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Best smartwatches for fitness

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By Amanda Ellis


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As technology evolves, people are assimilating new mindsets — and higher tech gadgets. The smartwatch trend is rooted in the ability to wear something on your wrist so you don’t have to carry your phone with you. Moving around without your phone while never missing a text or call appeals to a growing population, and the smartwatch market is exploding in response. Clunky options of the past have since been transformed into sleek, stylish, and powerful devices.

But smartwatches aren’t just designed for daily use. Today, the market’s completely embraced the fitness industry and now the most intelligent smartwatches are doubling as efficient fitness trackers. Athletes and fitness freaks are rejoicing but with so many companies testing the waters, it might be hard to weed out the best smartwatches for fitness. We’ve compiled this guide to help you get started.

The best overall

Apple Watch Series 3

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Why you should buy this:It’s the world’s best selling watch.

Who’s it for:Users who want a fully-featured smartwatch with plenty of fitness-oriented components.

How much will it cost:$330 for GPS, $400 for GPS and cellular

Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 3:If you’re looking for the king of the smartwatches, you want the Apple Watch Series 3. When it first debuted, it was touted as a way to potentially replace your smartphone and while it’s not quite there yet, it definitely packs some power beneath its attractive square watch face. The curved glass is complemented by a bright and beautiful screen while the Digital Crown rotates seamlessly through messages, notifications, and applications.

Apple’s latest flagship features WatchOS 4which provides more fitness functions than any previous iteration. A comprehensive system, it doesn’t skimp on the basics like step counting, calorie counting, and heart rate monitoring. GPS tracking also means you’re able to leave your phone at home when you set out for your morning run or afternoon stroll. You can alternate between different options for activities including walking, running, swimming, and more.

It’s also waterproof down to fifty meters and an altimeter records changes in elevation — a coveted feature for hikers and mountaineers. This stunning package is complemented by reminders to move, while its eighteen hours of battery life is enough to get you through a day or two of workouts before you need to recharge.

Our full Apple Watch Series 3 Review

The most stylish

Fitbit Versa

fitbit versa full review 7
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this:It’s the most stylish fitness smartwatch to date.

Who’s it for:Fitness enthusiasts who want something that looks good and performs better.

How much will it cost:$200

Why we picked the Fitbit Versa: Not only is the Versa is backed by the Fitbit name — the fitness industry’s reigning giant — but the company’s newest product also serves as a stylish upgrade over its somewhat masculine-looking Ionic. Comfortable and lightweight, women especially will appreciate the ‘squircle’ design and smaller band, making it look better on slimmer wrists — it even pairs well with other wrist-worn accessories.

Its included Exercise application (powered by Fitbit OS 2.0) allows you to choosefrom running, swimming, biking, weights, interval training, the treadmill, or a full body workout. For other sports, the companion Fitbit app offers many more workouts to download. With the Versa, you can easily track heart rate, distance traveled, time, calories, and steps. It even offers guided breathing sessions and sleep tracking to keep you sharp outside of the gym.

With Fitbit Coach, the Versa allows you to make use of your own personal trainer and power through guided workout routines. Perhaps the Fitbit Versa’s standout feature is its four-plus days of battery life — an impressive feat for any smartwatch. The only downside is its lack of GPS, which means you need to carry your smartphone with you in order to accurately track distances.

Our full Fitbit Versa Review

The best for music

Garmin Forerunner 645

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this:Onboard music and GPS means you can leave your phone at home.

Who’s it for:Fitness enthusiasts who can’t exercise without their favorite music.

How much will it cost: $450

Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 645:The Garmin Forerunner 645 is capable of storing up to 500 songs and easily syncs with select music streaming services, highlighted by iHeart Radio. Although the device comes with a hefty price tag, it delivers a powerful punch. Garmin packed the Forerunner 645 with sensors, includinga real-time compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, thermometer, barometric altimeter, and the Garmin Elevate wrist heart-rate monitor. During our own time spent with the wearable, we found it to still get an accurate heart rate reading with the band fixed less tightly on the wrist than other models, such as the Fitbit Ionic.

Although Garmin hasn’t adopted a touchscreen like its Apple and Fitbit competitors, its five buttons around the watch face are still easy to use. A traditional circular face will appeal to many and its 1.2-inch diameter looks great on small or large wrists. The Forerunner 645 is especially useful to runners, featuringstride length, cadence, vertical ratio, ground contact time, and balance readings.

Its companion Garmin Connect app makes it easy for you to collect and utilize all your fitness data while also offering a Challenge tab which allows you to create challenges with your friends. Perhaps its best feature is the built-in GPS which means you won’t have to tote around a bulky smartphone. Featuring seven days of battery life as a smartwatch or five days with music and GPS active, there’s not much to dislike about the Forerunner 645.

Buy now from: Garmin

Our full Garmin Forerunner 645 Review

The best for outdoors

Garmin Fenix 5X

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Why you should buy this: It’s designed for outdoor enthusiasts with the most accurate GPS mapping to date.

Who’s it for:Fitness enthusiasts who love to exercise outdoors.

How much will it cost:$650

Why we picked the Garmin Fenix 5X: Its larger size may not appeal to everyone but Garmin never fails to deliver in terms of features or function. The Fenix’s improved screen resolution makes for a face that’s easy to see and but technology under the hood is what’s really impressive. Garmin includes applications for a variety of sports including running, cycling, and swimming but also outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, rowing, and golf. The device is chock full of sensors that includecycling power meters, cadence sensors, running dynamics pods, temperature sensors, and more.

Pairing the Fenix with a smartphone lets you experience standard smartwatch features including smart notifications and text messages. The Garmin Fenix 5X stands out from the crowd on account of its navigational abilities highlighted by full-color GPS mapping — directly from your wrist. It lets you view roads, lakes, trails, and mountains complemented by the capacity to search for local points of interest including restaurants, stores, and gas stations.

For runners, this means having access to the instantaneous creation of round-trip routes. When you’re out mountain biking, hiking, or kayaking, you’ll never need to worry about getting lost again, either — even in places without cell service. Add nearly two weeks of battery life and a rugged design and you’ve got a smartwatch made for the outdoors that’s well worth its hefty price tag.

Our full Garmin Fenix 5X Review

The best for training

Suunto 3 Fitness

Suunto 3 Fitness Black Review
Tomas Patlan/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this:It’s a quality smartwatch with adaptive training guidance.

Who’s it for:Fitness enthusiasts who enjoy automated training plans.

How much will it cost:$230

Why we picked the Suunto 3 Fitness:The Suunto 3 Fitness is one of the cheaper smartwatch options on this list, but it has plenty to offer in terms of fitness features. The circular watch face is elegant and robust and the new Suunto app logs all your activities, keeping you up to date every day of the week. Suunto designed the 3 Fitness to be used for a variety of sports includingrunning, swimming, cycling, gym training, hiking, and more. During any of these activities, it’s capable of measures speed, cadence, and distance and also tracks how well you sleep as well as your recovery throughout the day.

But the Suunto 3 Fitness’ standout feature is its adaptive training guidance — it’s like having a personal trainer right on your wrist. Simply input your fitness level and training history and it automatically creates a seven-day training plan, highlighting optimal intensity and duration for each exercise. In other words, it isn’t just made to track your fitness — it’s made to craft it. Even if you miss a workout, the watch automatically adjusts to fit your schedule. Suunto developed a high-quality product with a niche design meant to rival bigger name brands and at this price, it’s certainly hit the mark.


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