The best fitness trackers of 2024, tested and reviewed

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a pro athlete, up your game with these impressive fitness trackers.

Best overall

The Apple Watch Series 8 on a wrist

Apple Watch Series 8

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Best for heart rate monitoring

Polar Ignite 3 fitness tracker

Polar Ignite 3

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Best with GPS

Garmin epix 2 Pro on a wrist in front of a trail through a forest

Garmin epix Pro

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The very first fitness trackers were rudimentary step-counters, but technology has progressed drastically since then. Whether you want to hit that 10,000 daily step goal, monitor your sleep, or train in a specific heart rate zone, there’s a wrist-mounted wearable for you. Plus, most don’t just log and display info. They link with your smartphone and use sophisticated apps to show where you are in relation to your fitness goals and how you’re doing compared to historical data. With so many options, how do you know which is the best? From product design to functionality and battery life, we’ve tracked down everything you need to know to pick the best fitness tracker for you.

How we chose the best fitness trackers

These days, the line between fitness tracker and advanced smartwatch is incredibly blurred, with the terms essentially used interchangeably. However, not everyone wants an expensive, robust fitness watch. As a result, we aimed to select models that would appeal to serious fitness enthusiasts and casual users alike. 

When selecting the fitness trackers included here, we looked at a range of features. GPS, water resistance, compatibility, and other health-tracking abilities were all important considerations. We also evaluated battery life, build quality, and comfort level. We based our recommendations on a mixture of hands-on experience, editorial reviews, and user feedback. 

The best fitness trackers: Reviews & Recommendations

In a world that already bombards us with information, do we really need more data in our lives? The quick answer, if you’re serious about getting fit, is “yes.” Research shows that setting goals, benchmarking progress, and getting feedback make us more likely to improve our fitness, health, and wellness. Add in accountability—yes, many of these trackers can post directly to social media—which is another proven way of sticking to your healthy lifestyle, and you can see why so many people are devotees. Below are some of our favorite options for a range of situations and preferences.

Best overall: Apple Watch Series 8

Best overall

Apple Watch Series 8

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Specs

  • Battery life: 18 Hours
  • Display type: OLED touchscreen
  • GPS: Built-in GPS, plus GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, Beidou
  • Water resistance: Up to 164 feet
  • Compatibility: iOS
  • Size: 41mm, 45mm
  • Weight: 1.1 ounces (41mm), 1.3 ounces (45mm)

Pros

  • Beautiful display
  • Real-time updates
  • Crash detection and fall detection

Cons 

  • Expensive
  • Battery life not as long as advertised

Right out of the box, the Apple Watch Series 8 is almost ready to go. I assembled the watch with the included band and powered it up. The included magnetic fast charger works with a USB-C port. I wasn’t able to charge it with a wall adapter, but connected it to my MacBook Air laptop. From there, I connected to the WiFi and used the Apple Watch app to customize the display—a stunning Retina display that makes it a pleasure to look at my wrist and is easy to see, even in bright light. 

It’s the health tracking that truly sets the Series 8 apart. The watch works with thousands of apps, so I could easily record a run on Strava while listening to a podcast or Audible book on my iPhone. It tracked my average pace, heart rate, heart rate zone, and more in a display that was easy to see with a quick glance. Then, once I was done, the Apple Watch synced with the Apple Health app to track and evaluate my progress. 

For the first time, I got insight into my VO2 Max and where I compared with people in my age group. The Activity Tracker also tracks the calories I’ve burned, my steps, flights climbed, and walk steadiness, plus more granular metrics, like running stride length, ground contact time, and running power. Once an hour, the Watch notifies me it’s time to stand. 

The Apple Watch helps me track these metrics daily and over time, along with sleep. And I get notifications for texts, calls, and Slack messages. It can integrate into your life from a yoga flow to your workflow. One quibble is that the battery life is supposed to last up to 18 hours, but in my experience, it didn’t last that long, and after it died a few times mid-run, I made sure it was charged before heading out. 

But the reminders to complete my Activity rings help keep movement top of mind, even when I’m reluctant to lace up my sneakers for more miles. And the crash and fall detection features provide extra peace of mind. Having the Series 8 feels like having a health coach at my wrist, which, to my mind, is worth the investment. Here is a full review of the Apple Watch Series 8 that breaks down all the new features. We also have a guide to help you determine if the Apple Watch Ultra is worth the upgrade, and we acknowledge that the Apple Watch Series 9 is now an option, but this just means that the price on the more than still adequate Apple Watch Series 8 is that much more approachable.

