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Health & Fit: The Best Fitness Tracker Watches to Help You Reach Your Goals

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Best Overall:

shp - 130 Available at Fitbit

Best for iPhone:

shp - 399 Available at Apple

Best for Runners:

shp - 300 Available at Garmin

Best for Guided Workouts:

shp - 130 Available at Garmin

Best for Everyday Use:

shp - 100 Available at Fitbit

Most Lightweight:

shp - 30 Available at Whoop

Best Style:

shp - 300 Available at Fitbit
a woman looking at the camera: Check out the new advances in fitness trackers, including measuring stress levels, sleep tracking, and heart rate monitoring. © Getty Images Check out the new advances in fitness trackers, including measuring stress levels, sleep tracking, and heart rate monitoring.

If you want to get the most out of your workouts, then tracking your progress is a must. That means more than simply recording how far you ran or biked. With the best fitness tracker watch, you can assess your performance and recovery right from a band on your wrist.

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It's great to know how many calories you burned, but it's even better to know how your body is responding to the activity. Metrics such as heart rate, sleep quality, and VO2 max (how much oxygen you can utilize during exercise) all play a role in reaching your fitness goals. (Related: What Is VO2 Max and How Do You Improve Yours?)

Knowing how to use your fitness tracker to monitor these data points over time translates to a deeper understanding of your body and your capabilities. And that leads to more effective workouts and, in turn, reaching your fitness goals faster.

"Not only can these metrics paint a picture of your fitness, but they can provide valuable insights as to your health status," says Rachel Eidelman, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist in Florida. "Alerts like low and high heart rate can quell emergencies, and patterns in stress and performance can point to (and help you treat) underlying health complications." (Related: The Best Fitness Trackers Under $500)

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But it all starts with picking the right fitness tracker. These devices differ in what and how they measure, which is why the fitness experts at Garage Gym Reviews tested countless bands to determine the industry leaders. They assessed nine points, including functionality, aesthetics, tech compatibility, and more, to reach a comprehensive score for each tracker or smartwatch.

  • Best Overall: Fitbit Charge 4
  • Best for iPhone: Apple Watch Series 6
  • Best for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 245
  • Best for Guided Workouts: Garmin Vivosmart 4
  • Best for Everyday Use: Fitbit Inspire 2
  • Most Lightweight: Whoop Strap 3.0
  • Best Style: Fitbit Sense

The 7 Best Fitness Tracker Watches

Best Overall Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 4

Got a lot of stress in your life? Then check it at the gym door with the Fitbit Charge 4. It's high on value and low on complications, making it the best overall fitness tracker. This tiny goal setter features built-in GPS and a 24/7 heart rate monitor. In testing, Garage Gym Reviews experts rated the Charge 4 high in both comfort and ease of use. They concluded that beginners to experienced athletes could benefit from its advanced tracking capabilities. (Related: 3 Expert Techniques to Stop Stress Before It Gets Out of Control)

The Fitbit Luxe Is the Activity Tracker That Finally Convinced Me to Wear One

  The Fitbit Luxe Is the Activity Tracker That Finally Convinced Me to Wear One It looks like a stylish bracelet, but it has impressive tracking capabilities. But looks aren't everything—and with the Fitbit Luxe, they're just one bonus in addition to the tracker's impressive capabilities. Let's start with the fitness specs: The Fitbit Luxe tracks your activity all day long, so you can easily see your steps, distance, and calories burned in an instant. When you connect it to your phone's GPS, you can also see your real-time pace and distance when you're walking, jogging, or biking, in addition to seeing a map of your route when you're done.

In true Fitbit fashion, the Charge 4 sends reminders to move when you've been inactive for a while (hello, desk jobs and HBO binges). In addition to automatic exercise recognition and all-day activity tracking, the small-but-mighty device tracks a few advanced metrics most other fitness watches don't: advanced sleep analytics, heart rate variability (HRV), blood oxygen saturation (SpO2), breathing rate, skin temperature variation, and physiological signs of stress.

However, Garage Gym Reviews reminds potential buyers that Fitbit reserves these special features for premium members; you'll get a free three-month membership upon purchase but will need to pay $9.99/month to keep the service after your trial.

