Chatter · fitness

What wearable activity tracker should I buy?

Which wearable activity tracker

I’ve wanted to buy an activity tracker for a while. I love all that stuff: quantifying exactly what you’re eating (MyFitnessPal addict), doing, and achieving. There’s no doubt in my mind that the gamification of exercise and setting yourself clear targets and competitions gets you moving that little bit more, that little bit further and that little bit longer.

But up until a few weeks ago I’d never committed and bought an activity tracker. There’s just so many on offer! I found that there wasn’t one that tracked exactly what I wanted to track, and my idea of what a ‘wearable activity tracker’ should do was a bit further along than the reality. So I waited…


The main thing that had put me off buying a tracker was the lack of ‘waterproof’ trackers. Every one I had looked at in the past couldn’t be taken in the pool, and with my knee operation recovery swimming is still a huge part of my weekly workout – I didn’t want that not to be tracked.

Then the other month I discovered the Garmin Vivosmart HR. It’s waterproof to 5ATM meaning you can take it swimming (it can go in the water up to a depth of 50m!). Amazing. As it has a built in heart monitor the Vivosmart HR tracks all your excersise, giving a really clear view on what you’ve burnt that day or how hard you’ve worked. Throw in a step counter and a phone alert and the thing is fantastic.

Garmin Vivosmart HR

I spent a lot of time reading around for what activity tracker was right for me, and found really comprehensive overviews of what’s on the market on Wareable. I also really liked RizKnows’ YouTube reviews of the kit. Both sites review most wearable activity trackers so they’re great for narrowing down to the one that’s right for you.

For me, it came down to finding one that I could take swimming, that would track my heart rate (and therefore calories burnt), and one that was affordable. Everything else is a bonus.


  • Built in heart rate monitor tracks calorie consumption
  • Tracks any sort of activity. You can select run, cardio or ‘other’ when tracking, and then update the details inside the app.
  • Waterproof – perfect for swimmers, I’m finally able to really track how fast I’m swimming
  • Links with MyFitnessPal so you can get a clear read on your calorie intake and burn for the day
  • Pedometer built in (as well as stair counter – although I question how well that works). It makes me walk to the station instead of jumping on the tube to get those extra steps.
  • Move bar – the band vibrates if you’ve been sedentary for an hour. This is the best if you’ve got a desk job!
  • Bluetooth sync with phone – all messages, notification and calls come through to the band – like a very basic Apple Watch.
  • Easy to use app
  • Battery lasts 5+ days, and is fully charged in an hour or so. I try to top it up just before bed so I’m not losing much tracking time.
  • Affordable (£119)


  • It’s not as nice looking as some of the others out there. It’s not bad looking at all, but compared to a Fitbit, it’s a bit chunky.
  • I’ve had a couple of software hiccups – it didn’t track a spin class properly. Not a huge problem as you can manually add exercise through MyFitnessPal, but boy oh boy it wound me up at the time.
  • There’s a Garmin ‘intensity minutes’ tracking option that I really don’t think works at the moment. I had two spin classes that didn’t register. From reading around this hopefully will be fixed in a software update – I’ve just turned it off for now.
  • The sleep tracker is intermittent. I’ve found that if I’m sitting watching TV after the time I’ve said I ‘usually’ go to sleep, it assumes I am asleep. Perhaps I watch TV sitting very very still.

For more pro/cons, see this neat overview.

There are loads of little features that are really cool but aren’t make or break for me (like the alarm function, find my phone (okay, that one is REALLY cool). I’m definitely sold on the Garmin Vivosmart HR, but I think that’s because I made sure it was the right one for me.

Right, I’m off to see how many steps I’ve taken today.



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