If you're currently a little, shall we say, sedentary, and are looking to get fit in 2015, a fitness tracker (aka a fitness band, aka "those things you wear that count your steps") is the best place to start.
This year is another big one for wearable fitness, with new offerings from Fitbit, Jawbone and Misfit, while the arrival of the Apple Watch and ongoing improvements to Android Wear mean trackers and bands have plenty of competition.
They can make a real difference to how you look and feel, without the need for a gym or massive exertion. Prices range from around £50 to £150+. More importantly, the best of these offer context and tips on how to improve your fitness. They also offer sleep tracking of variable usefulness, and most will have a stab at tracking running, too. Although usually not very well - most fitness trackers are really all about walking and sleeping.
As noted, these are not for super-serious fitness regimes. They also don't really have the accuracy and wealth of data that "proper" athletes require. Looking for something a little more focused? Try the best running watch to buy in 2015 and best running shoes of 2015.
However, they are cheap, and great if you're a couch potato wanting to get in shape, or someone who works out regularly but also wants an easy fitness boost by increasing the number of steps you take daily.
With the likes of the Withings Activité range, they're even, whisper it, getting quite stylish.
To learn more about getting the most from your fitness tracker, read this.
But right now, these are our favourite fitness bands, in order. The winner may surprise you…
Best overall - Microsoft Band
The Microsoft Band is an unusual product for T3 to recommend. It's pig ugly and uncomfortable - hard and unyielding, with an oddly handcuff-like clasp. The two-day battery life isn't amazing either.
However, the way that it straddles the line between running watch, fitness tracker and (especially if you've got a Windows Phone) smartwatch, is seriously impressive.
The Microsoft Band has a whopping 10 biometric sensors including an optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, microphone and a galvanic skin response sensor. It's not clear that all of these are even used, so far, but the roll call of sensors makes Band a device with a lot of potential.
The device can also display text messages, emails, in fact any phone-based notifications, on a bright and crisp screen. That works on iOS and Android too, but if you’re a Windows Phone user, it becomes almost a full on smartwatch, with Cortana integration meaning you can respond to alerts easily as well.
As a step counter it's perfectly effective, but it really comes into its own tracking runs and cycle rides using its own GPS and app, or through integration with Strava.
Best of all, Band can guide you through interval-style workouts, vibrating when it's time to move on to the next set of reps.
Microsoft Band's look and feel are hugely off-putting, but stick with it and Band is a very powerful device. It packs in even more functionality than the Fitbit Surge (below), but is much more compact - it really is a band as opposed to a watch - and has a notably brighter (though admittedly also much smaller) screen.
£159.99 | Microsoft
Solid all-rounder - Garmin Vivosmart
Looking for a fitness tracker that can do more? Try the Garmin Vivosmart.
Its activity tracking is solid - it monitors steps accurately, running and sleep not so much. If you want more accurate calorie counting it’s also compatible with an external heart rate monitor.
What sets the Vivosmart apart is that it offers limited smart features as well, with an OLED screen capable of displaying smartphone notifications and controlling music.
The band has a premium feel to it, and has a battery life of around a week with notifications, step tracking, Bluetooth pairing and all. The app is less impressive but it's still a good all-rounder that won't let you down.
£119.99 | Garmin Vivosmart
Best lifestyle tracking - Jawbone UP3
The Jawbone is packed with sensors including a tri-axis accelerometer, bioimpedance sensors, plus skin and ambient temperature sensors, plus a heart-rate reader that uses electrical sensors rather than light-based ones. It's a tech bonanza!
However, rather frustratingly, the Jawbone UP3 is, at heart a step and sleep counter. It makes a decent fist of both and really comes into it’s own with sleep, being able to sense if you’re in deep, light or REM sleep. It will also tell you when to go to bed, in order to get more sleep, which you may or may not appreciate.
The Jawbone UP3 heart-rate tracking doesn't really do anything more than track your resting heart rate each day; it's not used as part of the fitness tracking. Similarly, although it will suck in data from the likes of Strava, it doesn't really do anything with it.
That's a shame, because the app is otherwise the great strength of the Jawbone UP3, showing you how your daily stepping and sleeping are improving (or deteriorating), letting you challenge other users to "duels" and offering reasonably helpful health tips and more context to the data than most tracker apps (although sadly, that's not saying a lot)
This is a pure "lifestyle" tracker, designed to be worn 24/7. Tere’s no display, so you’ll have to check your stats on the iOS or Android apps, but the band is light and discreet enough to just put on and forget about it (unless you go swimming - the Jawbone UP3 is okay in the shower, but not waterproof. Battery is also very good at around seven days.
