The Best Activity Trackers for Getting in Shape This Spring

These Wearables Are Your Ideal Workout Companions

Fitness Tracker
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Now that the worst of this year's winter is behind us, you may be reacquainting yourself with your New Year's resolution or taking your workouts beyond the gym to enjoy the great outdoors. Whatever your situation, if you currently don't have a fitness-tracking device, now could be a great time to get one. Keep reading for the lowdown on the top options based on your goals and your budget.

Best For All-Over Fitness On a Budget: Xiaomi Mi Band

Chinese company Xiaomi isn't necessarily a household name here in the US, but it's responsible for one of the most affordable activity trackers on the market.

At just $15 (yes, that's not a typo!), the wrist-worn Mi Band offers basic functionality such as steps taken, distance traveled and sleep cycle monitoring. It won't rival more advanced products from brands such as Fitbit when it comes to things like heart rate monitoring, so it's best suited for more entry-level users or those who are interested in tracking just a few key stats rather than knowing every single metric about their workouts. That said, the slightly more expensive (but still sub-$20) does include a heart-rate monitor, so one of the main differentiating factors will be the app experience, which isn't quite as compelling on the Mi Bands as it is with Fitbit, for example.

The Mi Band is available in a variety of colors, and you can purchase it through Amazon among other e-retailers. Just note that Xiaomi has already teased the Mi Band 2, which is rumored to include an LCD display and other new features.

Still, even if you take the leap and buy one of the currently available Mi Band devices now, it's a relatively small investment, so you could potentially upgrade down the line without feeling too guilty about it. 

Best For Weight Loss: Fitbit Aria Scale + the Fitbit Alta or Withings Smart Body Analyzer + the Withings Pulse 

When it comes to losing weight, there isn't one correct approach — you need to find the regimen that's most effective and enjoyable for you.

That said, most people would agree that exercising and monitoring calories in vs. calories out are important aspects to dropping the pounds. It also doesn't hurt to have the same in-depth statistics and data you'd expect from an activity tracker on your scale. Two brands with fitness-tracking products, Fitbit and Withings, also sell "smart scales" that do much more than just display your weight. 

First up is the Aria Smart Scale from Fitbit, which costs $129.95. That may seem like a lot for a scale — and there's no denying that Fitbit's products are usually on the pricier side — but it does deliver when it comes to functionality. The scale syncs with your Fitbit dashboard to display fluctuations in weight, body mass index (BMI), lean mass and body fat percentage over time, helping you view patterns and trends to identify what's helping or hindering your weight loss goals. The scale is also compatible with Fitbit activity trackers, giving you daily intake recommendations for meeting your goals based on your activity levels via its Calorie Coaching feature. While you could pair the Aria scale with any Fitbit device, you might consider the Fitbit Alta, which is one of the company's most attractive products to date.

It happens to cost the same amount as the Aria scale: $129.95. Again, not cheap, but if you're able to incorporate them into your weight loss plan effectively, they could definitely be worth it.

Withings is the company perhaps most closely associated with smart scales, and its Smart Body Analyzer remains a strong pick thanks to a comprehensive selection of stats. Priced at $149.95 ($20 more than the Fitbit scale) and available in both blue and white, this product measures weight, BMI, fat mass and even heart rate. All your data is automatically synced to the Health Mate app via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so you can monitor your progress.

Even better, the scale pairs with a variety of food-tracking apps, and Withings will give you a daily calorie goal based on your goal weight and activity level. 

It could make sense to use this scale in conjunction with an activity tracker, and the Withings Pulse Ox could be an ideal option because it also works with the Health Mate app. This $99.95 activity tracker logs all the usual fitness metrics, in addition to monitoring your heart rate and blood oxygen level (the latter being an indicator of the efficiency of your respiratory function).

Best For Sleep Tracking: Jawbone UP3

Getting in shape means different things to different people, and if your goals are less about dropping pounds and more about getting more Zzzs, a fitness-tracking device that monitors your sleep cycles could fit the bill. 

Currently available for about $90 on Amazon, the wristband-style Jawbone UP3 monitors steps taken, distance traveled and more, but it really stands out for offering some of the most in-depth sleep stats. For instance, it tracks not just time asleep but also time within each stage: REM, light and deep sleep. That info isn't just fun for data nerds, though; the device also utilizes it to wake you up at the most opportune time via the silent Smart Alarm function. 

Best For All-Around Fitness When Money Is No Object: Fitbit Surge

At $249.95 — or as little as $200 if you purchase through Amazon — the Fitbit Surge isn't cheap, but it offers all the bells and whistles you could want in an activity tracker.

In addition to the usual steps, flights (of stairs), calories and distance tracking, the device offers built-in GPS so you can review your run routes and even track your run progress in real time. The Fitbit Surge also offers continuous heart rate monitoring minus the need for a chest strap — something hardcore athletes will appreciate. 

In addition, this fitness band features automatic exercise-recognition functionality, so it can distinguish between your runs and your bike rides and offer activity tracking for all types of workouts. The Surge is the top-of-the-line Fitbit device when it comes to fitness features, so if exercising more and exercising better are your goals this spring and summer, this option has just about every feature you could need. It even packs a black-and-white touchscreen which you can swipe to view your latest stats — a feature we enjoyed when ​​we tested this product out last year.

Bottom Line

It's important to remember that even the best, most technologically advanced fitness tracker out there won't do you any good unless you have the motivation to work out. Yes, some of these devices attempt to motivate you by setting goals and displaying encouragements for meeting certain quotas, but whether or not you'll meet your goals has less to do with the tech and more to do with how you use it.

This is to say that it doesn't necessarily make a huge difference whether you spend $15 or $250 on an activity-tracking device. All of them offer the basics (steps, calories, distance), and depending on your situation, these stats could be enough to get you addicted to the benefits of working out.

Hopefully, this post has highlighted some of the best activity tracking features and inspired you to find the ones that matter most to you