Fitness Trackers: Which One Should I Choose?

AllyAlly Setliff coordinates and leads the group exercise and health promotion programs for Rex Wellness Center of Raleigh. Ally graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. Health Fitness Specialist degree. She is also an registered clinical exercise physiologist through American College of Sports Medicine and has experience with cardiac and pulmonary rehab. She holds her primary group exercise certification through AFAA, and personal training certification through National Strength and Conditioning Association. She loves to share her passion for exercise and creativity in every class that she teaches. Her main goal is to make others enjoy exercise as much as she does. Ally enjoys every type of dance, sprint triathlons, running, road cycling, and barre is her newest passion.

fitbit

Technology is a great way to keep us on track with exercise and healthy eating. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular activity trackers, mobile apps and websites that monitor your workouts and can help boost your motivation.

  • Fitbit: This is the most popular fitness tracker on the market. Fitbit offers different types of trackers that can be worn as either a pedometer, activity wristband, or even embedded into a high-fashioned bracelet. Depending on which device you purchase, you may be able to track steps, distance, calories burned, or sleep patterns. You can set daily goals, earn badges, and challenge friends. Newer Fitbit devices have GPS capabilities that track elevation, pace and heart rate. Some also have music capabilities. Be wary! A few trackers that attach to clothing may be easily forgotten and accidentally laundered. I’ve done it at least 5 times already. I recommend purchasing a wristband style instead. Other options in this style include the Jawbone© or Nike + FuelBand. These devices are very comparable to Fitbit, with similar aesthetics and capabilities.

Don’t want to spend the money on a device? There are several free apps or websites that also measure progress and keep you motivated.

  • MyFitnessPal: This is one of my favorite mobile apps. If you do not own a smart phone, you can track your information through their website at myfitnesspal.com. The app makes it super easy to track daily calories, water consumption, exercise and weight. There is also a social component that allows you to challenge and encourage friends. Progress is shown in easy to read charts. The app and use of this website are free. You need to take time to enter your food intake each day. Research shows that those taking the time to track their food intake are more successful in their weight loss/healthy eating journey than those who do not track their food. Be as accurate as you can about portion size when tracking your calories for each meal. You’ll be surprised how quickly calories add up! Other free apps that have similar capabilities as MyFitnessPal are Fitocracy, Challenges, Fleety, and Lose it!
  • RunKeeper: Training for a race? The best tracker I have found for racing is RunKeeper. Whether you are training for a 5k, sprint triathlon, or marathon, this app does a great job with goal setting and providing training plans. It has GPS capabilities to track distance traveled, pace, and speed for running outdoors. It also has capabilities to track indoor workouts on the treadmill. You can track other non-running activities that you do during the week such as Zumba, Barre, or strength training. The app also helps you motivate your friends. It alerts you when you have reached a personal record and it sends push notifications if you have gotten off track that week. Another personal recommendation: Be smart about free training plans provided for long distance races. If you are inexperienced in long-distance running, don’t forget your rest days! You don’t want to suffer an injury by pushing too hard, too fast. It is also important to include core and strength training in your weekly running plan. Other popular apps for race training are Mapmyrun, Nike + running, and PUMATRAC.
  • Heart rate monitors: Your heart rate can provide a more detailed measurement of exercise and can be monitored in several ways during your workout. How do you know if you are working hard enough during exercise? Exertion and heart rate are the main ways to measure how intense a workout it. Some may be familiar with the “talk test” and RPE scale as common ways to assess how hard you are working. You can always track heart rate by manually taking your carotid pulse, but there are several devices that will track heart rate for you. Polar Heart Rate Monitors come with a sports watch that shows current heart rate, max heart rate, and also summarizes your workout. Some devices go as far as telling you how many calories were burned during your workout. There is a free app that can measure your heart rate on smart phones now called Instant Heart Rate. With this, you just touch your finger to the camera lens on the smart phone to gauge pulse with real-time charts. How cool is that?

Bottom line? There are several different ways to track important info from your workout, and you don’t need to get top of the line equipment to do so. Finding something that gives you a way to measure progress is the biggest factor in staying motivated and seeing results.

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