Best sleep tracker: Fitbit Sense 2

best sleep tracker

Fitbit Sense 2

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Specs

  • Battery life: 6 days
  • Display type: AMOLED touchscreen
  • GPS: Built-in GPS, GLONASS
  • Water resistance: 164 feet
  • Compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Size: 1.5 x 1.5 x 0.45 inches
  • Weight: 0.8 ounces

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable design
  • Lots of sensors for health data and sleep tracking
  • Bright, responsive touchscreen display
  • Accurate body temperature data

Cons

  • No third-party app support
  • No music support

The Fitbit Sense 2 is a highly capable fitness watch, but it shines with its sleep tracking. It automatically tracks your sleep, giving you insight into how long you sleep as well as time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep stages. It also shows how your sleep compares to others of the same age and sex. It also offers relaxing breathing sessions to help you wind down before bed. When it’s time to wake up, the Sense 2 can vibrate to wake you up when you are in the optimal sleep stage so you feel as refreshed as possible. 

Beyond sleep tracking, Fitbit built the Sense 2 with plenty of sensors for data collection. I can measure your heart rate, heart rate variability, skin temperature, breathing rate, blood oxygen, blood glucose, and more. And the built-in GPS means you can track your workouts with detailed distance and pace information. 

The app displays the data clearly and lets you see historical data and a 30-day average, too. It provides plenty of metrics to help you keep an eye on your fitness and health and is compatible with iOS and Android phones. You’ll need to pay to take advantage of some features, and unfortunately, there is no third-party app support for the Sense 2. But for detailed sleep tracking, this is a fantastic choice. 

Best for pure metrics: Whoop 4.0

Best for pure metrics

Whoop 4.0

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Specs

  • Battery life: 4 to 5 days
  • Display type: N/A
  • GPS: None
  • Water resistance: 32 feet for 2 hours (IP68)
  • Compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Size: 1.7 x 1.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce

Pros

  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Can be worn in multiple ways with Whoop accessories and apparel
  • Lots of recovery and health data
  • No notifications or bright screen

Cons

  • Requires a pricey monthly subscription
  • No GPS

Most fitness trackers these days are also smartwatches. But all those notifications and the bright screen can be distracting, potentially taking away from you setting a personal best. If you are looking for a fitness tracker without all the fancy smartwatch features, the Whoop band is your best bet. This unique device is essentially a watch band with a bundle of sensors. There is no screen, so you can stay focused on the task at hand. 

The Whoop 4.0 is a minimal device in terms of looks and sensors. The company opted to stick with the absolute essentials: Blood oxygen, skin temperature, and heart rate sensors. These provide accurate data to help guide your recovery. The fitness tracker can automatically detect a workout, or you can manually start one via the app. It even tracks weights, reps, and sets when you are strength training to provide the impact that has on your body. It does not offer GPS, however, so you won’t be able to map out runs.

The main downside of Whoop is that it is a subscription-based product. Depending on your chosen plan, it will cost you about $20 a month. That comes with an Onyx band, but if you want one of the many other colors, it will cost you extra. Not everyone will love the lack of a screen, either. But you can buy clothing and accessories to wear your Whoop in positions other than your watch, which is very handy for certain types of activities. Whoop certainly is a unique way to gather data and keep track of your fitness and recovery.

Best for heart rate monitoring: Polar Ignite 3

Best for heart rate monitoring

Polar Ignite 3

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Specs

  • Battery life: Up to 30 hours in training mode
  • Display type: AMOLED touchscreen
  • GPS: Built-in GPS, plus GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, Beidou
  • Water resistance: 98 feet
  • Compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Size: 1.7 x 1.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 ounces

Pros

  • Very slim and lightweight
  • Attractive design
  • Provides lots of workout suggestions and guides
  • Tracks sleep and other important health metrics

Cons

  • Notifications are occasionally delayed
  • Battery life isn’t great

Polar is well known for its highly accurate sensors and watches. There’s a reason many physiology and sports science labs rely on its products. The Polar Ignite 3 takes that technology and packs it into a tiny, wrist-based product. The heart rate monitor in the Ignite 3 uses 10 LEDs across multiple wavelengths and four light detectors to gather more accurate heart rate measurements from your wrist. I found it to be as accurate as a chest strap in most situations. 

Beyond heart rate, the Ignite 3 also offers many features to help you stay healthy and fit. It tracks your sleep, including nightly skin temperature, measures your VO2 Max, and provides lots of insights to help you manage your fitness and performance. It even suggests workouts if you want tips on what to do on a given day. Those suggestions include cardio, strength, and stretching, which is more than most watches will do. And it walks you through the workout in an easy-to-understand way. I particularly liked the stretching suggestions for loosening up after hard workouts. 

