Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What is a Fitness Tracker and Do You Need One?

Stat that. Stats make the world go round and the only true way to measure progress over a period of time. Today they are as equally as important in the success of a business as they are in the success of human performance. Until now, stats only used to be used by elite professional athletes. Now having access to them is as prominent as it is prevalent, like the smartphones we all own. 

This is where fitness bands and trackers come into play. Fitness trackers are wearable technology that enables you to measure a plethora of data to help improve overall health. With its recent entry into everyday people’s lives, it makes you wonder where it all started — the answer goes further back than you think.

fitbit charge fitness band
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fitness Trackers Then

The evolution of fitness technology doesn’t just go back decades, but centuries. Leonardo da Vinci once envisioned a device that would measure one’s steps with military applications. Its first recorded description was in France in the 1670s, then again in the 1780s in Switzerland, and finally, in the U..S by Thomas Jefferson, when he introduced the mechanical pedometer. 

Fast forward to the 1960s where Dr. Iwao Ohya, head of one of Tokyo’s biggest clinics, told engineer Juri Kato that he was worried about the lack of exercise in most individuals. Together they created a wearable pedometer and so came to be the general, golden rule of 10,000 steps per day.

Fitness Trackers Today

The improvements throughout the decades in regards to wearable technology has been incredible. Today, it is as common as the smartwatch, as every smartwatch nowadays doubles as a fitness tracker. They can track and record data from calories burned, heart rate, sleep and sleep quality, to being able to remind you to breathe — its progress is truly revolutionary. But, with so many options on the market, it’s hard to know where to start.

Types of Fitness Trackers

There are numerous fitness trackers available on the market today. Some keep it simple and give you just enough data to be relevant. While others prefer the ability to customize and truly make it yours. Here are some of the different types you’ll find while searching online.

  • Standard Fitness Trackers
  • Jewelry Fitness Trackers
  • Unlikely Fitness Trackers
  • Smart-tech Fitness Trackers
  • Community-based Fitness Trackers

Best Standard & Overall Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge

Fitbit Charge on a black band.

The OG of fitness trackers, the Fitbit revolutionized tracking stats and has come a long way since it first arrived on the scene in 2007 — they set the standard of 10,000 steps per day. Today’s Fitbit Charge 5 is once again setting the gold standard in fitness tracking. They have it all, from minimalist style and affordability to calories burned, sleep monitoring, stress scans, to ECG’s, all for a fraction of the price of other brands. 

Best Jewelry Fitness Tracker: Oura Ring Generation 3

The Oura Ring Generation 3, an angular fitness tracker ring.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In order to be as healthy as we possibly can be, recovery and sleep need to be at the forefront. Watches and phones can all track sleep but can be troublesome and uncomfortable to actually use while sleeping. Enter the Oura ring. The first ring-based fitness tracker, its main goal is to collect and analyze data from sleep. Oura tracks your deep sleep, REM sleep, light sleep, nightly heart rate, bedtime schedule, and more to give you the best feedback for your best night’s sleep ever. 

Best Unlikely Tracker: Smart Phone (iPhone 13)

The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro in Blue.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Most people forget that our smartphones can double as fitness trackers, too. The kicker? We all have one already. Take the iPhone for example. With pre-programmed apps like Health, you can measure activity and steps, to sleep quality. Then there are thousands of apps on the App Store all geared towards health and wellness. iPhone fitness bands are fairly affordable. It’s the unlikely fitness tracker we all already own. 

Best Smart Fitness Tracker: Apple Watch Series

Blue Apple watch over a white background.

Since its first release back in 2015 with its first-generation model, Apple has been at the forefront of technology that has been setting the standard of smart fitness trackers. The latest release, the Apple Watch Series 7, is no different. It has faster charging, larger screen, more durable, and more customizations. It’s water-resistant, takes ECG’s and has blood-oxygen monitoring. The real question is, what can’t it do? 

Best Community Based Fitness Tracker: Myzone MZ-Switch

The MYZONE MZ-Switch with a red band and black watch face.

Myzone fitness trackers monitor calories and heart rate with a twist. The Myzone tracker has an online social platform that shows and rewards effort during your workouts. Myzone has an online community that brings the social network factor into play, allowing you to compete against people from across the world. Myzone also displays effort using color-coded zones to see how hard you are pushing yourself during workouts.

Editors' Recommendations

Jeff Turbett
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jeff Turbett is a health and wellness coach with over three years of experience transforming clients lives and physical…
Should you buy a portable sauna? Here are the pros and cons — and our top picks
Is an infrared portable sauna worth the hype? Let's talk about it
The inside of a sauna

The wellness space is full of influencers telling you why you need to hightail it to your nearest MedSpa for one treatment or another. However, there are also many ways to bring the buzzy treatments to your space.

Specifically, hot-and-cold treatments are having a moment. Saunas plus cold plunges (a fun way to say a sauna followed by an ice bath) promise to aid in weight loss and recovery. The data is murky to nonexistent, specifically on the weight loss part. Infrared portable saunas — which you can set up in your own backyard — promise to lower blood pressure, promote relaxation, and reduce signs of skin aging. Again, the data is limited.

Read more
Fitness tips: 10 bad habits you need to ditch for a better workout routine
Utilize these 10 tips to see better results in your workout routine
squats are one of the best glute exercises.

Whether it’s to lose weight or build muscle, a greater number of people appear to be working out more often nowadays. They're eager to live a healthy lifestyle and keep their bodies in shape. If you’re hoping to start your own workout routine, you may be thinking that although it's strenuous, it’s worth a try. However, it's very easy for people to form and stick with bad habits that can be detrimental both to their health and their routine. Out of all the fitness tips out there for both expert bodybuilders and newcomers, there are some that advise people on how to avoid making working out more harmful than helpful. 

Below are 10 bad workout habits that, if you happen to do when working out, you need to work on breaking!
1. You don’t give muscle groups equal attention

Read more
Everything you need to know before you get a barrel sauna
Are barrel saunas worth it? That depends on you. Here's what to know about them first.
Grandview Barrel Sauna

The sauna likely originated two centuries ago in Finland as a way for field workers to relax and ease sore muscles.

Saunas at health clubs and spas remain popular today for the same uses — plus purported weight loss benefits. Hitting a sauna isn’t exactly a fly-by-night or questionable wellness trend, like supplements or fad diets.

Read more