Choosing The Best Activity Tracker For Fitness

Chossing The Best Activity Tracker | EMAC Certifications

Best Activity Tracker For Fitness

If you’re serious about your workout and performance, you should evaluate the best activity tracker for fitness. It’s estimated that by the year 2022, one billion Americans will use a wearable activity tracker. Right now, approximately 21% of people wear a fitness tracker. These numbers are growing exponentially and suggest technology in the fitness industry is just beginning. Choosing the best fitness tracker is a combination of your fitness goal and technology preferences. This will help you land on the smart features you should look for in a fitness tracker.

It’s never been easier to keep track of fitness achievements, goals, progress and metrics. These activity trackers look at so much more than steps, including heart rate monitoring, analyzing activity levels, and rating sleep efficiency. Further, each data point helps enhance extrinsic and intrinsic fitness motivation. Additionally, almost any type of workout syncs with the latest fitness tracker, including waterproof swim tracker for swim tracking needs.

Evidence To Support Smart Watch Features

Although there is some variation in features, most advanced activity trackers have similar health and fitness features. Using a proprietary algorithm, heart rate sensor, accelerometer these devices connect to an app and provide data points and feedback. They provide the user with general self monitoring. Further, they track daily steps, daily activity, mindfulness or meditation, sleep, and standing. All of this has an impact on weight loss and fitness goals. Especially in the world of online personal training, using these common smart features in ongoing coaching communications can help you and a client succeed consistently. It opens the doors of personal training to not only monitor a workout, but also the variables that go along with achieving a client’s performance or fitness goal.

Self Monitoring

This is a method used in behavior management. Self monitoring is where individuals keep a record of a specific behavior. In personal training, clients will self monitor nutrition or water intake by using a dietary log. With a smartwatch, the data is all at their fingertips. Research consistently shows a high correlation between self monitoring and weight loss. Therefore, anyone embarking on a weight loss fitness journey will have an advantage if they have, and make good use of, a wearable activity tracker.

Step Counting

The first activity trackers were predominantly about tracking daily steps. Step tracking is still the most common data point wearable technology tracks. Steps are tracked via a 3 axis accelerometer for the entire time the device is working and the power is on. This accelerometer has the capability of knowing the difference between whether the user is actually walking or just swinging their arms. Step counting is great for clients because it carries a less emotional charge than food logging or exercise minutes. Therefore, people tend to have greater appeal to these types of goals. Research shows a correlation between daily steps and health indicators. In one daily step study, researchers found that groups who exceed a daily step count of 10,000 had lower BMI, body fat percentage, and triglycerides. Similarly, those who did not achieve the minimum step threshold showed greater signs of being overweight. This concludes that tracking steps is an effective way of measuring health.

Active Calories

In addition to tracking steps, these devices will also track active calories. Active calories are the calories one burns from physical activity. Each device will have a unique algorithm. However, most will take into account age, gender, height, and weight. Then, the algorithm will also use data from the accelerometer. THis is important because studies show a clear relationship between active calories and weight loss (and weight maintenance). These calories don’t just come from exercise sessions. Instead, they also factor in physical activity like walking to and from the car, doing household chores, and anything that is more than basic sitting or standing. Therefore, it gives clients a better view of how many calories they’re burning each day.

It’s important to note, however, that these calorie estimations from smartwatches can be erroneous by 30%. Further, the accuracy may differ from one device to the next. One might conclude that a client trying to lose weight, then, should only buy the most accurate calorie tracker. This can be problematic, however, because it perpetuates the notion that one can out exercise a bad diet. Instead, if the client is using a digital food logging app, this can be overcome. Most food logging apps won’t give the user the full active calories they burn back into their daily calorie balance. Instead, they’ll offer up about 50% of how many calories the client actually burned. This helps to avoid problematic behaviors and also accounts for inaccuracies in calorie tracking.

