One positive to take from the pandemic is the uptake in personal fitness. Intermittent closure of gyms across lockdown areas has pushed workouts online or into parks, but it’s not just regular fitness enthusiasts pounding the pavement.

Sedentary working from home conditions have made many of us realise the importance of exercise.And there’s plenty of evidence available to support the benefits of regular exercise, too. Endorphins and serotonin released in the brain can improve mood, and working out promotes sleep, can boost the immune system, and helps reduce the risk of serious illness.

Hand-in-hand with this increase in physical activity is the continual rise in the popularity of the fitness and smart wearable. Fitness trackers have been around for over ten years now, and have developed and evolved into big business. In 2021, the wearables market is forecasted to be worth $81.5 billion, with a sales growth of 20 per cent year-on-year. Exponential adoption rates are prompting developers to push the boundaries of technology in the quest to introduce new and unique features.

It’s easy to understand the allure of health and fitness tracking technology. A wrist wearable can deliver a diverse range of data relating to the individual in real-time, and provide ongoing tracking. Today’s smartwatches have extended far beyond the rudimentary step-counting of the original trackers. Now it’s possible to monitor a diverse range of health markers, track and encourage exercise, pay for the morning latte, check your social media notifications, and call or message your friends. But with so many brands, styles, and types available in-store, where do you start in your quest to either upgrade an existing piece, or join the wearable revolution?

Smartwatch, sports watch, fitness tracker  – what do I need?
With each year, the clear distinctions between a sports watch, a smartwatch, and a fitness tracker are becoming increasingly blurred. It boils down to the feature set that you require, compatibility, functionality and even how it looks and feels on your wrist. Many fitness trackers and smartwatches share similar features. While the Galaxy Watch4 and Fitbit Sense are pitched at a more consumer level and offer a broad gamut of features, a specialised sports watch like a Garmin might appeal more to a professional athlete or climber.

Are they accurate?
This depends on what you want from your smartwatch. Different brands use different algorithms to determine analytics, and often rely on how accurate the input of user data is. Consumer smartwatches are excellent tools for providing a general overview of lifestyle, health and activity monitoring. However, elite athletes will probably find that consumer wearables will not provide the depth of information and accuracy they desire.

Looking for a fitness tracker? Check out the latest from Fitbit.

Money talks
It’s possible to pick up a fitness tracker for just over a hundred bucks. On the other side of that, a professional-grade sports watch can cost close to $1500. Decide what features you want from your wearable, set a budget, and stick to it.

Talk to me
Most wearable technology will need to pair to a smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. There are exceptions where in-built cellular technology enables the device to connect independently, but if you intend to pair to an existing smartphone, it’s important to check that the operating systems are compatible. For example, an Apple Watch exclusively uses Apple’s operating system, iOS. However, many wearables will not only work across proprietary operating systems, but can be used on iOS, too.

On the charge
Battery life depends largely on the screen size, how often you engage with the device, and what you use it for. Battery life can differ enormously: some devices need to be charged every 12 to 24 hours, while others can last for a week. Garmin does a range of wearables that feature solar technology so the battery can be topped up when exposed to sunlight.

Pay to play
The ultimate in convenience is near field communication (NFC) technology. Left your purse or wallet at home? NFC functionality means you can pay for goods and services by simply tilting your wrist towards the electronic point-of-sale system. One beep and you’re done!

LTE for the win!
Be tethered to your smartphone’s connection no more! LTE/4G functionality on your smartwatch means you can piggyback off your smartphone’s data plan without needing to connect directly to it. So, you can listen to music, take calls, use apps and send messages completely independently. Ideal if you’re going for a run and you don’t want to take your bulky smartphone with you.

Satellite satisfaction
Once the preserve of the military, Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is used across a broad spectrum of industries, including fitness. Using satellites to determine your position and track your activities is an invaluable feature for data lovers who want to improve their fitness by analysing performances.

Well fit!
You could fill this entire magazine with the fitness features available to smartwatch users. Name a sport you participate in and there will be a heap of tracking, monitoring and coaching functions to help you push yourself to achieve, and maintain, a fitness goal. From Pilates to soccer, marathon running to rock climbing, you can find a smartwatch to cater for all your active needs.

 

Looking to track your fitness? Here’s a good place to start!

 

Fitbit Luxe
A sleek, fashionable design, the Fitbit Luxe looks just as good on the wrist at dinner as it does running laps of the park. It can log and track up to 20 different exercises, and monitor and measure your heart rate, calories burned, steps, distance and sleep quality.

Fitbit Charge 5
The new kid on the block brings even more focus on fitness with all-day activity tracking, 20 exercise modes, in-built GPS, and a slew of guided workouts to keep you on the move. The health metrics include monitoring stress management, ECG and sleep tracking.