Ben Sillis reviews the latest in a new breed of fitness trackers
The World Cup is kicking off in Brazil this month, and while that’s a good excuse to sit on the sofa with a few beers, there’s bound to be a little part of you nagging away to get outside and get in shape too. Help is at hand: a new breed of fitness trackers you wear on your wrist is here to help you get back into shape. They’re like smart pedometers: trackers with sensors that can log your steps and energy spent, and put all the data through to your smartphone so you can see how you’re doing and set goals to beat each day. Here’s our pick of the best available now.
Garmin is better known for its satnavs and GPS running watches, but the same location tech is powering its latest product, the Garmin Vivofit. It’s a durable watch strap, waterproof to 50 metres, that logs your steps, calories and even heart rate with an optional accessory, and perhaps best of all, a growing red danger line that creeps across its crisp display whenever you’ve been inactive for too long, encouraging you to get up and take a stroll every hour or so. It’s not perfect – it doesn’t sync data automatically with your phone so you’ll have to remember to prompt it to get that feel-good rush when you hit a high score, and the lack of a backlight means it’s all but invisible in the dark. Still, it might just be our favourite fitness tracker to wear in 2014. If only it could help improve our free kicks…
Polar Loop Activity Tracker
If the Jawbone is about style and convenience, the Polar Loop is all about exercise: proper workouts, not just ‘lifestyle’ improvement. It counts steps, shows the time on command, and connects up to a heart rate monitor to give you a granular breakdown of your cardio. The price is tempting, but it only works with iPhones – if you’ve got an Android or feature phone you can only sync it with your computer when you get home. Then there’s the strap – you have to cut it to size yourself. Get it wrong and you have to buy another one. One for dedicated runners on a budget.
Jawbone Up 24
Jawbone is getting in on the fitness space too, thanks to its Bluetooth know-how. The Jawbone Up 24 connects up to a phone to log steps and measure sleep quality, runs for a respectable week on a charge – and looks elegant while you’re doing it, like you’ve attended a particularly exclusive music festival. Of course, the downside of the Up 24’s design is its distinct lack of screen. In other words, if you’re not going to regularly check an iPhone or Android smartphone (Windows Phone is not supported), you’re going to have little idea of how you’re doing and whether you’re going to hit your goals for the day – which is half the point of a pricey fitness tracker over a free mobile app. Best for those who are fine wearing it alongside a watch.