Score: 4.4/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, sleep stages, calories burned, steps taken, HRV, SpO2

Workout Modes: 20

Battery Life: Up to seven days

BUY IT, $130 fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

Best Fitness Tracker for iPhone: Apple Watch Series 6

The best fitness tracker for iPhone users is (fittingly) the Apple Watch Series 6. Its large watch face quickly conveys all your workout data, while seamlessly syncing with your phone and other Apple devices, including Macbooks and Apple TVs.

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You also get access to Apple Fitness+, the tech giant's take on fitness streaming. It's a subscription-based fitness app that offers hundreds of on-demand workouts you can tune into right from your wrist for $9.99 per month. Fitness+ has workouts in 10 different categories, including yoga and HIIT, led by professional trainers. When you do a workout, your Apple Watch tracks your heart rate, calories burned, and more — and all of that data automatically syncs to your Apple Health app, so it's there whenever you need it. (Related: Apple Is Launching Its Own Workout Subscription Service)

From the perspective of Amanda Capritto, Garage Gym Reviews writer and personal trainer, Fitness+ is the main calling of the Apple Watch for avid exercisers. "It's wildly convenient to have guided workouts right there on your wrist," she says.

Garage Gym Reviews calls out that if you're not an Apple enthusiast, the Apple Watch might not be worth the price. It also doesn't track percentages of time spent in REM, deep, or light sleep, so if sleep stage data is important to you, go with a different wearable (or wait until Apple reveals improved native sleep tracking).

Score: 4.2/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, menstrual cycle, breathing rate, SpO2

Workout Modes: 10-plus (with Apple Fitness+ membership)

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Battery Life: Up to 18 hours (you'll be charging it every night)

BUY IT, $399 a close up of a cell phone: fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

Best Fitness Tracker for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 245

Whether you're running to up your fitness levels or to train for a marathon, the Garmin Forerunner 245 could be for you.

"Garmin has become synonymous with running," says Amanda Capritto, personal trainer and Garage Gym Reviews expert product tester. "The brand is known for making fitness tracker watches suited to running long distances over varied terrain, so it's become a staple on the wrist of many runners, beginners and elite alike."

It shows in the specs: The Forerunner 245 features workout plans designed by running coaches, GPS, a heart rate monitor and VO2 max measuring. This fitness watch also has an exceptional recovery suggestion module, which lets you know how long to rest before your next big workout. It does not, however, have a barometer or altimeter, so it may not be the best choice for trail runners who live in areas with elevation changes, Capritto points out.

The Forerunner 245 running watch can also accommodate multi-sport athletes who do crossover cardio on ellipticals and bikes, as well as in pools. This watch looks bulkier in style compared to most Fitbits and the Apple Watch, but outdoor lovers will enjoy the rugged aesthetic. (Related: This Decked-Out GPS Tracking Watch Changed My Life)

Score: 4.3/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, oxygen saturation, VO2 max, cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance

Workout Modes: More than 20

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Battery Life: Up to seven days

BUY IT, $300 a close up of a watch: fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

Best Fitness Tracker for Stress and Energy Tracking: Garmin Vivosmart 4

Sure, tracking physical activity is important and helpful. Sometimes, however, wearing a fitness tracker might push you to endure a tough workout even if your body isn't up for the task. If you're prone to over-exercising or hate to take rest days, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 is the fitness tracker watch for you.

Garage Gym Reviews product tester Amanda Capritto says she grew really fond of Garmin's Body Battery feature during testing. Body Battery essentially tells you how much energy your body has, as well as how much strain or stress you can realistically take on without risking burnout, overuse injuries, or other pitfalls of overtraining.

Using a combination of stress, HRV, sleep, and activity data, the Garmin Vivosmart 4 tells you whether or not you're ready for a workout on any given day. "Many of us struggle to know why, exactly, we feel fatigued or moody on a particular day," Capritto says. "The Vivosmart helps make sense of data and patterns to understand what's really going on in your body."