Even though the Ignite 3 is a highly capable fitness tracker and smartwatch, it’s extremely slim and minimal. It barely sticks up on my wrist, making it more comfortable to wear day in and day out. Unfortunately, the compact size meant a compromise in battery life. Polar promises 30 hours in training mode or 120 hours in watch mode, which lags behind the competition. Luckily, it charges quickly, so you can get back to keeping track of your steps sooner. 

Best for battery life: Garmin Vivofit 4

Best for battery life

Garmin Vivofit 4

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Specs

  • Battery life: Up to 7 days in smartwatch mode
  • Display type: OLED touchscreen
  • GPS: Connected GPS only
  • Water resistance: 164 feet
  • Compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Size: Small/medium: 0.7 x 0.4 x 8.54 inches, Large: 0.7 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Weight: Small/medium: 0.86 ounces, Large: 0.93 ounces

Pros

  • Slim, minimal design in four colors
  • Available in two sizes
  • Advanced health and fitness tracking abilities
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Relies on your phone for GPS
  • Small screen limits data you can see

The Garmin Vivofit 4 is a true fitness tracker. It’s simple in design with a tiny build. This watch is available in two sizes and four colors with interchangeable bands, so you can pick something that fits you best. It is comfortable to wear all day and even at night, so you can even take advantage of its sleep-tracking abilities. 

Of course, the extra-long battery life comes with a few compromises. The primary downside is that it doesn’t offer built-in GPS (though Garmin makes plenty of multisport watches for that). Instead, if you want location information, you’ll need to keep your phone on you for connected GPS. But those who don’t want to be tied to a charger will appreciate this pared-back tracker.

The Vivofit 4 will track steps, distance, activities, and calories burned. It provides a personalized daily step goal and provides insight into your energy levels and recovery information so you can train smarter. The color display is customizable, and the Garmin Connect app adds functionality and helps you see your information. Plus, despite the budget-friendly price, it provides incident detection and the ability to instantly send messages and location information to emergency contacts, adding peace of mind when out on a run or bike ride.

Best with GPS: Garmin epix Pro

Best with GPS

Garmin epix Pro

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Specs

  • Battery life: Up to 10 days in smartwatch mode
  • Display type: AMOLED touchscreen
  • GPS: Built-in GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
  • Water resistance: 328 feet (10 ATM)
  • Compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Size: Available in 42mm, 47mm, or 51mm case sizes
  • Weight: 2.2 ounces (42mm)

Pros

  • Built-in LED flashlight is surprisingly handy
  • Advanced training tools and health measurements
  • Highly accurate data
  • Rugged and durable
  • Bright, attractive display

Cons

  • No solar charging
  • Expensive

The Garmin Epix Pro is a serious watch for those dedicated to their fitness. It measures just about every health and fitness metric you could want, including heart rate, blood oxygen, HRV, VO2 Max, training load, training effect, and so much more. As with most Garmin watches, the epix Pro gives you various fitness scores—such as Endurance Score, Hill Score, Body Battery, and more. These metrics help you keep an eye on when you may be overtraining and need to back off or when you should pick up the pace. 

This advanced fitness tracker suggests daily workouts and can track nearly an endless list of activities. It can even help you plan for specific races and help you navigate when you are on the course. The Up Ahead mode can show you checkpoints and aid stations, giving you peace of mind and helping you plan accordingly.

Garmin clearly built the epix Pro for the outdoors. It is rugged and durable, with lots of features to help you on adventures. The version linked here uses a scratch-resistant sapphire AMOLED display with a fiber-reinforced polymer case. It is tested to U.S. military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance, so you’ll know it can handle whatever you throw at it. It comes in three different case sizes and multiple colors.

Additionally, the epix Pro offers terrain maps with relief shading and weather map overlays. I have relied on the weather maps on more than a few occasions to get back home before a storm hits. It also features an LED flashlight, which I have come to rely on in my day-to-day life far more than anticipated. Plus, the display of the watch is bright and vibrant, making it easy to see in the bright sun. Garmin also has plenty of unique and customizable watch faces so that you can personalize your watch quite a lot. 

The Garmin epix Pro is a highly advanced watch. As a result, it’s an expensive option. You can save a little by opting for the Pro Standard version instead of Pro Sapphire. Or, if you want all the robust Garmin health and fitness features for less, check out the Forerunner lineup. The Forerunner 955 Solar is a particularly good watch with impressive battery life. 

