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Which? Don't Buy fitness watches and activity trackers

by Hannah Walsh

A Don’t Buy fitness watch or activity tracker will be inaccurate, difficult to use and uncomfortable. Steer clear of these frustrating fitness watches or activity trackers.

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There's little point in buying a fitness watch or activity tracker that won't accurately track your health or fitness, or that's so uncomfortable you won't want to wear it. Our expert lab tests separate the models you should avoid from the great products that we happily recommend as Best Buy fitness watches and activity trackers.

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What makes a Don’t Buy fitness watch or activity tracker

We’ve found wearables in our tests that simply aren’t up to the task. Some are inaccurate, and will provide fitness-tracking data that’s way off the mark. In fact, the worst-scoring activity tracker from our testing overstated calories burned by more than 100%. This means you could be left thinking you’d worked off twice as many calories as you actually had. Others are so uncomfortable or difficult to use that they’d soon end up resigned to a drawer.

23%One fitness watch understated heart-rate measurements by this amount during cycling tests
But we’ve also found plenty of great fitness watches and activity trackers. The very best from our testing will provide you with an accurate, comprehensive and easy-to-understand snapshot of your health, activity and exercise – day after day, year after year. They’ll have a range of features, excellent companion apps, and plenty of motivational tools to keep you inspired and active.

How we test fitness watches and activity trackers

We’ve reviewed all the latest fitness watches and activity trackers, including devices from Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, TomTom and Samsung. We go further than anyone else in our testing, so you can be sure that you’ll find a great wearable for your needs and budget. We put the devices through a series of tough tests, and recommend only those that are accurate, easy to use and a pleasure to wear.

  • We really do go the extra mile – our test participants use every fitness watch and activity tracker while walking on a calibrated treadmill at 4.8km/h for 10 minutes, and running at 9.0-10km/h for 10 minutes. This means we can compare the trackers’ abilities to accurately log steps taken and distance travelled. For those devices with advanced sports tracking, we put them to the test on a 5km outdoor run and during swimming.
  • Our tests reflect how people use their device in everyday life. When testing activity trackers, we include routine scenarios such as carrying shopping and unloading the dishwasher, so you’ll know which devices are accurate, no matter what you’re doing. When testing fitness watches, if they have built-in GPS, we check them for accuracy on a 1km route mapped out using a gold-standard trundle wheel. The route includes dense trees and an underpass to add the challenge of potential loss of the GPS signal. We even add a hill climb, and compare the elevation data with Ordnance Survey topographical data to get an idea of the accuracy of the distance calculator.
  • We give every fitness watch and activity tracker to users to try out for several weeks, so they can rate them fairly on comfort, usability, and the quality of the motivational tools or incentives.

If a fitness watch or activity tracker is a Don’t Buy, you can be sure it’s one to avoid. Our tests separate the watches and trackers that will really help you improve your health, from those that you’ll quickly get fed up of using.

Find out which fitness watches and activity trackers are Don’t Buys and which are Best Buys by taking out a £1 trial to Which?.

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