With winter over, it’s time to move beyond Netflix marathons and on to healthier binges. Like tracking your health.
We’re not talking about that pedometer gathering dust in your junk drawer. Today’s tracking tools measure your activity level, heart rate, and even your sleep cycle, and then crunch the numbers and assess your progress.
Tracking tools make a difference, say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, sisters and co-owners of NutritionTwins.com. “People who record their progress on an activity are more likely to meet their goals,” they say.
So, which ones are worth the splurge? Read on for our picks.
By now you’re probably familiar with Fitbit, the line of digital health and fitness trackers that you wear on your wrist. Fitness experts and nutritionists like Shames and Lakatos rave about the quality of Fitbit’s readings of your body. Still, with six options to choose from, which is the best?
To get the most bang for the buck, go for the Fitbit Charge HR at $150. Wear it on your wrist and you’ll get constant heart-rate monitoring (the HR in its name), ensuring that your moment-to-moment activity level is assessed in addition to the caloric burn that comes from more intense activity. The Fitbit also gets data on your sleep patterns, has an alarm setting, and wirelessly syncs to your computer or smartphone app so you can check out the data about your daily health habits.
The one caveat: These Fitbit wearable trackers are water resistant but not waterproof. So if swimming is your go-to exercise, it may be one to skip.
- Price: $150
- What it does: This wearable device reliably monitors your activity level and heart rate so you know whether you’re getting enough exercise.
- Worth it? If you want to make the leap into the trend of data mining your body, then the Fitbit is the best choice for the newbie. It’s reliable and monitors a variety of body functions, from sleep to calorie burn, from your wrist.
What if you’re more interested in your sleep hygiene than fitness prowess? After all, getting the recommended 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep doesn’t just make us feel rested. It can also cut your risk of heart problems, strengthen your immune system, improve cognitive performance, and even make you happier, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If getting enough zzz’s is your top priority, Basis Peak is the best thing since chamomile tea. It automatically detects and observes your sleep cycles, from REM to deep sleep, then crunches the data to suggest ways you can improve the quality of your slumber. When you wear it on your wrist it can also monitor your heart rate, calories burned, and steps taken. It even has sensors to detect your perspiration and body temperature, giving you more data than you probably didn’t even know you wanted.
- Price: $199
- What it does: It monitors your sleep cycle and analyzes its quality so you can make the most of your rest.
- Worth it? Considering the wide-ranging benefits of better sleep, it’s worth the price if you’re struggling to enough good rest.
Most fitness trackers look like fitness trackers. Which can be a deal breaker if style is your priority. But the French-designed, Swiss-made activity tracker by Withings called Activité is sleeker and chicer than its competition. This gorgeous piece of equipment functions like a regular watch — and a whole lot more. It monitors your activity level and sleep, adjusts to your time zone, and suggests ways to improve your whole body wellness by working for free with the Health Mate app.
Another upside: It has a remarkably long battery life. Activité works for eight months at a stretch without needing to be recharged (many others can go for just about four days). The downside is the price — a whopping $450. But many luxury Swiss timepieces cost about that (and plenty more) without also monitoring your bodily functions.
- Price: $450
- What it does: It looks like a regular (luxury) watch but actually is an exercise and sleep tracker.
- Worth it? Probably not, because the price is so steep. But if you value aesthetics and other trackers turn you off because they look so clunky, this one could be ideal.
Say you’re not into a wearable (and pricey) device to track your health goals just yet. Then start this whole health-monitoring business by logging on to this free membership site instead.
With its bare-bones design, the site makes it easy to input what you’re eating and your activity level. Then it interprets the data and you can check it online or via a mobile app. Another perk: “It’s the one we really like because you can add your own recipes,” says Lakatos. “It analyzes them and then will add the portion you eat to your daily allowance.”
- Price: Free
- What it does: Tracks your meals and activity levels.
- Worth it? Definitely! It’s free, simple to use, and gives you a snapshot glimpse into health habits you probably didn’t know you have.
Does it ever seem like most wearables were designed with dudes in mind? Thankfully, Glow makes up for their shortcomings. The free menstruation and ovulation app helps you get a grip on the phases of your monthly cycle, whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not.
Glow tracks your fertility, your day-to-day mood due to hormone fluctuations, the physical symptoms of PMS, and even the best time for sex if you’re looking to make a baby. Plus it makes remarkably accurate predictions on when to expect your next period — which comes in handy when you’re planning, say, a beach vacation.
- Price: Free
- What it does: This site tracks your monthly cycle to predict menstruation, ovulation, and everything related to your cycle.
- Worth it? Why not? Our bodies and moods often depend on our hormonal ebb and flow, so it’s nice to know what to expect.
What if you’re into heart-healthy tracking but not so keen on wearing an extra accessory every day? AliveCor’s handheld heart monitor doubles as your smartphone or tablet case by. Rest the case on your fingers or chest for 30 seconds to get an accurate, clinically sound reading that tracks all kinds of heart-related activity.
AliveCor monitors everything from palpitations and shortness of breath to your optimal fat-burning zone when you’re exercising. With the depth of technology to actually serve as an electrocardiogram (ECG), this mobile heart monitor doesn’t just aim to keep you safe from heart attacks — it also gives you a glimpse into the future of health devices.
- Price: About $85
- What it does: This handheld heart monitor records your heart function so accurately, it’s used by clinics and physicians.
- Worth it? Yes, especially if you have heart problems or a family history of them.