We’ve got your fitness covered, whether you’re a swimmer, a serious runner or on a tight budget.
Studies show that regular exercise can result in improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity and lower stress. In other words, you can become more productive and effective in your business.
But you knew that, right? The hard part is getting started and staying motivated. That’s where technology can help.
A good smartwatch can help keep you on the straight and narrow by tracking your exercise – and we’ll reveal the best of them in another feature soon. Modern, higher-end smartphones can do the job too – and we’ved covered fitness apps later in this feature.
However, there’s something to be said for fitness trackers that are designed specifically for this purpose.
Fitness trackers are generally cheaper than a smartwatch – particularly if all you want to do is keep track of your steps every day, and increasingly they also have a built-in GPS and heart-rate monitor. Some are swim-proof, while others have advanced features for dedicated runners.
Either way, we’ve got your fitness covered in this feature – and, of course, they can make an ideal Christmas gift.
Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Charge HR was a pretty good fitness tracker, but it's gone now, replaced by the Fitbit Charge 2: a wearable that deals with every criticism we had with the original and delivers an experience that is pretty much perfect.
It's far better looking, is more comfortable and now lets you sub out the strap for another of your choosing, should you feel like mixing things up. It also has a bigger screen allowing you to see more information at a time, while still retaining its strong five-day battery life. All in all, it's extremely hard to fault, and we can't wait to see what Fitbit does with it next.
The Fitbit Charge 2 is listed at $249.95, but we’ve seen it selling for under $150, which is a bargain in our book.
Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro
Samsung's early wearables were a bit messy, but the latest batch have really got the formula down to a tee. The Gear Fit2 Pro is a brilliant wearable which does everything right from the screen (vibrant) to the battery life (two to four days with a greyscale mode when it's running low).
What's more, it has the magic combination of good looks and plenty of features. If you have a Samsung phone it's a no-brainer, and if you don't it still warrants serious consideration.
The latest Pro version of the Fit2 is now swim-proof, and it can measure your strokes, record laps and monitor your heart rate.
The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro is listed at $329, but we’ll seen it selling for under $280, which is great-value for a swim-proof band.
TomTom Spark Cardio + Music
While most people associate TomTom with satnav systems for cars, the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music is a perfect illustration of why it’s sometimes good for companies to stretch beyond their comfort zone.
This watch is packed with features for everyone but the most dedicated of runners. It has a built-in GPS, an optical heart-rate monitor, 3GB of storage so you can listen to your music on the go, and even a swimming mode. If these features aren’t enough for you, TomTom lets you pair other Bluetooth sports equipment with the device, expanding its functionality beyond the core elements included in the box.
The Spark Cardio + Music is getting on a bit, but TomTom has dropped the price to $249, which is very good value for this feature-packed tracker.
Garmin Vivosmart HR+
Garmin has obviously taken a balanced, thoughtful approach to designing the Vivosmart HR+. It's compact and understated, yet still feels tough enough to survive whatever knocks your exercise regime can dole out. As the name suggests, there's an in-built optical heart-rate sensor and notably Garmin has managed to squeeze in GPS – so you don't always need to have your phone in your pocket.
Battery life is absolutely spot on, too. Allow the Vivosmart to just track your everyday steps and sleep, and you'll easily get five days before needing to reach for the charger. Keen to record your runs or rides via GPS? No problem. The eight hours of claimed battery life will provide more than enough time for most people to thoroughly exhaust themselves.
The Vivosmart HR+ is listed at $349 and while you can get it for a bit cheaper, it has been around for a while now. Still, it’s overall balance of good design and features earns it a place on this list.
The second-most expensive member of the Fitbit family is a very reasonable compromise between form and functionality. It has many of the features of a smartwatch with five-day battery life, and unlike cheaper versions of the Fitbit, it piggybacks on your smartphone to accurately measure speed and distance travelled right there on the tiny screen.
The Blaze constantly measures heart rate, and you can change out the strap easily to match your style.
The Blaze is listed at $329.95 but we’ve seen it going for less than $290, which is great value for those who want their fitness tracker to be closer to a smartwatch.
Garmin Forerunner 630
Garmin’s Forerunner 630 is clearly designed for serious runners. The bundle we reviewed includes the HRM-Run chest strap, which measures all kinds of things: Running cadence, ground contact time, vertical oscillation, left-right balance, stride length and vertical ratio.
It’s probably too much for most people, but if you need to analyse every run in detail, and potentially spot muscle imbalances before they cause problems, the Forerunner 630 is in a different league. It’s also well-built and has a battery life that can be measured in weeks (or 16 hours if you use the GPS).
The Forerunner 630 really is the ultimate running watch, but listed at $549, you have to be seriously into it to rush out and buy one.
Next: budget fitness bands and smartphone fitness apps
At the more basic end of things is the Fitbit Alta, one of the newest in the Fitbit range, and evidence of the company’s move towards customisation and style.
On paper, it’s not too far removed from the Fitbit Flex, the best-selling member of the Fitbit line, but it has one huge advantage: a screen. This displays your core tracking data, so you can check in on your stats away from the app, and it even extends to basic smartwatch features, displaying text messages and caller ID should you wish.
There’s no heart-rate monitor, but the Alta does all the basics well, it looks great and, listed at $199.95 (less if you shop around), it’s very good value.
The Misfit Ray is on the basic end of fitness trackers: it'll keep track of your steps and your sleep, but it has a number of big advantages. Firstly, it's attractively priced. Secondly, you don't have to remember to charge it – it takes 393 button cell batteries that last for six months. Thirdly, if you're on Windows Phone, you won't be left behind as Misfit has an app for you. Fourthly, it's water resistant to 50 metres, meaning you can shower and swim with it.
It's also a stylish specimen, which completes the package nicely. If you're a casual fitness fan that wants to track your steps and never worry about taking it off, the Misfit Ray is an easy recommendation.
Best of all the Misfit Ray is listed from just $112 – you pay more if you want to a custom band or colour.
Use your smartphone as a tracker with these apps
Of course, you should also note that you don't necessarily need a dedicated fitness tracker either. If you want to track steps, and you carry your phone around with you everywhere you could download the Moves app, which will count steps using your handset. It may not be as accurate, but it should give you an idea of whether you've walked more from one day to the next, which is probably all you need.
Samsung phones increasingly come with Samsung Health built in, which will do the same thing whether you like it or not.
And if you don't care about steps, but want to track runs, then you're even more spoiled for choice. There are basic apps for run tracking like Runkeeper, Endomondo and Under Armour Record, or Strava for the competitive – where every street in the country becomes a race against other owners.
If you want something to motivate you to get outside, Zombies, Run will give you something to run away from.