Serious about hitting your health and fitness goals? Then starting to track the different elements of your training and the improvements that makes to your body is a great place to start. Not only will this inform how much you should be doing, but setting goals and then smashing them is a great motivator.
With some of the best multisport watches out there reaching price tags of several hundred pounds, it can leave you wondering if your career as a triathlete means spending some serious cash before you’ve even done your first race.
Fear not though, as the latest generation of fitness trackers have come on a lot in recent years and with the benefit of trickle-down technology from the more advanced watches, you might be surprised by how much is packed into some of these simple-looking bands.
Prices in our grouptest here range from around £7 to £140 and it’s indicative of the market for fitness trackers that there’s a wide variance in the pricing and sophistication of these devices, so make sure you have an idea of which features you want before you buy. At the top end you get GPS, heart-rate and V02 max tracking, sleep and stress tracking and activity modes that can track your training including running, cycling and swimming. The more basic models will probably have sports tracking, but maybe no HRM or GPS.
Each brand will also have an app that you download to your phone and which should link to the watch to give you more detailed information on your training and progress as your health improves.
As well as the reviewed fitness trackers from our grouptest, we’ve included an additional six available on the market.
Take a look at our list of the best running headbands for more running gear.
Best fitness trackers: reviewed and tested
Garmin Vivosmart 4
The price difference separating the two Garmin trackers in this test accounts for a few small differences and one big one – here you don’t get the GPS that the Vivosport boasts. For the money you do get a lot of other stuff though, including wrist-based heart rate monitoring as well as a Pulse Ox sensor which measures blood oxygen saturation.
There’s a range of activity options including a pool-swim function and advanced sleep tracking, plus the device will also track your stress levels and ‘body battery’ to tell you whether you should train now or later.
We love the Garmin Connect app for its clear design and wealth of info and this watch plays to its strengths with plenty of stats in an easy-to-read format. This was the smallest and most elegant-looking watch on test too.
Verdict: Loads of info clearly communicated. Good price point and stylish design 80%
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Fitbit Charge 3
The Charge 3 seems to hit the sweet spot between fitness tracker and smart watch, with a stylish design, comfortable interchangeable strap and large backlit screen that allows the device to provide you with plenty of info on the move (and some very whizzy graphics, we liked the goal-achieved-glitterball!). Operation is via a touch screen plus a sensor on the side of the watch which works well, even when wet.
Key features include an at-wrist heart rate monitor and the app is packed with info and feedback – plus you get plenty of positive encouragement via the many prompts, badges and graphics. There’s no GPS, but it will link to your phone’s GPS during training to give you the same info (which most of us would carry with us anyway), plus the activity lists includes pool swimming with accurate lap count.
Verdict: stylish band with plenty of functions that will keep you motivated 88%
The Vivosport is the Vivosmart’s chunkier big brother and with one big addition – GPS. That instantly makes it more attractive to triathletes as you can track your run and bike training and receive full maps and data on each route you complete in training. Added to the wrist-based HRM, that gives you pretty much all the data you need.
You also get a colour screen, which is made of glass rather than polycarbonate and which was easier to swipe when wet, and we preferred the bigger screen for visibility and ease of reading when training. The GPS worked well and gave accurate feedback, although it did seem to take a while to connect compared to our usual Garmin Fenix.
Verdict: expensive and a tad ugly, but GPS a huge benefit and we love the Garmin app 85%
August were a new brand to us in this test, but turns out they’re a UK-based technology company making everything from TVs to lamps – with fitness trackers part of the mix and sold through Amazon. The band was near impossible to do up one-handed, then once on it felt rigid and uncomfortable.
The charging method felt clunky too – you pull half of the strap off to reveal an end that fits (badly) into a USB. As for the features, this watch is based around a HRM on the wrist that also tracks blood oxygen and blood pressure, to reasonable accuracy. The step counter racked up the steps even when we were sitting in the office typing, though – and the only other sports function is a run mode, which had to be activated before use through the app on your phone.
Verdict: cheap-feeling band with limited functionality for serious triathlon training 40%
Fitbit Inspire 2
This is one of Fitbit’s more affordable trackers, so if you’re after the popular label but don’t want to spend a fortune, the Inspire 2 could be one to consider.
