Look at a wrist while you are walking on the street or in a meeting and you will probably see more than half of the people wearing some type of fitness watch. These devices monitor everything from heart rate to total time of activity and your sleep performance. But which one should you buy considering it's cyber Monday and the deals are great. Ultimately these gadgets are great ways to both encourage people to get active because you can set goals and keep yourself accountable. There's nothing like a bit of self guilt by looking at a $300 device that buzzes and dings at you every time you stay seated for an hour. Research or not, fitness and smart watches have been declared to be the top fitness trend of 2019 by the American College of Sports Medicine bumping things like high intensity interval training and group fitness off the top seat. Ultimately these devices won't get you fit but they will serve as motivation and accountability. We tried out a few of these devices last year and each of them have their positives - from the ability to monitor how intense your workout is by how fast your heart rate and arms move to answering text messages and surfing the internet. But they also had a lot of issues more focused on accuracy of the device in measuring heart rate and things like distance ran. Here are my suggestions for what to look for in a fitness watch that I talked about on CBC Radio Edmonton.
This is definitely a place where you get what you pay for. There are cheaper fitness watches - like less than $100 - but they may only be able to measure your steps and in many instances not very accurately. The average that most people will probably spend on one of these gadgets is about $150 - 200 which will probably measure your heart rate, steps, and then use your phone's gps if you are planning on running or going for a long hike. I think the focus for most people should be two things:
a) how much are you willing to spend on something like this? and remember... in most cases you haven't even started to workout yet! if you're looking at the $200 price range then things like Fitbit, Polar, Garmin, Suunto, and so many more will give you a great entry level fitness watch. But there are some that measure activity a little better than others and fit your style better too.
b) From a realistic perspective, what will you be using this watch for in the next year or so? I mean yes... many of these watches can track a triathlete - running, biking, and swimming for 12-15 hours constantly but will you be doing that regularly? It's great to have aspirations but also good to stay practical. If your budget is lower, like sub $100, and you are interested in more tracking your daily activity and a few runs maybe just consider an app on your phone. It would be much lower cost (free in many instances) and actually way more accurate to measure. Heart rate monitors are good but at different price ranges the data shows that they aren't very accurate.
2) Extra Options like GPS:
GPS - built into the watch is definitely one of them. Many people don't realize that the cheaper watches mean that some of these products only have a digital pedometer that measures steps fairly accurately but are quite innaccurate when you are moving fast, like running, or going up or down in elevation like hiking. They compensate by having to link up to your phone to use the GPS so if you are a person that doesn't like carrying their phone while working out. The lower end watches might not be your pick. Many higher priced watches have GPS built into the watch so you can head out on runs and hike distances quite accurately without keeping your phone on you... unless you're taking that magical selfie of course. Right now there are watches like the Fitbit Ionic, and the Garmin Forerunner, and most Polar running watches that are between $100 and $250 at all of the tech shops like Best Buy, Sport Chek, Running Room thanks to the deals and the tech year end. 2019 is coming up and my little fitness nerd heart is jumping with excitement to see what is being offered.
3) Fit and Style:
Of course we should be aware of style and fit! Gone are the days where activity watches look like giant clunky computers that are so heavy you should be wearing two just to balance your stride. There's thin profiled watches that look like a small band which are great for people that just want to have something discrete. But there's also the flashy neon ones that scream to the world I'm a runner and I need to track every step I take since every day is race day. Either preference you have try them out before you buy them. They're all quite expensive and if you don't like wearing something you won't use it. It's also cool to be able to change the screen preferences on some of the watches so you can constantly tinker with some of these devices to make them feel fresh and new through your use. Ultimately you want something that you will wear for a long time.