Today’s best fitness trackers do a lot more than count steps. Many of these wearables monitor your sleep quality, keep tabs on your heart health and track your post-workout recovery—all of which can help you reach your health and wellness goals. Our overall favorite is the Fitbit Charge 5 because it covers so many bases (waterproof functionality included) without burning a hole in your pocket, but it’s not the only option worthy of your attention.
After hours of researching and testing different fitness trackers ourselves, we rounded up the 10 best options based on accuracy, features, price, battery life, ease of use and style. Many of our recommendations go toe to toe with the best smartwatches and running watches, but some also come with extras like water resistance (if you’re a swimmer, you’ll need one that’s completely waterproof), built-in GPS and specific sensors that cater to your personal needs. No matter where you are on your fitness journey, there’s a model here for you.
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
Our team has thoroughly reviewed dozens of fitness trackers, smartwatches and pieces of workout gear to assess which options meet our high standards. From our guides on the best Garmin watches to how to choose smartwatches for kids, we pride ourselves in providing honest and accurate advice based on intensive research, expert insight and hands-on testing. This is especially true for the best fitness trackers of 2023, as many of the trackers listed here were personally tested by Vetted staffers and contributors. I extensively tested the Suunto 9 Peak Pro, and have sported the Garmin Instinct 2 and Garmin Fenix 6S Pro during many activities (hiking included). Co-author and contributor Hannah Singleton, along with other Vetted staffers, have used the FitBit Charge 5, Apple Watch, Coros Pace 2, Fitbit Sense and Whoop for personal activity tracking and training.
We worked with gear-focused updates writer Alexandra Garrett to ensure this guide remains current as new models are released. This story was updated in October 2023 to add Apple’s latest smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 9, to the list, and to answer common questions readers have about shopping for a fitness tracker.
How We Chose The Best Fitness Trackers
Forbes Vetted’s gear team leveraged our hands-on experience with hours of research to find the best fitness trackers available today. We started by first examining popular models from FitBit, Apple, Garmin and other reputable tech brands. We then evaluated the features and specs of each wearable, carefully considering the type of screen, sensors, compatibility and battery life. In some cases, we put these features to the test ourselves and used them daily to keep tabs on our own training progress.
Every fitness tracker we recommended needed to offer the basic waterproofing, activity tracking and heart rate monitoring that benefits most users. They also needed to have stellar customer reviews, meaning they scored no less than 4 out of 5 stars. We know that everyone has different fitness goals, so we made sure to list options for a wide variety of uses, too.
What To Look For In A Fitness Tracker
Buying a new fitness tracker isn’t just a financial investment, it’s a step toward improving your overall health. That’s why it’s crucial to find a tracker that integrates with your daily life, and at the very least, comes with basic features that let you track what’s most important to you.
Not all trackers can recognize all exercises. For instance, if you want to track swim workouts, be sure to look not just for a tracker that’s waterproof, but also one that explicitly supports swimming. Likewise, only a handful of trackers support really unusual sports and workouts. When considering different models, be sure to narrow down your options by reflecting on the various activities you’d like to track.
The most basic fitness trackers are simply pedometers—devices that try to maintain an accurate count of your steps. But most modern fitness trackers do a lot more than that. These days, the best fitness trackers are often bristling with sensors which collect information about your fitness and overall health level. Here are the most common sensors found in fitness trackers:
- Accelerometer: Measures motion, and is often the primary sensor used to ascertain activity levels.
- Altimeter: Measure air pressures, which is helpful when you’re taking the stairs or training on a stairmaster.
- Heart rate sensor: Measures heart rate, heart rate variability and blood pressure.
- Sp02 sensor: Measures the oxygen level in your blood.
- ECG sensor: Measures your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. However, in no case can or should an ECG be used to detect a heart attack.
Just keep in mind that a lot of the whole-body analytics you get from sensors like these are often not especially actionable; you might get a general sense of your overall health, fitness level or sleep quality, but it can be hard to know what to do to improve. Until that aspect of the software catches up to the hardware, you can consider all of these advanced features pretty optional.
Depending on the build quality, available sensors and screen resolution, battery life can last anywhere from one day to several months. If you intend to use your fitness tracker as a traditional pedometer, you can probably get by with a model that features a smaller battery. But if you intend to use it over prolonged periods of time (for instance, when backpacking or running a marathon), consider opting for a model that features extended battery life or solar charging to supplement the battery in direct sunlight.
As much as we’d like trackers to be completely accurate, third-party testing reveals that this is rarely the case. Manufacturers often rely on algorithms and sensors to track certain metrics, which leads to a small degree of error. With this in mind, consider investing in a fitness tracker that’s designed to support your preferred activities. For instance, a chest strap that measures your heart rate and transmits data to your fitness tracker will be more accurate than the integrated heart rate sensor glued to your wrist.
What Is The Most Accurate Fitness Tracker?
Although fitness trackers aren’t 100% accurate, some can make more accurate predictions than others depending on which activity you’re tracking. In terms of hiking or running outdoors, our editors found that the Garmin Fenix 6S Pro, Garmin Instinct 2, Coros Apex Pro and Coros Pace 2 provide the most accuracy because they use dual-band frequencies—a type of GPS technology known for its precision—to track your location, pace and distance traveled, which is a lot more exact than watches that use single-band frequencies. When it comes to lifting weights or more strength-based activities, our contributor applauds the Apple Watch for its accuracy when measuring her heart rate.
Which Brand Offers The Best Fitness Tracker?
As tempting as it might be to crown one fitness tracker as superior to all others, in reality, it’s entirely dependent on what you hope to gain by using one. If you intend to count your steps, the best fitness tracker may be a simple, more economical option. But if you’re looking for one that’ll help you form healthier habits, from moving more to sleeping better, then you might consider a model with all the bells and whistles.
Be sure to consider what type of activity you’ll use it for. For instance, if you plan to go for a bike ride, opt for one with GPS. Or, if you plan to go swimming, pick one that’s waterproof. That may sound like a broad answer given the available options, but the brands listed here (Fitbit, Garmin, Coros, etc.) will offer an array of features and long-term reliability.
What Is The Best Fitness Tracker For A Beginner?
The best fitness tracker for beginners is one you’ll actually use. After all, it’s about developing those health habits. Look for one that is comfortable to wear, natural to use, has a long battery life and fits your personal style. And, if you struggle to see words on a small screen, perhaps choose a fitness tracker that is connected to an app (so you can view stats on your phone).
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