The main downfall to the Garmin Vivosmart 4 and other Garmin fitness watches, Garage Gym Reviews calls out, is that you must download multiple apps on your phone to use all of the features. Conveniences like Find My Car and additional watch faces must be downloaded through Connect IQ, which is a separate app store for Garmin. (Related: The Best Fitness Tracker for Your Personality)

Score: 4.5/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, HRV, stress tracking, pulse ox, VO2 max

Workout Modes: Seven

Battery Life: Up to seven days

BUY IT, $130 a close up of a phone: fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

Best Fitness Tracker for Everyday Use: Fitbit Inspire 2

We're all looking for an extra dose of motivation, and like its name suggests, the Fitbit Inspire 2 prompts a healthy lifestyle through its easy-to-navigate, intuitive programming. It's perhaps the best fitness tracker for everyday use, with a simple touch screen that provides real-time workout statistics.

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The Garage Gym Reviews team loves that this is an affordable fitness band at less than $100, yet it still gives you perks like continuous heart rate monitoring, connectivity with your smartphone, and water resistance for swim tracking.

This activity tracker is perfect for the type of person who just wants to monitor the basics and keep their general health in check. You won't get the advanced performance analytics like you will with Whoop (below), but you'll have plenty of data at your fingertips to continually improve your health and fitness.

With a Fitbit Premium subscription, you can get more advanced analytics, and new members get a year free when they buy the Inspire 2. The downside to the Fitbit Inspire 2, Garage Gym Reviews experts say, is the small screen. Minimal functions are available on the watch itself; you'll find yourself having to open the Fitbit app frequently to check in with your data.

Score: 4.5/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, active zone minutes, steps taken, calories burned

Workout Modes: 20

Battery Life: Up to 10 days

BUY IT, $100 fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

Best Fitness Tracker for Improving Athletic Performance: Whoop Strap 3.0

"Whoop is the wearable for the functional fitness world," says Capritto, personal trainer and equipment tester at Garage Gym Reviews. "With no screen, Whoop doesn't distract athletes with phone notifications. The focus is improved performance, always."

At 0.64 ounces, the Whoop Strap 3.0 is one of the most lightweight fitness trackers on the market. But don't let the small size and lack of screen fool you: This is still an advanced health tracking device that takes a deep dive into your fitness, sleep, and recovery. (Related: I Tried the Fanciest Fitness Tracker On the Market)

After quantifying your body's response to stress, Whoop recommends whether you should exercise or take a rest day. It's also a highly advanced sleep tracker that explores what's going on when you close your eyes –– you'll learn more about sleep stages than ever before. As for style, the Whoop 3.0 comes in a number of colors and even has a "luxury" option more suitable for special occasions or date nights.

You should know that Whoop operates on a membership model, so while the actual wearable is "free," you'll be paying $30 per month for as long as you use it. Also, Garage Gym Reviews warns that Whoop is not what some people think it is. It is a performance monitor, not a true smartwatch. It doesn't have a pedometer or GPS, and it isn't equipped with built-in workouts (there is no screen, remember).

Score: 4.1/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, sleep stages, respiratory rate, calories burned, HRV, recovery, cardiovascular strain

Workout Modes: More than 80

Battery Life: Up to five days

BUY IT, $30/month fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

Most Stylish Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Sense

If aesthetics are important in your search for a fitness tracker watch, Garage Gym Reviews experts recommend the Fitbit Sense. It's Fitbit's most advanced activity tracker and also happens to be extremely stylish. Its watch face has soft, rounded edges and comes in either black with graphite stainless steel or white with soft gold stainless steel. (The Fitbit Versa 3 is another stylish Fitbit option worth checking out.)

Made of comfortable, smooth silicon, the new Infinity Band takes you from day to night. What's more, Fitbit watches are compatible with wristbands in countless colors to keep up with your outfits. All of this is why it topped the list for style for Garage Gym Reviews testers.

Like the other Fitbits out there, the Sense has ECG capabilities, along with stress tracking, an SpO2 sensor, and sleep analytics. All of this comes at a favorable price point, but like the Charge 4, these advanced analytics aren't available without a premium membership. When you buy the Sense, you can get a free six month subscription of Fitbit Premium to see if you like it. (Related: Fitbit Just Launched Their Sleekest Fitness Tracker Yet)

Score: 4.1/5

Key Metrics: Heart rate, sleep stages, calories burned, steps taken, HRV, SpO2, stress

Workout Modes: More than 20

Battery Life: Six days

BUY IT, $300 icon: fitness devices © Provided by Shape fitness devices

What To Look For In the Best Fitness Tracker Watch

Garage Gym Reviews experts say the right activity tracker should incorporate your workout routine and the metrics you want to measure, as well as key factors like style, price, and tech compatibility.

