A Tool for a Healthy Life.

There is a new generation of fitness trackers which are more reliable and capture more information than the earlier models. I like the ones that are lighter and sleeker than their predecessors.

These wrist bands measure movement and exercise – steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, and periods of activity during the day. You can set goals on your phone and measure your progress toward those goals. You will see trends over time. The Mayo Clinic and other institutions recommend that we take a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. Fitness trackers can be motivating. I know people who take a walk after dinner to get to 10,000 steps.

Additionally, some fitness trackers measure heart rate continuously through the day. Some measure sleep and let you track the amounts of light, deep and REM sleep you get each night. You can measure whether or not you sleep better after a late dinner with an excellent Italian red wine. With fitness, knowledge is power.

My old tracker, an UP band, is broken and Jawbone has stopped making and supporting them. It is time to take a fresh look at the fitness/sleep tracking options. Here is what I have found.

You have choices with trade-offs between price, size and features. The new generation of fitness trackers offer an array of features from heart rate monitoring to GPS tracking for runners (and walkers). You may want a band with a readable display and you can now choose a hybrid watch with fitness and sleep tracking, or a wearable disc.

My husband and I have both chosen the Fitbit Alta HR. The band tracks movement, exercise, heart rate and levels of sleep continuously – all in a slim design. There are several choices of color for the Fitbit itself and many more options for interchangeable bands. You can set your Alta HR up to remind you to move at intervals of your choosing and to give you notifications from your smart phone. It automatically recognizes the kind of exercise you are getting from walking to the elliptical. Sadly, the Fitbit HR has no altimeter, so you won’t get extra credit for climbing stairs. Fitbit uses the information it gathers from the tracker, plus your reported weight, to give you a ‘cardio fitness score’ and then it makes suggestions on how you can improve your score. It is not waterproof although it is built for exercise and sweat. The battery lasts up to 7 days. Note: I turned off the notifications, I like my fitness band to be silent. I look at it when I choose. From $149.

My chic friend added a gold colored metal replacement band to her Fitbit Alta HR for $12.90. There are a number of metal band colors.

There are a number of metal band colors.

Bands are easy to change and the replacements come in a lot of colors and styles. The bands, above, range from $6.99 to $10.00 each or $25.00 for a selection of ten bands.

For a sporty look, try this soft silicone band. $12.99.

My sister wears the Fitbit Charge2 which is described as having ‘advanced fitness capabilities’. It is big on my wrist, but extra size comes with a big screen and added features like a GPS to track your runs (and walks). It tracks the altitude you gain climbing stairs or running up a hill. I like that. Batteries are said to last five days between charging. From $129.

Interchangeable bands are available for The Fitbit Charge2. Set of 12 bands for $24.95.

Three pack for $9.99.

A friend has an Apple Watch Series 2 which was paid for by his company as part of the health insurance plan. The Series 2 Apple Watch has two main fitness apps to measure frequency of exercise and heart rate. It has a built-in GPS to track movement. The watch displays a colorful ‘move’ ring which shows calories burned and an ‘exercise’ ring to show brisk activity. It reports the intensity of your movement by the increase in heart rate.

There are third party offerings in the App Store to pair with the watch. The AutoSleep app helps your watch track your sleep, but you need to wear the watch at night and you need to charge it every morning – not ideal. The Apple Watch records heart rate every 10 minutes if you are not exercising while Fitbit tracks it continuously. It is water resistant to 50 meters. There are lot of choices in watch color and bands come in lots of variety of color and material.  $318.00.

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ gets great reviews from serious athletes. It would be chunky for me to wear and most users are critical of the app compared to Fitbit. The Garmin is waterproof – so you swimmers and iron-men and women may want to put up with its bulk. The battery lasts 4-5 days. $149.99.

Keep it simple? The Fitbit Zip is powered by a watch battery, so no recharging for six months. It attaches to a belt or a bra or stays in your pocket. It tracks your daily activity and calories burned. You can read your progress on the screen and it syncs wirelessly with your phone. No GPS, no sleep tracking. $52 plus shipping.