The best fitness trackers monitor your workouts at home, in the gym and outdoors, as well as keeping tabs on your general daily physical activity. Most trackers, which come in the shape of wrist-worn bands and more robust fitness watches, also monitor your sleep. Some are capable of tracking a person’s menstrual cycle.
In terms of activity tracking, the best fitness trackers are capable of letting you know everything from how many steps you’re taking on your daily walk or run, to how many hours sleep you had last night, to how many calories you burned during your spin class workout - check out our best exercise bikes guide for indoor cycle recommendations.
Heart rate tracking is a common feature among activity trackers, but there’s a noticeable difference in accuracy between the best fitness trackers and the real budget models. For example, hardly any come close to the accuracy of the Apple Watch Series 5, one of the world’s best smartwatches for heart rate monitoring.
If you need something to prompt you to move more each day, an activity tracker will do that. This makes them an ally in helping you make a gentle start to exercise. You could begin with walking - a fantastic activity for overall wellness, and there are proven mental health benefits of walking too.
The majority of fitness watches and activity trackers are smart enough to automatically recognize not only when you’ve started exercising, but also the type of exercise you’re doing. That could be running, either outdoors or inside using the best treadmills for cardio workouts, or weights, yoga, swimming, cycling, and many other exercises.
The more advanced models among our round-up of the best fitness trackers also monitor in-depth health metrics like VO2 max (how well your body uses oxygen when you're exercising at your hardest), and have built-in GPS to track workouts when away from your smartphone. Speaking of phones, activity trackers can also display notifications whenever you receive a new text, call or diary reminder.
1. Fitbit Versa 2: Best fitness tracker overall
The Fitbit Versa 2 is one of the most stylish-looking wearables out there thanks to its curved edge screen, which is full color and high-resolution, making it easier to read when you're out exercising in bright daylight. It also feels good on the wrist, thanks to an interchangeable soft silicone strap, and sports easy-to-use touch controls.
Our top pick for the best fitness tracker is a stunning mix of style and smarts, and will get you up and running quickly when it comes to tracking your daily activity, workouts and how well you sleep (you'll need to wear the tracker in bed).
The Fitbit Versa 2 is waterproof to 50m, so making it suitable for swimming, and tracks steps taken, elevation, heart rate, and your sleep cycle – the latter comes via a personalized Sleep Score with actionable insights on how you can sleep better.
If you enjoy taking your workouts off-road, Fitbit's super-popular tracker can be paired with your phone to access GPS. Elsewhere it offers Spotify music control, supports contactless payments, and utilizes Amazon Alexa Voice Assistant for voice control. That's handy if you want a fitness tracker to perform tasks while you're in the middle of a workout.
2. Apple Watch 5: Best fitness tracker for heart health
The Apple Watch Series 5 is a stunning exercise-focused smartwatch and activity tracker. While it's more expensive than most other devices in our best fitness tracker guide, for the money you get a highly customizable build of a superb quality. The watch sits comfortably on the wrist and looks great while tracking your daily activity and workouts.
If heart rate monitoring is what you prize most from a fitness tracker, Apple has some of the most impressive heart tracking tech on the market, which includes its ECG (electro cardiogram) monitor.
Apple's latest-gen watch is capable of helping you track menstruation too, giving you insight into your monthly cycle and when your period is likely to start (based on your menstruation history). It will even take care of your hearing by using noise-tracking to alert you if you're in a high-decibel environment.
The only downside in our eyes is battery life: it tops out at a day or, as Apple claims, 18 hours. But if you use the LTE connection and GPS a lot, it'll run out of juice faster.
3. Fitbit Charge 3: Best fitness tracker for various sports
The Fitbit Charge 3 is a lightweight fitness tracker that's comfy and unobtrusive enough to wear day-to-day, so not just when you're exercising. It has a simple black and white screen, which may be smaller than a smartwatch display but is actually bigger than many of its competitors and reads clearly too. This alone could make it the best fitness tracker for those of you with vision issues.
Unfortunately there's no onboard GPS here, but the Charge 3 is fantastic for health and fitness in every other way, with accurate onboard 24/7 heart rate monitor, water-resistant (down to 50 meters) for those of you who love to swim, and plenty of dedicated workout modes to choose from. The Fitbit SmartTrack function automatically recognizes swimming, elliptical training, walking, cycling, aerobics and running, whether you're outdoors of using one of the best treadmills.
Like Fitbit’s other more recent devices, it’s a solid option if sleep-tracking is also important to you – the app presents Sleep Stages and plenty of data about your sleep patterns and how you could improve them. There are move reminders here too, making it a good choice if you often forget to stand up and move about during those hours when you're not exercising.
4. Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: Best fitness tracker for runners
The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a superb fitness tracker from a company that's been working on perfecting these devices for decades. As a result, this one is crammed with features for fitness: GPS, heart rate and VO2 Max monitoring. There's also running dynamics, pulse ox sensing, training status, post-workout recovery advice, plus plenty more thanks via the Garmin app store.
The battery life is a decent seven days when in use as a smartwatch and fitness tracker. Fire up the GPS for a tracked workout and you can expect it to keep going for up to six hours, which includes music playing via Bluetooth headphones. Overall, this is a solid offering that will take whatever you throw at it.
5. Polar Ignite: Best fitness watch for gym use
The Polar Ignite wearable is a smartwatch style device which offers not only workout tracking and sleep analysis but also onboard GPS for training metrics. The sleep tracking is detailed with a handy Nightly Recharge metric for at-a-glance status of how well you slept. Rather uniquely, the Polar Ignite also offers a breathing exercise called Serene to help you relax for better sleep.
