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The Best Fitness Trackers You Can Buy For Running, Swimming

The Best Fitness Trackers You Can Buy For Running, Swimming

A fitness tracker is the perfect way to monitor your activity and health effortlessly and with unmatched accuracy. Think of it as an electronic finger on the pulse, constantly measuring your vitals, quality of sleep and step count.

We’ve spent more than 150 hours running, walking, grocery shopping, sleeping, kettlebell swinging, and cycling (indoors and out) to learn everything there is to know about fitness trackers. If you're looking for a top fitness tracker – be it a activity band, fitness watch or clip-on – there's no shortage to choose from. 

The right fitness tracker will be based on your individual needs and how active your lifestyle is. Some will just look for step counting and reliable sleep tracking, others want built-in GPS for running, a heart rate monitor to deliver advanced resting heart rate data. The good news is that there's something out there for everyone, even without breaking the bank.

After considering new options and testing 23 top-rated trackers over the past three years, we think the Garmin Vívosport is the best fitness tracker for people who want to track their activity levels and progressively monitor their workouts.

Garmin Vívosport

Best for accurate tracking


The Best Fitness Trackers You Can Buy For Running, Swimming

In the Vívosport, Garmin combines the best of its stable of fitness trackers—from an always-visible display to automatic exercise detection to heart-rate monitoring to GPS—and does it quite well.

It's not as stylish as most of the Fitbit products, but there's a reason the Garmin Vivosport appears in this list before products from the latter company. This is cheaper than most Fitbit products and it comes with GPS built-in too. 

The Garmin Vívosport nails all the capabilities of a well-rounded fitness tracker by combining an always-visible color display, responsive auto-activity detection with GPS, up-to-seven-day battery life, and accurate continuous heart-rate readings in a wrist-worn band that’s waterproof for swimming. 

It's water resistant to 5ATM (up to 50m). Although it's waterproof, it wont' track your swimming easily but the Vivosport excels for other kinds of workouts and is great for tracking your jogging and cycling. Plus we found the heart rate tracker to be accurate too.

It features the same rich mix of heart rate enabled metrics, including heart rate variability stress scores, resting heart rate, VO2 Max and fitness age estimates. Essentially, if you like running and gym work, but are looking for a band over a dedicated GPS running watch, the Vivosport is one of the best options out there.

The Garmin Connect app, with a recently improved home screen, is compatible with iOS, Android, and desktop computers, but it doesn’t have as many social networking users as Fitbit’s app. Still, given Garmin’s more capable hardware, we think it’s the best pick for most people.

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

Heart-rate plus smartwatch features

The Best Fitness Trackers You Can Buy For Running, Swimming

The ultra-sleek, swim-proof Gear Fit2 Pro has accurate heart-rate monitoring, optional GPS, and a robust notification system, plus all the activity tracking you desire. It’s a particularly good pick for Android users.

The Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro arrives at a weird time. It's an upgrade to the Gear Fit2 but entering a world where fitness trackers are seemingly losing steam to more capable smartwatches, which are getting better at, and focusing more on, health and activity tracking.

Our favourite part of the Gear Fit2 Pro is that it doesn't feel like it's clinging to your wrist. Devices with heart rate sensors have to really hug your wrist so they can get a good heart rate reading. We slept with it with no problems and never once wanted to rip it off and give the wrist some air.

The Gear Fit2 held an IP68 water resistant rating, which makes it good for rowing or running and cycling out in the rain, but not enough for swimming. The Pro holds 5ATM waterproofing, which means you can rest easy and go for a swim without worrying that you'll need to put your tracker in rice later on. Also making it easier for swimming is a new water lock mode.

Unlike the Vívosport, you can also download additional fitness apps, including MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal, to activate directly on your wrist, and the Samsung can store up to 4 GB of music for online listening via Bluetooth headphones. But all these smart features come at the expense of measly battery life—with moderate use, you have to charge it almost daily. Like its predecessor, its outdoor workout modes begin without waiting for the device to lock onto a GPS signal, which means you could end up halfway through a workout without distance and route recording. Overall, the Gear Fit2 Pro is a slick and smart device, but the more reliable Vívosport is better for tracking fitness overall.

Fitbit Flex 2

Basic fitness tracker


Though it doesn’t have heart-rate monitoring, the sleek Flex 2 is our top choice for basic fitness tracking plus access to Fitbit’s awesome community.

The Fitbit Flex 2 is a skinny, slight, water resistant fitness tracker, small enough that you can wear a watch alongside it without looking like you’re wearing two timepieces.
Unlike most other Fitbits, it’s water-resistant to 50 meters, so you can track swimming and shower with it. However, it doesn’t have a screen—just five status LEDs to track progress toward your daily step-count goal. It also doesn’t track heart rate, but Fitbits in general continue to struggle with heart-rate accuracy, so we don’t see this as a major issue; it helps the Flex 2 maintain its slim profile and lower price. 

Once you have the Flex 2 wrapped around your wrist, its strength lies in the fact that you can largely forget about it. All of your steps are automatically counted and your forty winks all add up when you sleep.

The Fitbit Flex 2's battery life stops it scoring higher, and if you need a lot of juice you should consider one of the Garmin Vivofit range instead, but the four days of use you're likely to get out of the Flex 2 shouldn't be a deal-breaker, especially if you're used to daily smartphone charges.

While it's easy to think of the Flex 2 as a glorified pedometer, the waterproofing will appeal to casual swimmers, while the app and social features make it surprisingly compelling to use.

So if all you want is the motivation to get more active it's a solid choice - just don't go in expecting a wealth of sensors and data.

Garmin Vívofit 4

No phone needed


For the tech-averse who want tracking, the non-HR Vívofit 4’s screen lets you view your data without fussing with an app and doesn’t need to be charged.

The vívofit 4 got a slight redesign that we think is an improvement on the 3, if not a game changer. It’s a little smaller, but the display is actually a little bigger and now in color as opposed to black and white. The band is also better than on the 4’s predecessors, particularly because it now has a buckle which keeps it from falling off so easily. It fits like a small watch rather than a bracelet.

With no battery to charge and no pressing need to sync to a phone, the waterproof Garmin Vívofit 4 is the best option for basic tracking without the requirement to use a separate app.

Although pairing it with a phone provides more information, such as daily activity logs and sleep tracking, the small screen is enough to get most of what you need at a glance: time of day, steps taken, steps needed to reach your daily goal (in case you don’t want to do math), distance traveled, calories burned, and “active minutes” (Garmin’s measure of sustained walks and other workouts). 

The best clip-on tracker

For a super-simple snapshot of your daily activity level, the Zip counts steps and connects you to the Fitbit community for motivation.

For anyone who doesn’t want to wear something on their wrist, the Fitbit Zip is our recommendation. While the Zip lacks some of the bells and whistles found in other devices, such as tracking sleep and stairs climbed or displaying notifications, it remains one of the cheapest entry points to the Fitbit ecosystem. The Fitbit app app is easy to use and provides tools to help you stay active. In addition to viewing all of your activity data, you can track what you eat and even compete with friends and family members in daily or weekly competitions.

Costing at least $20 less than the other clip models, it’s the best value in the field. However, it lacks sleep tracking; if that’s important to you, upgrading to (and paying more for) the Fitbit One is your only solid option. Either gives you access to Fitbit’s very active social community to keep you going.
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About Minh Hiếu

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.


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