Wearable health and fitness trackers have become a must-have part of your gym kit in 2021 – they’re socially acceptable to wear, and they provide great feedback and metrics about your health. But with so many options out there, what will work best for your goals?
It all depends on what you’re willing to spend and what features you deem necessary to have on your wrist. Whether you want simple heart rate measurements, or a comprehensive overview of your sleeping patters, there’s a tracker for you.
And to make the choice that little bit easier, the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) have released its top 10 health and fitness wearables for everyday consumers, according to a recent survey of its leading industry experts and professionals.
The team compared everything from functionality, user-friendliness, tracking and data capabilities to comfort, form, versatility and overall performance.
The survey saw the Apple Watch top the list in the Overall Performance category, with 24.2% of votes, followed closely by the Garmin Watch with 22.5% of the vote. The Fitbit Watch came in at #3, with the Samsung Galaxy Watch (#4) and Whoop Strap (#5) rounding out the Top 5.
Other contenders included Motorola Moto, Huawei, Fossil Sport, Chest Strap and smart clothing.
Across key capability categories, the Apple Watch was voted the best wearable for Weight Loss, User- friendliness and Form and Comfort, while the Garmin Watch topped the categories for Improving Overall Fitness, and Learning to Run/Improving Running Performance. In terms of Sleep Monitoring, the Whoop Strap was ranked #1.
Surprisingly, 87.5% of AIF’s survey respondents believed that most Australian consumers don’t understand and/or utilise the depth of the capabilities of their wearable health and fitness devices. The survey’s overwhelming consensus was that wearable users could unlock so much more potential to help them optimise their health, fitness and performance, if they were better informed on how to utilise their device.
Check out the lists below:
TOP 5 BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE
1. Apple Watch (24.20%)
2. Garmin Watch (22.50%)
3. Fitbit Watch (14.50%)
4. Samsung Galaxy Watch (9.60%)
5. Whoop Strap (11.20%)
BEST WEARABLE ACROSS KEY CAPABILITY CATEGORIES
• Weight Loss – Apple Watch
• Improving Overall Fitness – Garmin Watch
• Learning to Run/Improving Running Performance – Garmin Watch
• Sleep Monitoring – Whoop Strap
• User Friendliness – Apple Watch
• Form and Comfort – Apple Watch
• Accuracy of Tracking Data – Garmin Watch
TOP 3 MOST VALUED FEATURES IN A HEALTH & FITNESS WEARABLE
1. Long battery life
2. User friendly display
3. Heart rate monitoring capability
Looking forward to the future
Looking to the future, AIF’s experts predicted that in-ear fitness trackers with biosensors; hologram personal trainers; implantables; and contact lenses with built-in virtual assistants, would all be potential innovations in the global health and fitness wearable market.
Reflecting on the survey’s results, Australian Institute of Fitness CEO, Steve Pettit, said: “Health and fitness wearables represent the largest growing sector in the fitness industry. The amount and depth of data that can be obtained from them is incredible, and information that was once only accessible to the most elite athletes is quickly becoming easily available and digestible to the everyday Australian.
“Wearable data is empowering people of all ages and fitness levels to improve their health, fitness and general well-being like never before. They are also giving us much more oversight and insight into what is going on with our bodies day-to-day, so it will be interesting to see if this results in any improvements in broader health categories – for example, in obesity and chronic disease rates.
“In future, the key to maximising the potential value of health and fitness wearables will lie largely in consumers and fitness professionals educating themselves about the full range of capabilities their wearables possess. Most Aussies have only scratched the surface – so we certainly have some exciting times ahead!”
Features that users could understand and utilise better
Head of Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness, Kate Kraschnefski, said some of the most commonly misunderstood capabilities of health and fitness wearables include how to effectively utilise HR (Heart Rate) Training Zones and Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
“Many users don’t fully understand how HR training zones – which are a staple of many health and fitness wearables – can provide real-time feedback regarding the intensity and energy systems targeted within their session,” Kraschnefski explained. “For endurance enthusiasts, utilising this function properly is like having a Personal Trainer running right beside you telling you exactly how hard you’re working and whether you need to put the pedal to the metal, or pull the gas off a little.
“Many users also misunderstand the role of HR in strength training. While HR will respond during strength training (as per any exercise), it is typically not used to gauge the intensity. Average HR will typically be a lot lower during resistance training sessions compared to cardiovascular training. HR data can therefore unnecessarily turn users off strength training because they think it is less effective than cardio training. Instead, measures such as Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Percentage of Max should be used to determine how hard a strength session was.”
“Devices such as Whoop, Oura Rings, Fitbit and more all have Heart Rate Variability (HRV) capability built into their software. HRV is a measure of recovery whereby the time between each heartbeat is measured in milliseconds. Essentially, the higher the HRV number, the more recovered you are from the previous day’s activity – and the harder you can train today. You can basically use HRV as your own personal assistant to tell you to either go hard or pull back for a recovery day. Additionally, HRV is a great indicator of general fitness levels, as fitter individuals typically have a lower resting heart rate and thus a higher HRV.”