The FitSpark daily training guide is a great way of keeping an eye on your history, recovery and readiness to train more. The use of VO2 max and continuous heart rate tracking help to make this genuinely useful data. You can also use this in the pool for tracking and when out and about you can get smartphone notifications from a connected device.
6. Withings Move ECG: Best activity tracker with ECG
The swimming-friendly Withings Move ECG is, as the name suggests, an advanced heart rate tracking wearable. You still get the analogue watch design Withings is famous for, only now with heart rate tracking that is capable of electrocardiogram level analysis. That makes it an ideal choice for anyone who wants to track their heart daily.
The Move ECG also tracks steps, distance covered and calories burned, and will work with a connected phone for GPS clout. The sleep cycle monitoring and smart wake up features are great – the latter enables you feel like you've woken up naturally, which could help you feel more refreshed in the mornings.
If you're having trouble sleeping, or feel this is one area of your health that needs some work, take a look at our guide to the best mattress and the best pillow for different sleep styles to ensure you're sleeping on the right ones for you.
7. Huawei Band 4 Pro: Best fitness tracker for small budgets
The amount of health and fitness features packed into the Huawei Band 4 Pro is impressive considering its low price tag. Not only do you get a high-resolution color display, which is simple to read in varying light, but also onboard GPS, heart rate tracking and smart sleep tracking.
It tracks a range of popular indoor and outdoor exercises, including running, cycling – outdoors and on using one of the best exercise bikes – walking, rowing and swimming. The Huawei Band 4 Pro also tracks sleep and offers personalized suggestions for how to improve it.
Built-in GPS means you can track without a phone when you go for a run or bike ride, and you can wear this fitness tracker in the swimming pool and ocean too, making this a genuine potential triathlon training buddy.
The addition of VO2 Max and aerobic training effect data further adds to this very affordable and very capable tracker that treads on the toes of its bigger, more expensive GPS-enabled competitors.
8. Garmin Vivosmart 4: Best fitness tracker for post-workout recovery
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 is a solid all-rounder for those who workout, but aren’t training seriously. Instead, it’ll monitor your heart rate, VO2 max to help you understand your current fitness levels, and can automatically track swimming, running, cycling and elliptical training too. It keeps tabs on other types of exercise too, but you’ll have to add those manually.
It’s also got a number of smart health features, including stress-tracking, and a full body battery metric – essentially, this tells you how worn down you are. Not only does the Vivosmart 4 help your boost recovery after working out, it’s a really good indicator of your overall wellbeing too, especially combined with that stress tracking feature.
The main drawback of the Vivosmart 4? The screen is on the small side, meaning that we’d recommend it for those who want fitness tracking smarts but prefer to look at stats in more depth via the Garmin Connect app.
9. Honor Band 5: Ideal fitness tracker for swimmers
The Honor Band 5 is a super affordable health and fitness tracker that somehow manages to cram in a gorgeous AMOLED screen, despite that low price. You also get heart rate tracking and even SpO2 monitoring meaning this will calculate your blood oxygen saturation levels. You can track all sorts of sports, including swimming thanks to waterproofing, and can get sleep tracking metrics too.
The battery is good for up to 14 days in standby mode but with real world use, with heart rate and sleep tracking on, expect to get six days on a charge. You also get smartphone notifications as well as remote music and picture taking controls, so if you use them a lot expect that to affect the battery life too.
10. Garmin Vivosport: Built-in GPS for trail running and hiking
This fitness tracker from Garmin may look super simple, but it’s packing a lot of great tech inside that minimally design tough outer. The updated Vivosport (2020) has built-in GPS-tracking, a heart-rate sensor, VO2 max and an altimeter, making it a solid option for runners, cyclists and those serious about fitness. The only main feature it lacks is swim tracking, even though it is waterproof. A shame when many others do now offer this feature.
Its basic design might be a bit boring for some, but because it’s so understated, and not to mention slim, it’s got a wide-ranging appeal. That means we’d recommend it for those who need a reliable fitness device, but aren’t too fussed about customization options or scoring style points.
How much do the best fitness trackers cost?
On average, you can expect to pay between $60 and $650 for a fitness tracker, which is a very wide price range. It starts from the basic step-tracking wearables at the entry level end of the market, and goes right up to the all-singing, all-dancing GPS and VO2 max-tracking devices that pack in music and Bluetooth headphone connections, contactless payments, Wi-Fi, LTE and so much more.
There are plenty of options in between these two extremes, meaning there's sure to be an ideal fitness tracker out there for you. Before you shop, jot down the main features you're looking for, especially the absolute must-haves. These vary for each of us, but could include robust heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking or automatic workout recognition for running, cycling or aerobics so that you don't have to fiddle around with any menus.
Choosing the best fitness tracker for you
We covered a lot of this in the introduction, but essentially choosing the best fitness tracker for you depends on what level of fitness you currently have, what types of exercise you enjoy, what level of stats you want available to you, and whether you're interested in sleep tracking and period tracking smarts too.
Most of today's fitness trackers offer contactless payment support, while a good range offer GPS, either integrated or when connected to your phone.
Also think about how you want the fitness tracker to feel on your wrist: whether a lightweight tracker that you can leave on at night for sleep tracking is your top priority, or whether you need a super-robust tracker that can withstand any rough and tumble during outdoors exercises and bootcamps.
Looking for more health and fitness content? The don't forget to check out our guides to the best online fitness services.