Activity trackers- tried, tested, and selection tips

Monday, August 31, 2015

Recently there was a conversation on Twitter with #ukrunchat about which activity tracker to purchase. My husband jokes that my forearm, from wrist to elbow, will soon be filled as I am lucky enough to test a fair few. At the Spitfire Scramble, my team and I spent a good half hour comparing toys (I had trouble getting the slap bracelet on because I had my Mio Alpha Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) on one wrist and my Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS Running Watch on the other.).  It is always good to hear feedback from a person who had been able to try it out in the field to learn pros and cons.

My current assortment of trackers
I have been lucky enough to try a fair few, each with a different purpose- heart rate monitor, pedometer, GPS, point accumulator, sleep monitor.  Keep in mind, I am not the most competent/confident person when it comes to technology, so there is a good chance I am not using these gadgets to their full potential.  Activity trackers are a great way to monitor just how active (or inactive) you are which might be the kick you need to get up off the couch.  Here are a few of the trackers I have tried over the years.  Leave a comment below on which activity trackers you have used and what you thought of them.

My first investment was in a Polar HRM when I became a Spinning instructor in 2009. I would wear it religiously in class to keep an eye on how hard I could push myself and how many calories I had burned. I only wore it for spinning though and it has been in my drawer for nearly two years as I don't teach anymore.

Back when I was working at Frame, Nike was kind enough to give all the instructors a Nike Fuel Band. I really liked the simplicity of it and the simple design. The battery lasted at least a week and as it was water resistant (you could wear in shower but not the pool) I hardly ever took it off.  Every day I was monitoring how many steps I took and trying to beat it. My goal was 15,000 and a few times I would be a 100 or so steps short so I would shake my wrist just before getting in bed, much to the amusement of my husband. However, I did have to replace it several times due to software problems in the bracelet. By the 3rd time, I had had enough and was on the hunt for something new. I did like the community aspect built into the Nike app and even the cheesy graphical displays when I reached a milestone.  But I needed something that worked.

The next activity tracker I tried was a Fitbug Air, which I wore on my hip rather than my wrist.  It captured my data differently than the Fuelband.  For example, when cycling, the Air would capture my movement or when washing dishes, the Fuelband would record that.  I couldn't wear the Air for yoga which was a bummer but it was simple to use.  It didn't need charging every day and the display was easy to navigate.

Strava app then became a staple on my runs so I could track my distance on my phone, which helped my training. I would also wear either the Fuelband or Air to keep track of steps as I didn't want to loose track of them.

Mio Fuse with the charger
At the beginning of the year, I tested the Mio Fuse Heart Rate Monitor.  It looks similar in its design to the Fuelband- a simple black bracelet with digital display. However it is able to monitor my heart rate on my wrist (no chest strap needed- yay!), in addition to counting my steps as a pedometer.  The battery lasted at least a month and the devise was water proof so I didn't need to take it off to shower or wash dishes.  Mio offers an app on your phone for loading your steps and workouts, as well as keeping track of the HR training zones during each fitness session.

Soon, I found carrying my phone on runs a bit burdensome (well, I still get lost easily in London, so sometimes it is handy to have) as it was hard to check my distance without having to dig my phone out of my bumbag. For my birthday, my mom sent me a Garmin Forerunner10 watch. And I love it. It is freeing to be able to go out the door and not have to carry anything (when I go on routes I am familiar with of course). It tracks runs, dog walks, cycle rides, and even outdoor swimming sessions when I have it turned on. I can still upload the files to Strava so I have an overall online training log. The watch keeps records of my PBs, sending me instant feedback if I am particularly speedy that day.

What's on my wrist currently? Another Mio HRM, the Alpha, which is bigger than Fuse but still amazing technology for monitoring HR from your wrist.  The display is easy to read when running and I like the chunky style on my dainty wrists with a fun splash of hot pink.  I am still having a play with it, and will let you know how I get on.
Out of the package now!

Right now, I am charging my Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker and Sleep Wristband.  I invested in the Flex to maximize my Bounts points collection and to monitor my sleep patterns.  I might be too excited to sleep the first few nights I wear it to bed.  

If you are considering investing in an activity tracker, be sure to think about:
  • What activities you do? Does it need to be waterproof for swimming? Have GPS for cycling? Is there a large display to make it easier to read when you are running?
  • How often you need to charge it?  When I started using my Forerunner10, I was surprised how often I needed to charge it.  I am now more conscious of the battery display and charge it every few days.
  • Do you want it do to? Count steps, display your heart rate and monitor your sleep with same device?  Are you good with gadgets to take advantage of all the functions?
  • What apps you want to link to? Bounts only works with some devices.  Strava can upload GPS files and auto-syncs a few different brands.  Does it have its own app?
  • Durability.  Do your research by reading reviews and talking to friends to see what they have tried and if it was able to take a beating (not literally, of course).
  • Price.  This one is last on the list, not because it isn't important (you should live within your means) but I want you to consider your health as an investment.  It is worth it to select a tracker that will help you move more, sleep better, run farther, etc.  Aim to find a balance in budget and functionality before you make your purchase.  
I will write a follow up in a month or two once I am able to use my Alpha and Flex a bit more.  As I mentioned above, feel free to leave a comment below and which tracker is your favorite and why.

Fitbug Air, Mio Fuse, and Mio Alpha were kindly given to me to test and review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

This post was sponsored by Legal and General.


  1. Looking forward to seeing what you think of the Flex. Have been looking at getting that or the MisFit but I'm not sure if I'd get as much as I want out of either of them, or if I'd enjoy them for the first few weeks and then just gather dust!

    1. Will let you know Lesli. The Mizfit looks interesting too. I primarily went with Flex because of the link with Bounts points. The Sony Smartband2 looks interesting too.

      May I ask why you want an activity tracker? That might help you make your selection.

  2. Great post. I love my little Flex, but it's currently lost (took on honeymoon and is somewhere in a pile!). Looking forward to finding and getting back into it - love the buzz at 10,000 steps!

    1. The buzz totally surprised me! I didn't feel it on Day 1 but did on Day 2. Did you get enough steps in while on your honeymoon? Where did you go?

  3. Hi Mollie! I work for Withings and we create a few different types of activity trackers. One I think you would really like is our Activite Pop, it's an analogue watch that connects through bluetooth to your phone and tracks your steps, sleep and swim. I'd love for you to try ours too! Let me know if you're interested and I'd be happy to send you one :)

    Social Media Manager, Withings

    1. Hi Erin, that sounds pretty cool! Yes please get in touch as I would love to try it out. Thanks for thinking of me. x


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