Fitbit One
Fitbit One

Best fitness tracker

Experts and owners love the tiny, accurate Fitbit One for its user-friendly convenience and unobtrusive clip-on design. The One tracks steps taken, distance traveled, stairs climbed, calories burned and sleep patterns. The screen is bright and easy to read, displaying user stats and motivational messages. The Fitbit One is compatible with many apps, devices and free fitness accounts. You can even sync to other users' accounts for some friendly competition.
See our full review

Basis Peak
Basis Peak

Fitness tracker with heart monitor

The jury is still out on the Basis Peak. It's the darling of experts, who make it the top pick in several roundups that include comparative testing, but owners aren't sold. Experts say the Peak accurately records activities, heart rate and skin temperature. Users say it's fiddly to set up, temperamental about tracking and uncomfortable. However, if monitoring your personal stats is a priority, this is a choice with a lot of potential.

Fitbit Flex
Fitbit Flex

Best wristband fitness tracker

The Fitbit Flex is the most reliable wristband-style fitness tracker you can buy, say reviewers. The tracker is consistently accurate and syncs effortlessly with most platforms. It tracks steps, overall distance, time spent doing cardio and calories burned. You can also upload your data to a number of fitness sites, including Fitbit.com. A wide variety of optional bands and accessories are available to personalize the tiny Flex to your style.
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Garmin Vivosmart
Garmin Vivosmart

Wristband fitness tracker with notifications

The Garmin Vivosmart gets raves for its long battery life -- you can wear it for a year without ever taking it off. The Vivosmart measures distance, steps, calories burned, active time, and sleep and can sync with your smartphone to receive notifications and messages. It's so waterproof you can even swim with it. While it's new to the market, experts say it has the capacity to be one of the more affordable smart watch-style trackers you can buy.

Jawbone UP24
Jawbone UP24

Sleep-tracking activity band

The Jawbone UP24's standout feature is its unique sleep-monitoring capabilities. A vibrating alarm can wake users at the best point in their REM cycle to prevent groggy awakenings, or to program the right length for a power nap. It's a top fitness tracker, too, putting together a comprehensive picture of your health by counting steps and monitoring food intake. The fitness app is a reviewer favorite. The UP24 also gets top marks for its comfortable fit.
See our full review

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Fitness trackers can help improve your overall health

Experts agree: We all need to sit less and move around more. Studies show that even the most avid exerciser may be negating the benefits of a long, hard workout if he or she spends the rest of the day sitting at a desk. But making sure you're getting more movement into your routine can be challenging. Enter the fitness tracker: a small wearable device that charts your every movement -- and can even remind you to get up and walk around after you've been sitting for too long. Also called activity trackers or body measurement trackers, fitness trackers are part of a new class of wearable technology, or simply wearables, that includes things like smart watches, wearable cameras, and, of course, Google glasses.

Fitness trackers do much more than simple pedometers. Like a pedometer, these small devices do count steps and tally distances, but they also can chart other activities such as bicycling, climbing stairs or swimming. Exercise intensity is part of the tracking process as well, and most fitness trackers even have the ability to keep track of how many calories you've burned and track the quantity and quality of your sleep. Most have alarms as well, not only to remind you to move, but to wake you up with a subtle vibration so you don't disturb your partner.

Users keep the tracker on their body 24 hours a day, worn on the wrist or arm or clipped to clothing. Some fitness trackers measure other biometrics such as heart rate, skin temperature and perspiration to even more accurately measure calories burned and exercise intensity levels. For some people, tracking sleep or heart monitoring is their top priority, and some wearables do that better than others.

A key feature of fitness trackers is that they can upload all of this data to your computer or smart device, where you can use a fitness app to graph your averages and totals, and some apps can do much more. For example, advanced fitness tracker apps offer customized weight-loss plans and help you manage your fitness goals. Many activity trackers now will sync to other popular fitness sites, such as MyFitnessPal.com, SparkPeople.com or MapMyFitness.com, to name just a few. Some connect to social media to share your progress or motivate you even more with friendly competition. Though many smartphones offer apps similar to a fitness tracker, experts say these aren't as accurate as a device dedicated to tracking activity.

When selecting a fitness tracker, you should consider the type of activity you commonly do, what data you wish to track and the tracker's compatibility with your computer or smartphone. Also, because you will wear it all day, every day, comfort and design are important considerations.

Types of fitness trackers

Clip on fitness trackers are the most discreet, and many people love this type because no one can tell that they're wearing an activity monitor. There are most commonly worn clipped to a waistband or sports bra, but many will work even if tossed in a purse or pocket. Most clip on trackers include a wristband to insert the tracker to wear at night to monitor your sleep.

Wristband style fitness trackers are the most common and the most popular. Some are small units, like a clip on fitness tracker, but, instead of fitting in a clip, they slip into a plastic wristband. Owners love these because they can buy optional wristbands and bracelets to change up their look to match their outfit. Keep in mind, however, that while some are available in several colors, there's no way to change the tracker's basic appearance. Some wristband fitness trackers incorporate basic smartwatch features, such as the ability to receive smartphone notifications of incoming texts or emails.

Armband style fitness trackers are becoming less common -- one of our former Best Reviewed models has been discontinued since this report was last published. That's because these are best for measuring dedicated exercise sessions, rather than for all day activity and fitness tracking: they're simply not comfortable enough to wear 24/7.

Although all of these fitness trackers are intended to be worn all the time to provide an overall picture of health, they work great for tracking dedicated exercise sessions as well. Pair a fitness tracker with some of the exercise equipment found in our separate reports on treadmills, elliptical trainers, and exercise bikes, and see how your very active minutes rack up. Better yet, head on over and take a look at the treadmill desks we recommend in our report on standing desks -- they can help you integrate activity into even the most tedious task.

Finding the best fitness trackers

There are plenty of excellent, comparative tests of fitness trackers, with hands-on testing and in-depth discussions of accuracy and features. We analyzed professional tests performed by experts at PCMag.com, ConsumerReports.org, CNET and a TheWirecutter.com. We then matched those results and recommendations to the experiences of users, from retail review sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, as well as a blog or two. The result of our research is our recommendations for the best fitness trackers; they are all standouts when it comes to performance, ease of use and wearability.

Elsewhere in this Report:

Best Fitness Trackers: These fitness trackers monitor your activities, steps, calorie expenditure and more. We recommend the best activity tracker for any lifestyle.

Heart/Sleep Monitoring Fitness Trackers: The hot trend in fitness trackers is the ability to monitor important body biometrics like heart rate, and to dig down into your sleep patterns. These trackers give you a detailed overview of your health markers.

Buying Guide: What kind of fitness tracker do you need? Here is your guide to determining which type of activity tracker will best suit your exercise habits and lifestyle.

Our Sources: We used these professional and user review sources to find the fitness trackers. They are ranked in order of their expertise and helpfulness.

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