Fitness Watches 101.
I think we can all agree that fitness trackers have come a long way since the humble pedometer that you’d clip onto the waist band of your jeans. Thank god.
A wearable fitness tracker can give you a better idea of how you move your body and how much you move throughout day and night. They can monitor steps, stride, sleep, activity, calorie burn and more. Trackers and apps can also log diet, hydration and even menstrual cycles to gain a broader picture of your ‘health’.
I can almost guarantee that the next time you’re on the bus or tube, 99% of the people around you will be wearing a fitness watch or tracker of some sort.
While fitness trackers and wearables, in general are becoming more and more mainstream, the validity of these devices in their ability to improve health and fitness has been called in to question. And as someone who has worn one for the best part of 3 years, I thought I’d put a couple to the test and of course, share my findings with you all.
The first watch I ever wore was the Fitbit Alta. A simple black band that literally just tracked my steps – perfect. It motivated me to hit my 10K step-goal and that was that. Then, technology obviously improved and I upgraded to one with a small screen – the Charge 2. This one allowed me to track not only my steps, but also my sleep. This was all recorded in the Fitbit App. Seems ridiculously to think back to that now, but I think its important to recognise just how far fitness trackers have come in such a short space of time!
My next upgrade was to the Fitbit Versa. A sleek watch with a touch-screen face and a whole host of modes, settings, and fancy features. It alerted me when my phone was ringing, allowed me to set alarms and had a stop watch. Then came version 2.0 and the cycle continues.
So with ALL that in mind, I wanted to do a comparison of 3 really well known brands and watches. Comparing battery life, functionality, ease of use, price and a couple of other metrics.
The models I tested were the following…
As always, all my thoughts and opinions are 100% honest I promise!
1. Fitbit Versa 2.
Initial thoughts – To look at, its a super attractive watch. I have the space grey which goes with everything (not that I’m a fashionista). The straps are also interchangeable so if you wanted to have every colour of the rainbow, you totally could. Its extremely light, comfortable and is touch screen.
I have always been a lover of Fitbit. It’s incredibly user friendly, easy to use, easy to set up and pretty reliable. However, when I was training for my first triathlon, I noticed the version I had didn’t have GPS so sometimes my distances were slightly off.
What I found really interesting was that when I completed a half marathon back in December, it was 4K off. It tracked the run as 17K not the full 21k! Somewhat disheartening as I thought back to my training runs, but I didn’t let it get to me too much.
If you’re a super keen runner and care a lot about accuracy for pace and distance, you might want something a little more running specific. That’s not to say however that this isn’t a perfectly good watch to rely on! It tracks weights sessions, HIIT workouts, swimming, yoga, cycling and more.
Battery Life: 5+ days.
Sleep Tracking: Yes – it also gives you a sleep score based on HR, time asleep and restlessness.
Waterproof: Water resistant to 50M.
Heart-Rate Monitor: 24/7 heart rate tracking.
GPS: It piggy backs off your phone so be sure to open the app and sync the watch BEFORE you head out for a run or a cycle.
Price: Starts at £199.99
Additional Features: Built in Amazon Alexa, links with Spotify, Apple Pay, female health tracking, guided breathing sessions and on screen workouts.
2. Polar Ignite.
Initial thoughts – IT’S BEAUTIFUL! I have the rose gold one and it really is a beautiful watch that can be worn for all occasions. Unlike the Fitbit, it has a round clock face so resembles more of a traditional watch.
The watch strap is matte and I barely noticed it on my wrist it was that light. It definitely has more features than the Fitbit and did take a little getting used to.
One of the things I was surprised at was the fact that it didn’t automatically show you your step count. Instead, it puts more emphasis on daily activity. So if you’ve been for a 10K run that morning and you are on your feet all day, you’ll hit your activity goal much quicker than if you were resting or sitting down. At first, I didn’t like not knowing how many steps I’d done but after wearing it for a couple of weeks, I strangely enjoyed it – it was somewhat refreshing!
Battery Life: 5 days in watch mode, up to 17hrs in training mode.
Sleep Tracking: Yes, the ‘sleep stages’ feature offers a full breakdown of you sleep monitoring your sleep stages: light, deep and REM.
Waterproof: Water Resistant to 30m.
Heart-Rate Monitor: 24/7 advanced tracking.
GPS: Yes – integrated GPS & GLONASS.
Price: Starts at £174.50
Additional Features: Nightly recharge that shows you how well you recover from your day during the night. Fitspark – ready made workouts to match your recovery and readiness for training. Serene breathing exercises, phone notifications sport profiles, fitness tests and two apps to compliment your training and ability to track progress.
I was very kindly gifted this watch by the lovely team at GymMarine in Bath. We put the watch to the test and actually tried out a number of the Fitspark features!
I have also been given a discount code to share with you all – ‘AMY5’. Just be sure to quote if and when you’re enquiring about getting your hands on one.
3. Suunto 5.
Initial thoughts – The Suunto 5 is much bigger than the Fitbit and Polar. Not necessarily a bad thing, but because I have quite small wrists, it did look big and more obviously like a fitness watch in comparison to the two previous ones.
This particular model isn’t touch screen so to operate the watch, you use the buttons on the side. I’ll admit it took me a while to get used to what button did what. There are some quite technical features which is great for those who take pacing, splits and accuracy very seriously but for me, it wasn’t an essential.
One of my favourite features of this particular watch was the stress and recovery status. I found it really interesting how accurate it was in picking up when I was actually quite stressed. It prompted me to take a minute or a rest.
Battery Life: 7 days in watch mode, 20hrs in training mode.
Sleep Tracking: Yes, duration, average HR during sleep.
Waterproof: Up to 50M.
Heart-Rate Monitor: 24/7 tracking.
GPS: Yes, GPS, GLONASS, GALIEO, QZSS.
Price: Starts at £299.00.
Additional Features: Over 80 sports modes, fitness level tracking, adaptive training guidance, sunrise/ sunset times, route planning using satellite, terrain and Google Maps.
There are SO many watches out there it really can feel like a mind field when you start shopping around. My advice? Ask yourself what you’re going to use it for. If its step count, you don’t need a watch that is going to cost you a lot of money (some on the market can be up to £800!!)
Do your research, read reviews and ask around. If you have specific training goals, then perhaps a watch that will give you super in depth stats about your training is the way to go. But equally if you want to track your 5K park runs and yoga classes, find a watch that has multi-fitness functions.
One of the features that is really important to me is sleep tracking because I know that for me, if my sleep is poor, everything else around me starts to deteriorate.
This year, I’ve set myself some pretty big fitness related goals and I know that when the time comes to start ramping up my training, I might swap out which watch I wear but that’s a story for another time!
The Fitbit Versa 2 has a special place in my heart and was the watch I reached for after the challenge was up.
Second place, the Polar. I loved just how many functions it had but felt that at times, it was quite tricky to navigate.
Lastly, the Suunto 5. It was just a little too big for my wrist and a little too complicated to use.
Have you tried any of these models? I’d love to know what your thoughts are!