Must-Have Gadget: The Activity Tracker

Does the thought of recording every step you take, calorie you consume, and hour you sleep appeal to you? Do you want to be able to access your progress towards your fitness goals on your computer, phone, and tablet? Then an activity tracker might be for you.

Wearable technology is the newest way to keep track of how active you are really being. Instead of just recording how much time you dedicate to high intensity exercise, an activity tracker will also keep track of your down time, and help you connect the dots between when you’re eating, how well you sleep, and your energy levels. An activity tracker will give you a 24/7 picture of your fitness level and it will notice when you do something out of the ordinary. If you’re the type that’s inconsistent with fitness, an activity tracker could help you figure out a routine that works best for you.

Since activity trackers first hit the market in 2013, numerous companies have come out with their own version. They all use the same sensor, called an accelerometer, which tracks three types of movements – front to back, side to side, and up and down. Here are the top three models on the market right now.

FitBit – from $69 – $299

FitBit has a variety of models ranging from the Zip, for everyday fitness, to the Surge, made for higher performance fitness. The Surge doubles as a watch, and includes a GPS, a heart rate monitor, a system for recording different types of activity, a sleep monitor, and wireless syncing capabilities.

Heart rate tracking is a great way to make sure you’re exercising at maximum efficiency. Interval training has been proven to be an essential technique in weight loss, but it can be hard to know if you’re getting your heart rate up enough to be making a difference. With the FitBit you’ll be able to track what activities burn the most calories for you specifically rather than just following the general consensus and hoping for the best.

The FitBit will convert all your fitness data into handy graphs and charts so you can see how your level of activity per day effects you overall. You can even pick up the Aria WiFi SmartScale, which will measure your weight, body fat percentage, and BMI, and sync them to your FitBit app.

Withings Pulse O2 – $119

The Withings Pulse O2 activity tracker can be worn as a watch, or you can detach the wristband and just clip it onto your pocket. During the day it captures steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. At night, it monitors your sleeping cycles. And when asked, it measures your heart rate and blood oxygen level.

The blood oxygen tracker is meant for hardcore fitness junkies, like mountain climbers and athletes training in high altitude, who can use the Pulse O2 to help guard against hypoxia. The sleep tracker will convert your sleep cycles to graphs so you can see exactly how restful your sleep was, and figure out how to improve. Just like the FitBit, the Pulse O2 will convert all your date into easy to read graphs and charts so you can see your progress.

Bluetooth technology allows data to be synchronized wirelessly between the device and your phone. You can tap into your competitive nature too by using your activity levels to unlock badges that you can share with friends. Invite your friends to join a leaderboard where you can see each others progress, and compete for the highest number of steps per day.

JawBone UP24 – $139

The JawBone UP24 is an improvement on the original UP because it has the added benefit of Bluetooth technology that makes wireless syncing seamless. The battery lasts 7 days on average, and the device offers real time data on demand so you can up your activity level on the spot instead of realizing later when you upload your data that you didn’t do enough.

The wristband also features a vibration motor that can be programmed as an alarm to wake you up in the best phase of your natural sleep cycle, or act as a reminder when you’ve been sedentary too long. It will also automatically analyze sleep data from the previous night if you forget to press the button for sleep mode, and lets you edit sleep/wake times.

The app offers “Today I Will” targets related to sleep, movement, and water consumption. The app also suggests goals based on your habits. Live notifications are provided on the UP24 so you’ll get push notifications when you get close to your goals.

JawBone has two other models, the UP Move and the UP3 for difference levels of activity, but the UP24 is the middle of the road version that will appeal to majority of fitness trackers.

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