Activity and Fitness Trackers

End of last year, I had been looking to buy an activity tracker to track my steps, sleep etc. and also possibly measure non-outdoor running / cycling exercises like spinning, gym work etc. The usual DCRainMaker has all the information needed on these devices and also helps with product comparison tables, but did not have a recommendation on what I should buy – no, that is not right, if you go down this page to Activity Trackers, you will find his recommendation.

This is just a summary of my research into these devices – hopefully useful for someone like me looking to buy one soon.

I am Garmin biased as I own 3 of their devices (Edge 500, Forerunner 220 and Vivofit) – so I would always recommend their products (really, is there anyone else who makes their variety of sports trackers?), but that also gives me the insight into what all is wrong with them (loads!) and why they are better than what the market has (for me).

Do you want a pedometer only or something that tracks calories for all activities?
1 Pedometer only
Really – just buy one of those £20 ones off Amazon
CXS Walking 3D Pedometer
Omron Walking Style III Pedometer
2 Glorified pedometer with some jazz like reminders etc and also website / apps where I can track food, weight etc. and compare with my friends
Do you want a wrist based pedometer?
1 Fitbit Flex (£60) No display, only shows progress to GOAL with lights
No reminders to walk every hour
Recharge every 5-7 days
2 Garmin Vivofit (£69) Displays steps, goal, calories, time, date etc.; Not back-lit;
Red bar indicates inactivity for an hour (telling you to move);
Has ability to track other non-step activities and part of Garmin ‘Connect’ family.
Coin battery (lasts 1 year) – so can wear 24/7
No, a Clip on pedometer
1 Fitbit One (£70) Rechargeable every 7 days (for 3 hours), has alarms, measures stairs climbed and measures sleep
2 Fitbit Zip (£45) Coin battery (lasts 6 months) – so can wear 24/7, no alarms, no stairs, does not measure sleep but great value and good budget option
3 Hey, I want a pedometer but do other stuff too (but don’t have money for all those cool wearables)
I run and also want to track activities and steps
1 Garmin Forerunner 15 (£110) No bluetooth auto upload to phone – have to connect to laptop! Recharge every 4-5 weeks
Do you want to measure calories in the gym, exercise classes, spin sessions etc.
Do you want to measure calories for your run / cycle but not really interested in detailed metrics / analysis
Do you mind wearing an heart rate monitor while exercising? Choose between the two based on which family you are in:
2 Garmin Vivofit (£69) ANT+ heart rate strap; Coin battery (lasts 1 year), so can wear 24/7
3 Polar Loop (£65-75) Bluetooth heart rate strap; recharge every 5-7 days
No, I want a device with optical HR (even though the recordings wont be always accurate)
4 Basis peak (£170) Expensive! Has touchscreen and Smartphone notifications will be enabled in future
4 Who wants a pedometer, I do the ‘real stuff’ (and have some money-money-money)
1 Only Run — Garmin Forerunner 220 (£188) if you are in the Garmin family; else Polar M400 (£156)
2 Only Cycle — Garmin Edge 500 (or 800 / 810 depending on your needs)
3 Only Swim — Garmin Swim
4 Run and cycle — Garmin Forerunner 620 (£278)
5 Run, cycle and Swim — Garmin 920XT, Garmin Fenix, Garmin Epix

So as I promised, a few bad things about Garmin:

  • Their mobile website sucks! Real time sucks – one of the worst. So use their desktop website or their Garmin Connect app.
  • The app works fine for me, but can go a long way in improvements – I heard the competition does a better job, but I haven’t used anything else, so can’t say
  • Server up time – don’t be surprised if you can’t sync / upload once a month on a weekend! And it has been worse the last week or so with sync failures every day! (we can’t understand why a company of this size can’t keep their servers running all the time but A says Polar’s uptime is even worse!)
  • Their heart rate monitors don’t work underwater (no optical HR), so you can’t measure calories earned while swimming (you can measure calories with other metrics like time, laps, distance etc.)

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