Primary Use

Someone who wants a fitness tracker for basic, everyday use won't benefit from the same activity tracker as someone who wants to deeply analyze their performance and recovery metrics, says Amanda Capritto, Garage Gym Reviews product tester.


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The basics of everyday use demand tracking features like step count, calories burned, and basic sleep monitoring. But tracking athletic performance and recovery requires granular monitoring of metrics like oxygen saturation, heart rate variability, breathing rate, and skin temperature, Capritto says. (Related: The Best Smartwatches for Women That Totally Rival the Apple Watch)

Outdoor Use

If you're all about the great outdoors, then a GPS watch or band should be at the top of your priority list. An altimeter will track the ups and downs of your workouts by detecting altitude. Also look for rugged construction that can withstand the harshest elements and long battery life, especially if you'll be away from a charging point for an extended period.

An Apple Watch might not be the best choice for avid outdoors people, says Capritto, because she's learned from experience that short hikes can turn into long ones and a battery life of just a few hours with GPS use won't always cut it. (Related: Why I Love Running Without a Fitness Tracker or GPS Watch)

Activities

For runners and bikers, GPS and altimeter functions are key. An accelerometer is also helpful, as are advanced tracking capabilities that can measure cadence, foot pattern, revolutions per minute, and stride length.

Oh, and if you're a swimmer or triathlete, Garage Gym Reviews strongly encourages getting familiar with water resistance levels. "Just because a tracker is water-resistant doesn't mean you can wear it in a pool," says Capritto, who's also a former swim coach. "If you love reaping the benefits of swimming, you should know the level of water resistance and may want to look for advanced features like lap tracking."

Style

You won't wear your device if you don't like how it looks, says gear tester Capritto. Wristbands range from basic neutrals to sleek and multi-colored. There are even cute accessories like rings or bracelets to help you style your fitness tracker (and count your steps). Consider how often and where you'll wear your device when researching your options. You might also seek out additional bands you can swap out, either directly from the manufacturer or on third-party sites like Amazon.

Price

Just like anything else, there are extremes when it comes to fitness tracker prices. Rudimentary step counters can cost as low as $20, while high-end options with smartwatch features can come with a price tag in the hundreds of dollars. Be sure to factor in membership costs, such as that for Whoop and Fitbit Premium, in your search. Some free memberships are becoming pretty blasé, Capritto says, with many brands leaving advanced analytics to paying members.

Tech Capabilities

Garage Gym Reviews encourages buyers to get really granular when asking what they want out of their fitness tracker. Most devices will tell you tracking features like how many steps you've taken and how many calories you've burned, but advanced features are out there, too:

  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Sleep tracking for REM, light sleep, and wake periods
  • GPS to map your runs or track your location
  • Ability to sync with Android and iPhone for texts and emails
  • Music storage and playing options with apps like Spotify and Pandora
  • Blood oxygen levels and VO2 max analytics
  • Health monitoring, like menstrual cycle tracking

Integrations

If syncing your devices is important to you, look for an activity tracker watch you can connect to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple devices, and apps like Strava and Nike Training Club. If you want smartphone notifications, you'll have to look for one that can connect via Bluetooth to your iPhone or Android. Most fitness tracker watches have these capabilities, and Garage Gym Reviews experts wouldn't recommend buying one that doesn't (unless you're truly looking for a plain ol' pedometer).

Garage Gym Reviews' Testing Process

Each piece of fitness equipment on this list was put to the test (literally) in the Garage Gym Reviews lab, which is located in Springfield, Missouri. Fitness experts have run thousands of pieces of equipment through 8-14 points in a testing methodology specifically catered to each product to find the best machines.

While some of the factors tested are tied directly to performance (like ergonomics, convenience, and durability), others are based around brand operations, such as customer service, return policies, and warranty. The Garage Gym Reviews team combines this proprietary methodology with in-depth interviews and customer experience to arrive at a weighted score out of 5.

Kate Meier is a senior editor at Garage Gym Reviews. She also co-owns a gym, is a certified trainer through both USA Weightlifting and CrossFit, and is an overall fitness enthusiast.

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