Mindfulness And Meditation

Another common feature among these devices is tracking mindfulness or meditation. In general. Spending time in meditation or mindfulness helps individuals focus their attention and energy. Specifically, mindfulness during exercise can help clients focus on their form and be more intentional during a workout. For example, one study shows meditation with standard weight loss behaviors (exercise and nutrition) increased weight loss by an average of over six pounds. Activity trackers will give reminders to do even one minute of meditation. Given the research, along with other stress management benefits, mindfulness and meditation are a low cost and convenient way clients can get more out of a weight loss program. Therefore, fitness coaches should encourage using this feature on their devices as part of a fitness program.

Sleep And Weight Loss

Sleep efficiency and its effect on weight loss and even sports performance is getting more attention. It’s part of why so many devices now include sleep tracking. The correlation between short sleep duration and obesity isn’t new. However, additional sleep research shows the relationship between short sleep duration and appetite, daily activity, and overall weight management. Therefore, sleep hygiene is yet another coaching point personal trainers should include in their education with clients. And, it’s another supporting reason to encourage clients to wear a device that includes the features and app of sleep tracking. 

Positive Impacts Of Standing

Because of sitting’s association with cardiovascular disease, it’s considered a health risk factor. Further, there is evidence to suggest an increase in musculoskeletal injuries with extended periods of sitting. For these reasons, smartwatches have reminder features for users to get up and stand frequently. Personal trainers can use this in their coaching to recommend a few stretches, light activity, or other general fitness activities one can do in the short amount of time they stand each hour. It’s yet another data point and part of a process goal to use in an overall wellness program. 

General Fitness Benefits Of Activity Trackers

While various brands of wearable technology pieces differ in the metrics they track, overall they serve similar benefits. Ultimately, they’re additional ways to maintain client fitness accountability for personal trainers.


When individuals get real-time feedback of their results, it serves as positive reinforcement. A long time goes between fitness assessments and reassessments. So, short term and process goals help keep a client on track. But even weighing in once a day is sometimes too long of a gap to keep motivation levels high. When clients get real-time feedback of their results, it helps boost motivation levels. 


If smartphone notifications are enabled, the wearer receives automatic nudges to sleep, move, stand, workout, and more. This is helpful for motivation if they follow the guidance of the reminders. However, if the notifications are consistently muted for the day, this technology loses some of its power. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day responsibilities of taking care of a family or working at a job. Therefore, these reminders, even if just to stand, call attention to the need to take a break for most people. Similarly, smart phone notifications will urge an individual to finish their goals for the day, reminding them how simple even a short walk can be. 

Goal Tracking And Badges

Setting realistic and attainable process goals is an impactful part of a successful health and fitness journey. Most smart watches will give users daily, weekly, and monthly goals. These goals can be general or based on individual performance. For example, if the client averaged 47 minutes a day of exercise in one month, the next month it might encourage 50 minutes a day. Similarly, most smartwatch features include badges for achieving goals. Users can share these badges on social media or to their trainer. 


Realistically, most people begin their health and fitness journey in a deconditioned state. This can be either from living a sedentary lifestyle, eating unhealthy, or a combination of both. Further, many clients have suffered a health scare such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or even a heart attack. Therefore, close monitoring is important for someone new or just starting to exercise. Features that monitor heart rate, blood pressure, or sudden falls can be safety alerts for both the personal trainer and client. With clients who have pre-existing medical conditions, keeping track of this health data while working out is important to stay safe and avoid medical emergencies.

Best Activity Trackers For Fitness

The most common fitness trackers are wearable wrist devices, such as watches featuring apps that connect to a smartphone. Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung and Apple are among the top brands when it comes to wearable fitness technology. Pricing and features needed will be a key factor in deciding which device is best as part of a fitness program. This summary looks at the best current options from major brands and their offerings.


