How to choose the right fitness tracker

WASHINGTON — They are the intersection of fitness and technology — those those small activity tracking devices are one of the hottest consumer electronic items around.

Since February is Heart Month, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, there is no better time to consider stepping up your cardiovascular workout with a little help from a high tech friend.

The fitness monitor market is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s getting trickier to find the one device that is right for you.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized it is a very complicated decision to make,” says WTOP tech guy Gregg Stebben.

Right now, Fitbit is the leader, with about 70 percent of market share, says Stebben.

Other companies are jumping into the booming fitness tracker business and a simple online search can turn up hundreds of different products made by dozens of companies.

“That makes it very hard to choose the right one,” says Stebben, noting that often consumers go with Fitbit simply because it is the most popular brand.

He says when considering various activity trackers, stay away from companies without a track record “because the usefulness and the functionality of the device is not just today, but it is the future.”

Stebben also suggests being honest with yourself about the kind of user interface you want: simple or complicated.

“Some people want it to be simple, some people want it to have all kinds of bells and whistles,” he explains.

Stebben says take a close look at how the device interacts with your phone and/or computer, and how easy it is to connect on the Internet to track your progress.

Ease of use can help keep you motivated, and Stebben emphasizes motivation is the key to sticking with exercise.

“There is nothing worse than buying one of these, being all gung-ho about it for a week or a month and then slowly losing interest,” he says.

The goal is to pick a tracking device that becomes a habit, Stebben says. “It has to become a constant companion.”

He recommends thinking about the style of device you are looking for, and the comfort of straps that can hold the device to your wrist, should you choose to wear it that way.

Give some consideration to the extent of tracking you want, says Stebben.

Basic models count steps taken and stairs climbed, but there are some that also help track your sleep patterns.

Stebben says it won’t take long before total wellness monitors are on the market that not only log steps and sleep, but heart rate and blood pressure as well.

“I think all the pieces are out there,” Stebben says, “It is just a matter of assembling the pieces in a way that is user friendly.”

Stebben says he is also seeing more sport-specific activity trackers, including the 94Fifty smart sensor basketball.

“It’s a real basketball, loaded with sensors, and it sends details info about your playing, dribbling and shooting to your phone. Crazy, right?

While Fitbit currently leads the pack, there is nothing to say that industry biggies like Apple and Google won’t turn their attention to producing highly- sophisticated activity trackers that might change the industry in the future.

Just remember: Blackberry once ruled the smartphone business. Then came the iPhone.

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