fitness tracker
With features like heart rate monitoring and sleep scores, fitness trackers are incredibly powerful tools. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Every time you're tempted to sleep in and skip gym day, do it guilt-free, with a fitness tracker strapped to your wrist. Sounds counter-productive? Quite the opposite, really. Activity trackers are intuitive tools that push you to your limits but also alert you when it’s time for a break, crunching sleep, heart rate and activity metrics to see if the body’s ready for that extra Pilates class.

Compared to smartwatches, trackers are less concerned with phone connectivity. With complicated sensors and chips out of the way, they're able to offer more in the arenas of health and exercise, like giving you access to a wider variety of exercises and syncing data with your favourite sports apps. We spoke with two pros in the fitness industry about how we can leverage trackers to understand our bodies better and ultimately achieve our fitness goals. Scroll away to see what they had to say.

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Both Jamie Bassi, owner of the personal training company Fit Squad DXB in Dubai and a personal trainer, and Sanja Velimirovic, a personal trainer at DubaiPT Personal Trainers with 15 years of experience, share their personal picks as well, which we've listed below.

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1. Best Overall: Fitbit Versa 4

Pros

  • Built-in GPS and 24/7 heart rate tracking
  • Get access to over 40 exercise modes
  • Sleep score with sleep stages
  • Movement reminders every hour
  • Connects to phone via Bluetooth for calls and texts
  • Works with iOS and Android

Cons

  • Some features require a premium membership

Bassi has been true to his Fitbit for six years, and says that any Versa model should work. We picked Versa 4, a 2022 iteration that has a large AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes) display, and a bigger screen, which means easier readings on the treadmill, under the barbell, or on a sunny day, you name it. Bassi finds it light on the wrist, thanks to the soft, flexible sports band that supports it, so it's even comfortable to wear to bed. The Versa 4 goes above and beyond the basic step count and sleep score features – it lets you check your skin temperature stats, snore alerts, irregular heart rhythms, and active zone minutes. Here, the tracker buzzes to let you know your training is paying off, and you can add in more reps to stay in the zone for a bit longer. You don’t need a phone to track runs, rides and hikes, either, with its built-in GPS. The charge should see you through six days of average use.

Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh54.08 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh40 and two years for Dh66.

2. Best for Heart Rate Monitoring: Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor

Pros

  • Capable of ECG measurements
  • Works without a smartphone
  • Syncs with gym equipment over Bluetooth and ANT+
  • 400 hours of battery life
  • Swimproof

Cons

  • Doesn't break down heart rate zones
  • Battery has to be replaced once discharged

Velimirovic recommends a dedicated wearable heart rate monitor, if you engage in high-intensity workouts to lose weight or keep fit with a sport. She says that having your heart rate on display helps you stick to the fat-burning zone during exercise. Without the distraction and fuss of a smartphone, the Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor goes around the chest to accurately read your heartbeat with an ECG (electrocardiogram) sensor. Sync the device with Peloton bikes and other cardio equipment, so that you know when to push yourself when you hit the fat-burning zone, but you don't necessarily have to carry anything with you during a session. The tracker's built-in memory will keep your one-time session safe till it's ready to be synced or displayed on the Polar Beat app. Since it only monitors heart rate, you're getting up to 400 hours of battery life!

Warranty: The manufacturer offers a two-year warranty. Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh23 and two years for Dh33.

3. Best for Samsung Users: Samsung Galaxy Fit3

Pros

  • Large 1.6-inch screen
  • Over 100 exercises with automatic tracking for popular workouts
  • Up to 13 days of battery life
  • Lightweight at 18.5 grams
  • Water resistant in up to 50 metres of depth

Cons

  • Too early to tell

You can be one of the first few to try out Samsung Galaxy's Fit3 tracker as soon as it releases later this month. Weighing only 18.5 grams, the newest device is as discrete as a fitness tracker can get. Don't be fooled by the lightweight design, for it still packs a punch with a slim 1.6-inch AMOLED screen that holds over 100 exercises and tells you whether you're stressed or not, your step count, sleep quality, burnt calories and much more. When you're on the run or walking, the Fit2 automatically detects the type of exercise. Once you pair it with your Galaxy smartphone, you can tap into a range of smart features like pausing music and checking notifications. Plus, a single charge will win you 13 days of hassle-free workouts.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh18 and two years for Dh29.