Thanks to the Active Zone Minutes feature, you can check to see if you’re working at an optimum level to achieve certain fitness goals, with the tracker keeping you informed of heart rate zones via an on-wrist sensor.
If you’re keen to improve your sleeping habits, the tracker sends over tips and a nightly sleep score, again based on heart rate tracking, which should help you to understand the quality of your sleep.
As well as the more advanced features, the Inspire 2 is designed to track your steps, distance covered and calories burned, so you can keep an eye on your daily activity and set yourself activity goals to stay motivated and accountable.
The Inspire 2 fitness tracker is compatible with iOS 12.2 or higher and Android OS 7.0 or higher. After something more colourful? There’s also a choice of a pink or white strap.
In need of more tech? Take a look at the best triathlon watches.
HUAWEI Band 2 Pro Fitness Wristband Activity Tracker
The Huawei 2 Pro has been designed to have a battery life of 21 days, so it could be an ideal choice if you’re often on the move.
The tracker claims to have a waterproof rating of up to 5ATM (meaning a depth of 50m), so whether you’re training in the pool, or just caught in the rain, you can wear your tracker with confidence.
You can also use the built-in GPS to track your running routes, which should equate to a higher level of accuracy than your standard mobile phone tracking. This means you can leave your bulky smart phone at home to enjoy the freedom of the open trails.
This is another device that should help you work on your sleeping pattern, as it tracks your light, deep and REM sleep stages via wrist-based heart rate tracking.
Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 4
Another sleek option that promises an impressive battery life of up to 20 days, this fitness tracker from Xiaomi has a fairly slender design. You can keep track of your social life as well as your running, cycling and swimming activity with this gadget, as it lets you view your calls, messages and notifications when you’re out and about.
The new and updated Amole colour touch screen claims to be bigger and brighter than previous designs, so you should be able to quickly and easily read your messages or note how many steps you’ve taken. It’s designed to monitor your heart rate and claims to have a water resistant rating of 5ATM, also allowing you to control your music at a touch.
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Honor Band 5 Fitness Tracker
This tracker promises to automatically recognise your swim strokes when it’s recording your speed and calories burned in the water, making it one to consider if you’re looking to closely follow your progress in the pool. It could also be one to consider if you’re keen to track your sleeping habits, with over 200 customised suggestions to help you improve your sleep.
If you fancy a tracker with a fun design, the Honor Band 5 lets you choose from eight customised watch faces, offering something a little bit personal as well as functional. This affordable fitness tracker is also available in navy and light pink so you can appropriately match it with your favourite gym gear.
Garmin Vivofit 4
Another option from Garmin worth consideration, this fitness tracker has been designed to have a battery life of over a year, so you shouldn’t have to waste time sourcing your next charging point.
The design may look simple, but you can jazz up your screen by selecting different colour themes, watch faces and text phrases, and you can also opt for a different style of band. There’s the option to sync up your tracker with the Garmin Connect app so you can keep all of your statistics, results and achievements in one convenient place.
There’s no chance to get lazy with the Vivofit 4, as a coloured bar fills up the longer you’re inactive, reminding you to move if you’ve been still for too long (this feature can be disabled if desired). To reset the bar and make your tracker happy, you’ll need to provide it with some action and walk around for a few minutes.
For more Garmin gear, check out our review of the Garmin Enduro multisport watch.
MZ Switch Heart Rate Monitor
This interchangeable heart rate monitor from Myzone allows you to check your heart rate on your wrist, chest and arm. Whether you’re at the gym, in water or outdoors, you can keep track of your heart rate thanks to the light indicator that notifies you of what zone you’re in.
You can gain kudos known as MEPs (Myzone Effort Points) for working out in your target heart zone for a specific amount of time, so this could be a worthwhile investment if you enjoy working towards set goals.
You should be able to sync your Switch with in-gym screens, cardio gym equipment, bike computers and Peloton bikes, so it could be a useful gadget if you’re a keen gym goer.
With a promise of up to six months battery life, it should be a low maintenance piece of workout gear.
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