Best budget: Amazfit Band 7

Best budget

Amazfit Band 7

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Specs

  • Battery life: Up to 18 days
  • Display type: AMOLED touchscreen
  • GPS: Connected GPS only
  • Water resistance: 164 feet (5 ATM)
  • Compatibility: Android, iOS
  • Size: 1.84 x 0.95 x 0.48 inches
  • Weight: 0.96 ounces

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Very affordable
  • Long battery life
  • Accurate heart rate measurements

Cons

  • Only offers connected GPS
  • Finicky touchscreen

While many fitness trackers are on the pricey side, you don’t have to drop a fortune to get accurate fitness tracking capabilities. The Amazfit Band 7 is the best budget fitness tracker available thanks to its robust feature set, compact build, and sub-$50 price. 

The Band 7 is minimal in design, with a narrow rectangular AMOLED display. It’s large enough to see your important data without being too large, even on small wrists. There aren’t any buttons on the watch, so navigation is entirely based on touchscreen functionality. It’s plenty bright and colorful for bright days, and the information provided during workouts is nicely simplified so that you can quickly glance down and see what you need. 

Inside the band 7 is AMazfit’s ​​BioTracker 3.0 PPG biometric sensor. This is able to measure heart rate and blood oxygen levels. The watch can calculate VO2 Max and stress levels and track your sleep. I found these numbers to be as accurate as the more expensive watches I’ve used, including Garmin. Amazfit also provides lots of help text throughout the watch so that you can better understand what its metrics mean. 

The downside of the budget price is that it relies on tethered GPS, so you’ll need to have your phone on you if you want any GPS data from your activities. And even then, the GPS data isn’t as accurate as a multi-band GPS system. But the upside of this is that the battery life is seriously impressive for a budget watch. Amazfit promises up to 18 days with normal usage. In my testing, I was able to get 16 or so, which is pretty close. 

This fitness tracker won’t cut it for serious athletes wanting all the data, but for those who simply want something to encourage them to stay active, the Amazfit Band 7 is a great choice. To read more about this watch, you can check out our full review

What to consider when shopping for the best fitness trackers

It’s easy to get bewildered by all the features and functions available in today’s fitness trackers. But the best fitness tracker for you is the one that will effectively and efficiently monitor exactly what you want it to—maybe your heart rate or the quality of your sleep—and deliver the info in a way that works for you. But it’s also smart to keep in mind that too many functions, such as GPS or an energy-sapping display, can drain your tracker’s battery life. They may also be more than you’ll actually need, leaving you paying for features that you won’t use. 

Heart rate sensors

These days, just about every fitness tracker or watch comes built with a wrist-based heart rate sensor. The accuracy of these depends on the particular watch, as well as how you are wearing the watch. Depending on the activity you are participating in, it won’t be as accurate as a chest-based monitor. But technology has improved significantly in recent years, and most watches provide plenty of accurate data for all but the most serious athletes. 

Sleep tracking

When it comes to fitness, we tend to neglect recovery. Yet it is a key component of fitness and health. That’s partly why sleep monitoring has become a key feature of fitness trackers and smartwatches. Some argue that you should know whether you’ve had a good night’s sleep just based on how you feel in the morning. Trying to beat a sleep score every night, they say, only adds stress and makes it less likely you’ll sleep well.

However, if you’re trying different approaches to improve your sleep—a relaxing pillow spray, avoiding screens before bed, or winding down with a warm shower—a tracking app can help you figure out what works best for you. While sleep trackers in labs use brain activity to measure the different stages of sleep—light, deep, and REM sleep—fitness trackers tend to use a combination of movement and heart rate tracking to estimate your sleep cycles.

You have to notify some trackers that you’re going to bed in order to initiate sleep monitoring, which may not be ideal for you. Others do it automatically as long as you are wearing your device to bed. Keep in mind that if you want to wear your tracker to monitor your activity during the day and your sleep at night, you’ll need a device with a long battery life or a quick charging time so you never have to miss a moment, night or day.

Battery life

When it comes to electronics, particularly small yet powerful ones, battery life can be a major concern. Depending on how you want to use your fitness tracker, battery life might be key when choosing one.

Many of the most popular products blur the line between fitness trackers and smartwatches. They come with a huge number of functions, such as sending and receiving messages, storing music, and GPS tracking. But these bells and whistles can be a real drain on your battery. You might find yourself needing to fast charge your device while you’re in the shower or sacrificing sleep tracking so it can power up overnight.

That might be fine if you just want to keep track of the odd HIIT class. But if you hate being a slave to a charger or want to take your tracker on a camping expedition without access to power, it might be worth sacrificing some features for longer battery life. Or you may need to pay for a more expensive model in order to get the best of both worlds.