4. Best Budget: Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 8

Pros

  • Idle alerts to get up and moving
  • Up to 50 metres of water resistance
  • 150 fitness modes
  • Pebble mode for advanced running stats
  • 16 days of battery life

Cons

  • Users used to Zepp app will have to switch to Mi Fit
  • Sleep tracking could be better

With more than 200 built-in display faces and a 1.62-inch screen, the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 8 is great value for money. The fitness tracker auto-detects 150 different activities and sports modes. It can even be worn while swimming, up to a depth of 50 metres. The band also features sleep, heart rate and SpO2 (or blood oxygen level) tracking and the solid performance of a 16-day battery life. In this upgraded design, the straps come off and the tracker itself can be clipped to your shoe, where it'll deliver advanced running stats - all you need is the running clip accessory. Reviews say it's a decent upgrade from the Mi Smart Band 7, but do note that the tracker isn't compatible with the Zepp app or Alexa anymore. Sleep tracking is not reliable, while other basic features are somewhat accurate when compared with different tracking devices, they add.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh12 and two years for Dh19.

5. Best for Fitness Beginners: Fitbit Inspire 3

Pros

  • Tells you when to exercise
  • Reads heart rate, stress levels, sleep stages
  • Tracks popular exercises automatically
  • Free premium membership for six months

Cons

  • Some features are subscription based
  • No GPS

The smaller Fitbit Inspire 3 is compatible with iOS 13 or higher, and Android OS 8.0 or higher. When you’ve been sitting for too long, this tracker tells you to get kicking with exercise reminders. There are 20 workout modes that you don’t have to painstakingly choose from – Fitbit automatically detects the activity for you. The best part is the addition of Daily Readiness Score, which lets you know the intensity of the workout your body is prepared to tackle, based on heart rate, stress levels and sleep. With this purchase comes a six-month Fitbit Premium membership that gives you access to detailed reports and analytics on the Fitbit application. Reviewers put it to use in the pool, on runs and bikes, and vouch for the automatic tracking. They also love that it's a lighter Fitbit model than most ranges. Though there's no GPS on the tracker, it can tap into your phone's location services.

Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh23 and two years for Dh38.

Are fitness trackers worth the money?

heart rate fitness tracker
Some trackers tell you if you're ready for your next session by looking at your sleep, stress levels and heart rate. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Our phones today are equipped with enough sensors to track the basic metrics, telling us how much we've walked and the calories we've burnt. But if you want better accuracy and less dependence on a smartphone, fitness trackers are your answer, says Bassi. 

"For instance, if you're looking to lose weight, then a fitness tracker will help you increase activity across seven days a week and stay consistent. You can set daily target steps, like 8,000 per day to increase your body's activity levels, and a tracker will tell you how many more you have to go," he explained.

In the same vein, Velimirovic tells us how eye-opening a tracker can be even for the casual user and stresses undertaking enough physical activity during the day. "It's like a fitness diary for your life - it's important for us to know how active we've been, how long we're sleeping and how much water we've had," she said.

Trackers are also crucial in determining your recovery period. Bassi said: “If your body doesn't get enough time to recover, it'll slow down your progress and affect your results. A fitness tracker lets you check your quality of sleep, which can explain why you're tired, and why you won't be able to deliver a good performance. Recovery is just as crucial as all the other parts of fitness, like nutrition.”

Additionally, having your heart rate on display helps you stick to the fat-burning zone during exercise, says Velimirovic. "You have to increase your heart rate to burn calories, if weight loss is the goal. The zone that you'll burn fat in is 60 to 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate."

What features should I look for in a fitness tracker?

You might be wary of investing in a gadget that pretty much functions like a smartwatch. But, not many realise that what they need is a streamlined activity buddy, removed from the distractions of texts and calls.

Bassi said: “The purpose of a fitness tracker should be to solely track your activity; answering a phone call or checking texts is not exactly a necessity for fitness trackers. You should be looking at four main features: the step count, heart rate monitor, calorie burn count and sleep monitor.”

These four functions are easily available in pricey gadgets all the way to budget trackers, so their accuracy will most likely determine your final choice. Bassi advises picking out a device with a valid warranty period since some trackers might not be accurate right out of the box.

He also recommends a tracker with a water resistance rating, which will help you keep it on even during showers. 

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.