The Apple watch can do so much with the health app, fitness app and others from the App Store. With Apple watches, it’s important to note the series of the watch. Newer Apple watch series offer enhanced options that older versions may not. Apple has also added Fitness+ to its ever expanding universe which offers workouts and integrates with an Apple watch to help participants achieve the best results and keep track of progress. This fitness watch varies in price depending on the Apple watch series and premium options, but can start at $250.


This one has so many options and Fitbit is superior in giving consumers choices of what they want from their wearable device. Whether it’s fashion focused, simple and straightforward, or all the premium features, Fitbit has a line of devices that cover it all. The Fitbit Inspire 2 is a good all around fitness tracking option. It comes in a slim and sleek design for those looking for more of a band than a watch. The Fitbit Sense is similar to the Apple Watch in form and user interface. It also connects with both Apple and Android phones. The Fitbit Luxe falls into the fashionably fit category giving users a sleek, stylish option to pair with their more formal attire. Fitbit devices start at around $20 and can go up to $200 and more depending on the style and features.  


In the early 1990’s Garmin released their first product. It was focused on GPS and the United States Army was one of their first clients. By the year 2000, Garmin sold more than 3 million GPS devices with an increase in popularity among runners, cyclists, swimmers and golfers. These athletes sought out the device for its GPS capabilities. At this point the company started focusing more on all-in-one fitness tracking devices. The Vivofit, Vivosmart and Vivoactive are now their most popular lines for all-in-one fitness tracking. The newest Vivoactive line offers “Body Energy Monitoring”, Pulse OX sensor (Which gauges your blood oxygen saturation) and even hydration tracking to help you keep track of how much H2O you’re drinking. The watch-like device also has animated on-screen workouts, sports apps, and a personal coaching feature. It’s a good option for those looking for Apple watch-like features in a non-Apple product. The Garmin Vivoactive retails at $350 for the newest series. The Garmin Vivosmart comes in around $150. And the Vivofit is the most affordable option at less than $100. Outside of the Vivo line, Garmin offers a number of other options that lean more towards the fashion side of fitness trackers such as their Legacy, Lily and Venu series. 


Samsung jumped into the fitness device world in 2013 with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. The Samsung Galaxy line now includes fitness bands, earbuds and smart watches. The Galaxy line is designed to pair seamlessly with Android devices. The GalaxyFit line is the entry level option and tracks daily steps, calories, water intake and sleep patterns. Those looking for more options in a more standard looking watch form factor will like the Galaxy Watch series. The Samsung Galaxy watch series features heart monitoring, workout tracking and typical smart device functionality when paired with an Android smartphone. The GalaxyFit retails for around $75, while the watch series begins around $100 and approaches $300 for the highest end option.

Wrist devices make up the largest share of the market but there are still plenty of other wearable options out there for those looking for something more specific. There are other devices available such as:

  • Heart rate monitors
  • Sleep trackers
  • Cycling computers
  • Run tracking devices that fit in the insole of shoes 

Look for devices that connect easily with apps on a smartphone to help keep track of progress and goal history so you can look back and revel in all that hard work and success!

The one thing to always count on with technology is it’s always changing. New advancements and innovations are undoubtedly going to create more ways for us to monitor our bodies in the coming years. Keeping an eye on the latest releases and new features will keep you ahead of the competition and help you maximize results for the clients that use them. 

What time is it? Time to get a fitness tracker!

Learn more about how to reach your fitness goal the way a personal trainer would. Get your EMAC Personal Training Certification today to learn the secrets your fitness coaches know. It’s the certification for people who love fitness.

Boudreaux, B. D., Hebert, E. P., Hollander, D. B., Williams, B. M., Cormier, C. L., Naquin, M. R., Gillan, W. W., Gusew, E. E., & Kraemer, R. R. (2018). Validity of Wearable Activity Monitors during Cycling and Resistance Exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 50(3), 624–633.

Ainsworth, B., Cahalin, L., Buman, M., & Ross, R. (2015). The current state of physical activity assessment tools. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 57(4), 387–395.

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