Activity trackers have come a long way from simply counting steps. Many connect directly to smartphones, relaying important data about our health.
Here are comparisons of eight activity trackers, by price and features:
Apple Watch. It’s a true smartwatch and syncs with other Apple devices. You can answer texts, calls and even summon emergency help. Health features include tracking steps, elevation and calories; recording workouts; connecting with friends; and doing challenges. You can measure an electrocardiogram (ECG), and the new Series 6 added a blood oxygen meter. The drawbacks are battery life (day, day and a half) and customer service response time. Apple Watch comes in two sizes and several colors. Starts at $399
Garmin Forerunner 55. This watch tracks time, distance, pace, cadence and speed during a run or walk with built-in GPS, while monitoring overall health and fitness. It also measures heart rate, stress and respiration rate, and calculates fitness age. It’s not a touchscreen, but email and news alerts go directly to the watch. Up to two weeks of battery life are possible on a single charge. $199
Garmin Venu 2S. This was my favorite tracker aesthetically, looking like a traditional watch. It tracks sleep, stress, respiration, blood oxygen level and heart rate. The watch will send an alert if your heart rate spikes. The touchscreen isn’t as intuitive as Apple’s but is user-friendly. $399.99
Garmin Instinct Solar. This offers the same alerts and health tracking as other Garmins, and is popular with military and first responders. One drawback is lack of a touchscreen, but the battery life is up to 54 days in smartwatch mode and even gains extra from solar power. It’s extremely durable and equipped with GLONASS and Galileo GPS systems. Starts at $399.99
Polar Unite. The Unite has a black touchscreen but doesn’t send phone alerts to your watch. Polar uses the same health technology in all its watches, with extra features in its premium watches. The Unite includes the FitSpark training guide, which offers daily on-demand workouts that match your recovery, fitness level and training history. Polar has excellent customer service. $149.95 (entry level)
Polar Ignite 2. Like the Garmin Venu 2S, the Ignite 2 is attractive. It has paired phone notification features, although it can’t respond via the watch. A great feature is its ability to integrate your personalized information to improve performance and overall health. The touchscreen isn’t as user-friendly as Apple’s, but it’s not complicated. The battery is usually good for two to three days. $229.95 (intermediate level)
Polar Grit X. In addition to all the features on other Polar trackers, the Grit X offers Smart Coaching: detailed rest and recovery information, calorie and fuel tracking, and adaptive training plans. This lightweight touchscreen watch is aimed at outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking performance gains. It has a built-in GPS, compass and altimeter in training mode. The battery lasts up to 100 hours. Starts at $429.95
Healbe GoBe3. This watch calculates calories burned and consumed. It also tracks hydration and sends reminders when it detects early dehydration. Purely an activity tracker, it lacks smartphone capabilities. However, it did a lot of the hard work for me, calculating my energy balance so I didn’t have to measure what I was consuming and subtract it from what I was burning. The watch automatically tracks activity based on intensity, so I didn’t have to manually enter it. The font and graphics are small, however. Price: $199
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.