this is essential when tracking progress in order to meet your health goals.”
“In a perfect world, the time we carve out for ourselves to train is without distraction or interruption, but for most of us, working out happens whenever we find the time,” says Cervantes. “If that means training in between work meetings or while the kids are napping, staying connected is imperative.” That’s why she recommends finding a tracker that boasts smartphone integration. “Having a device that syncs to your smartphone allows important texts, emails, and calls to be received without being glued to your phone or computer. It keeps your hands free to lift, run, and move while staying connected.”
Of course, smartphone integration comes with more perks than just syncing your texts. One, in particular, Cervantes is a fan of? “Having access to your playlists from your phone,” she says. “Music, at least for me, is major when it comes to training, and not having to carry my phone, worry about dropping a weight on it, or sweating all over it (things I’ve done) makes for a more solid workout.”
Finally, Cervantes recommends opting for a waterproof device. “When any electronic device gets wet, it will usually short circuit,” she explains. “Fitness trackers are both electronic and exposed to moisture (i.e., sweat), so it’s important to look for a tool that is waterproof.”
Of course, this feature is also crucial if your choice in workout involves actual water. “Wearing a fitness tracker during water sports or while swimming laps is a great way to measure your fitness progress without limiting your activities to just dry land,” she says.
Make sure the fitness tracker you’re eyeing is suited to your goals. Are you looking for reminders, accountability, workout inspiration, or something else entirely? Keep the focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re bound to end up with something great. And remember, “anything that can help you crush your goal is worth investing in,” Cervantes says.
What are the benefits to fitness trackers?
Since fitness trackers record your habits and fitness level, they can be a great tool in helping you to create a workout regimen and staying consistent with it. Research shows that fitness trackers allow you to conceptualize your goals and motivate you with progress notifications, which in turn helps you to stay active and lose weight. Who doesn't love the sound of that?
How accurate are fitness trackers?
For the most part, fitness trackers are accurate, but it depends on what you want them to measure. One study that tested the accuracy of a variety of commercial fitness trackers found that they were accurate in measuring heart rate but not for energy expenditure. Overall, while they can help a great deal in tracking your progress and stats, it's important to remember that they do have limitations and may be best combined with other tools.
Should I clean my fitness tracker?
In short, yes. Sweat, water, and other elements can cause your fitness tracker to get dirty after a workout. If you're unsure how to clean it, check the manufacturer's website for recommendations. In general, you can wipe it down with a damp cloth or rubbing alcohol.
Meet the Expert
Dorian Cervantes is an instructor at obé Fitness. She currently teaches strength and HIIT, and her certifications include pilates mat, ACE, TRX, and NASM.
Sullivan AN, Lachman ME. Behavior Change with Fitness Technology in Sedentary Adults: A Review of the Evidence for Increasing Physical Activity. Front Public Health. 2017;4:289. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00289
Shcherbina A, Mattsson CM, Waggott D, et al. Accuracy in Wrist-Worn, Sensor-Based Measurements of Heart Rate and Energy Expenditure in a Diverse Cohort. J Pers Med. 2017;7(2):3. doi:10.3390/jpm7020003