GPS & GNSS

GPS—or Global Positioning System—is a series of satellites that circle the Earth. If you have a GPS receiver, it can use the relative positioning of these satellites to tell you exactly where you are. It’s this sort of geolocation technology that is used to help your car company or food delivery service locate you and how the map app on your phone gives you directions.

When it comes to fitness trackers, GPS can be helpful in a number of ways. Using what it knows about your location and the time you were there, you can get an accurate idea of your pace when you’re running or hiking. It can also allow someone who’s not with you to track your progress or help you create a map of your route. Further, on some devices, with an additional app, GPS can be used to help direct you along a pre-programmed route.

Fitness trackers have various ways of capitalizing on GPS. Some may include their own built-in receivers, which means you don’t have to have your phone with you. Others use the GPS in your smartphone to help geolocate you, which is referred to as tethered GPS.

The quality of GPS in fitness trackers varies, too. Sometimes, it’s tricky to squeeze a high-quality receiver into a small band or watch, and if accurate GPS is really important to you—say you’re a competitive runner and need a highly accurate record of your distances and pace—a GPS running watch might be a better option for you. For the most accurate location data, you’ll want to look for multiple GNSS (Global Navigation Satelite System) options in a single tracker. 

Display size & features

How much information do you want to see on the screen of your fitness tracker? Do you want all your info there? Or would you rather have a single piece of data on screen—your step count, calories burned, or heart rate—knowing that you’ll have to scroll through to get the other data you want?

As with so many choices, it’s all about compromises. If you want a full-color, bright, and fully customizable touchscreen, you’re probably going to sacrifice battery life. And if you want loads of information in one place, you’ll need to opt for a large fitness tracker, which may be rather clunky on your wrist. On the other hand, if you opt for a more basic, smaller display, you won’t be able to see your information as easily. 

Whatever you opt for, it’s worth spending a bit of time getting to know your tracker’s screen and working out how you can customize it so that the functions and information you want most are easily and quickly accessible. As with your phone, you may find some apps or functions installed that you don’t need. If you know you’re never going to record a ballet class, for example, delete that option if you can. The less information you have on screen, the easier it will be to zone in on what you want.

It might also be worth considering a screen protector if you’re going for a smartwatch-style tracker. These can be really thin and unobtrusive, and the best don’t interfere with functionality, just protect against scratches, scrapes, and damage.

FAQs

Q: What is the best cheap fitness tracker?

The Amazfit Band 7 is one of the cheapest fitness trackers on the market, but there are other affordable options that cost just slightly more than the Band 7. You may sacrifice some features and quality when you choose a cheaper option, but they’ll still track the basics, like steps, heart rate, and fitness metrics.

Q: What are the best fitness tracker brands? 

Fitness trackers have an interesting heritage—closely related to sports watches and mobile phones—as well as being their own stand-alone tech. There are now many companies that create products in the fitness tracker realm, but some of the best are Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple. Fitbit was one of the first fitness trackers available, but the company has come a long way since then. In fact, Google bought Fitbit in 2019. It offers a range of trackers, from basic to advanced. 

Garmin is one of the leaders in the fitness tracker and advanced fitness watch market. Its roots lie in GPS, and that legacy has continued with its impressive lineup of highly accurate trackers. 
Apple is a name that just about everyone will recognize. Its Apple Watch helped bridge the gap between fitness watch and smartwatch, offering cellular connectivity with advanced health sensors. 

Q: Why use a fitness tracker?

Fitness watches can motivate users to stay on track with their fitness goals by providing real-time data and metrics that allow you to monitor progress and performance. As many of us are sedentary throughout the day, fitness trackers offer real-time alerts and reminders to keep you moving, even in small increments.

Q: Which fitness tracker is most accurate?

We all want a fitness watch that accurately measures our fitness data—after all, accurate metrics help us get a better grip on our health. The Garmin Vivofit 4 is among the most accurate trackers, along with Garmin’s other offerings, offering precise measurements for both everyday and fitness wear.

Final thoughts on the best fitness trackers

There’s no doubt that a fitness tracker can help you up your game when it comes to your workouts and that there are a host of different features and functions out there that can keep you on track, whether you’re a busy parent squeezing in a quick yoga class or a professional athlete trying to shave every last second off your time. The huge leaps and bounds in technology also mean that your fitness tracker can do double duty as a smartwatch, notifying you about everything from news headlines to your next meeting. The type of tracker you opt for will depend on your life, lifestyle, and what you want from it. But the choices are out there like never before.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.