If you're not bothered about tracking your resting heart rate, you'd be better off with the Jawbone UP2. It uses the same excellent app, provides the same core functionality and costs 30 quid less.
£129.99 (£99.99 for the Jawbone UP2) | Jawbone
Best step counter - Fitbit Charge HR
Fitbit are market leaders for a reason, and the Charge HR is one of the best pure fitness trackers out there.
The Fitbit Charge HR’s small OLED screen will tell you how many steps you’ve taken, how many stairs you’ve climbed, distance travelled and heart rate. It’s useful that you don’t need an app to access this information, but Fitbit's app happens to present fitness info very well.
Our testing found the Fitbit was slightly inaccurate, and its attempts to track running and cycling verge on bizarre, but it was at least consistent in the way it was inaccurate, so you can track your progress over time with confidence.
One of the great things about Fitbit is the company’s eco system - with so many users it’s more fun to compete in world rankings.
Battery life is around five days for the HR models, while the standard Charge, which does away with heart rate tracking can manage seven days. The heart-rate monitoring is worth the extra in our opinion, as it makes for more accurate sleep tracking and calorie counting. It's not really any use for zone training on this model.
With its good looks, discreet profile and handy screen, the Charge HR beats out the Jawbone UP3 and Garmin Vivosmart to be our favourite "classic" step and fitness tracker.
£119.99 (£99.99 for the Charge) | Fitbit
Best for value - Misfit Flash Link
The Misfit Flash Link is one of the newest additions to fitness tracking, it’s a bare bones tracker that measures activity and sleep.
It comes with a waistband clip, but you can purchase a wrist strap at an additional cost.
The 12 LEDs around the Link will give you an estimate of your activity or the time, and the device can also act as a ‘smart button’, allowing users to program it to perform certain tasks, such as serving as a remote control for your phone's camera, or operating Misfit's smart lightbulbs.
Syncing easily with your smartphone, coming in a variety of colours, and offering excellent six-month battery life from a watch battery, the Flash Link is a sound investment.
£19.99 | Misfit
Best for style - Withings Activité
This is more the kind of thing T3 likes to promote: a canny mix of tech and style. All the other fitness trackers on this list look just like that, fitness trackers. The stunning Withings Activité looks more like a traditional Swiss watch - and that’s because it is!
The Activité was designed in France - Withings is French, what can you do? - but made in Watchmaker's Valley in Switzerland. The wearable oozes quality with soft leather, domed sapphire glass and stainless steel.
The only thing that betray its traditional aesthetic is the small secondary dial, which measures your progress towards your step goal throughout the day. The Withings Activité will also detect when you're running and track that. Not very well, it must be said, but it tries.
The Withings app is well designed, if annoyingly slow to sync at times, and the battery lasts an impressive six months. The Activité will also have a loose stab at tracking your sleep (based on your movement as you slumber) and has a vibro-alarm function to wake you up.
Withings regularly updates its firmware and recently added limited swimming tracking - it can now detect when you swim and tell you how long you did it for and how many calories you burned whilst doing so, similar to what it does with running.
In short, a very nice watch with some handy step-counting abilities. It is rather pricey; if that's off-putting to you, the Activité Pop offers the same functionality and similar style, but in a more bright and breezy, Swatch-like plastic casing.
£320 (£119 for the Activité Pop) | Withings
Best hybrid - Fitbit Surge
The Fitbit Surge is actually more of a running watch, but being from the Fitbit family it can function perfectly happily as a more basic fitness tracker, making use of Fitbit's excellent app and extensive user community.
The Fitbit Surge offers GPS to track your runs and cycles (a real must for accurate training), real-time workout stats and a 24/7 heart rate monitor that is far more useful than the Charge HR's when exercising, although it weirdly only shows you what HR zone you're in via a confusing graphic rather than just saying "cardio", "fat burn", etc. Oh well.
The 1.25-inch screen is monochrome, to eke out 7-days of battery life, although it was more like 5 in our tests.
The issue here is that it strikes us as too big and ugly for most people to want to use it as a basic fitness tracker, and has a few limitations as running watch that mean you might be better off with a Garmin or Polar device. As a hybrid of the two, it's nearly up there with the Microsoft Band. But not quite.
£199 | Fitbit