Fitness is a challenge when you freelance. The combination of a hectic work schedule and, for most, working from home means it is all too easy to sit at your desk for hours on end, before slumping on the sofa at the end of the day.
Fitness trackers are one way to keep a check on your health and activity levels. Choosing the best one for you will come down to the features you need and the price, but you should also consider the battery life, size, weight and aesthetics of each device.
The more you pay, the more you will get from a fitness tracker. If you’re a serious athlete, it’s worth stumping up the extra cash to access the full range of monitoring capabilities and features that high-end wearables offer. If you just want to count your steps, calories and check you’re getting enough sleep, a mid-range device will suffice.
All the prices quoted are the registered retail prices, but you may be able to shop around for a better deal. Let’s take a look at the different wearables on offer and start by focusing on the brand synonymous with the fitness tracker world: Fitbit.
Fitbit currently sells six activity tracker wristbands and two clip-on trackers. Every Fitbit monitors your steps, calories and distance travelled and all, except the Fitbit Flex wristband, feature a clock. They vary in price and functionality, with the clip-ons costing the least: the Fitbit Zip is £49.99 and the Fitbit One is £79.99. The One, unlike the Zip, also features a sleep monitor, silent alarm and records the height climbed.
The clip-on variants are a better option if price is more important to you and you just want to keep an eye on your activity levels. The Fitbit One costs the same as the Fitbit Flex wristband (£79.99), but the Flex does not have a clock or the ability to monitor the height climbed. But the Flex does automatically detect when you doze off, a feature not present for the clip-on trackers.
The Fitbit Charge and Alta wristbands both retail at £99.99. These devices have features including Caller ID (when linked to a smartphone) and auto-exercise recognition. The Alta is essentially the next incarnation of the Charge – with the same features but in a slimmer, more stylish design, which includes a larger LCD screen, a reminder to move feature, and interchangeable straps with a range of accessories to match your style.
The Fitbit Charge HR is £119.99 and, unlike its cheaper Fitbit contemporaries, continuously monitors your heart rate without you needing to attach a sensor to your chest.
At the top end of the price scale, the Fitbit Blaze (£159.99) and the Surge (£199.99) also feature continuous heart rate monitoring. These high-end options both contain features including music control, auto-exercise recognition (also available on the Alta and Charge HR) and multi-sport tracking to easily record workouts and see real-time exercise stats and summaries.
The Surge holds one additional feature compared with the Blaze – it comes with GPS tracking capabilities so you don’t need to link the device to your smartphone. It’s a pretty nifty feature but, as most of us exercise with our smartphone, you could save some cash and also your device’s battery life by not using the GPS feature.
A word on the Apple Watch
Before we look into the other affordable options out there, the Apple Watch is worth a mention. While Fitbit calls the Surge a ‘superwatch’ as opposed to a ‘smartwatch’, you may wonder if it’s worth stumping up the extra cash for a single smartwatch device like the Apple Watch, rather than paying for yet another gadget.
With prices starting from £259 for the Apple Watch Sport (and going up to an eye-watering £949 for a black stainless steel case, or even a ridiculous £150,000 for the 18K gold variant), the Apple Watch is a viable option if you just want to use a selection of fitness apps to nudge you to move around a bit more.
The Fitbit family are more suitable if you want to properly track activity and improve your fitness levels using one dedicated device. That’s the job they have been specifically designed to do. They also offer a better battery life, cross-device compatibility and are at least £60 cheaper than the Apple Watch.
Other high-end fitness trackers include the TomTom Multi-Sport Cardio (£209.99) and Garmin Forerunner 225 (£199.99). Both come packed with a range of fitness monitoring features. For example, TomTom’s device is aimed more at those with a varied exercise regime, with six running settings and easy-to-use interval training set-ups. Garmin’s tracker features GPS and five heart rate zones with off-the-shelf BPM (beats per minute) training packages, making it a solid investment for serious runners.
Compared with the Fitbit Surge, there’s not much in it for the TomTom and Garmin devices. While the Surge may be easier to use for some, the sensors used in the TomTom and Garmin wearables make them a stronger option for those serious about BPM-based exercise.
Alternatives between £100 and £200
These mid-range devices give you a great range of features and all track your activity and sleep levels.
At the top of this price bracket, the Basis Peak (£170) is packed with some great features, such as a constant heart rate reading, extensive sleep tracking capabilities and automatic activity detection. A bit pricey but a solid option, the Basic Peak offers comparable features to the Fitbit Surge and both devices are for those serious about sport and fitness.
The MyZone MZ-3 (£129.99) is a good choice if you’re a freelancer focused on improving your fitness levels. It is much more effective at challenging you to work harder and achieve personal goals than the other devices we have mentioned. The device is not a watch, but a strap that fits to your chest, so if you really want an all-day wearable, it’s probably not the device for you.
Fitbit alternatives under £100
Back to the wristband devices, the Jawbone UP2 (£89.99) is a well-priced and visually pleasing option to measure activity, sleep and calories. Only £10 more expensive than the Fitbit Flex, the Jawbone UP2 can also track a range of exercises and its user-friendly mobile app includes smart coaching capabilities.
Another device worth a mention is the Moov Now (£59.99), which takes a different spin on fitness wearables by putting coaching and workouts first, ahead of basic activity and sleep tracking, to keep you motivated. It talks you through your workout with real-time audio coaching, is waterproof and relies on non-rechargeable batteries, which is great as you can wear it 24/7 – but the batteries will need replacing every few months.
Once you get down to the £50 or less price bracket, these devices are mainly aimed at those who just want some simple activity and sleep monitoring. These simple devices all tend to offer the same basic tracking features and the Misfit Flash activity tracker is a good choice here. It tracks steps, distance, calories and, unlike the Fitbit Zip (£49.99), can be worn on your wrist and comes with sleep monitoring capabilities at a recently reduced price of just £24.23.
By Gemma Church