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. 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+.
Fitness bands went global in 2014, with splendid offerings such as the Nike Fuelband SE, Fitbit Charge and Jawbone Up taking the market by storm. While fitness watches like the TomTom Multisport Cardio and Polar M400 add more high-end features such as GPS tracking and heart-rate monitoring, these bands stick to the basics of fitness: they count how many steps you take daily and estimate the calories you burn doing so. Many also monitor your sleep, letting you know when you're in a deep sleep or just dozing fitfully.
2015 is going to be another big year for the wearable. We've already had offerings from Fitbit and the latest bands from Jawbone (the UP2 and UP4) are joining the UP3 to make a rather compelling line-up.
More importantly, the best of these offer context and tips on how to improve your fitness.
Your progress will also be tracked via apps for your Mac or PC, and your smartphone (Android and iOS primarily, but some bands have Windows Phones and BlackBerry compatibility - make sure you check). They also allow you to share your weight-losing, cardio-pumping exploits online, comparing them with others' and gamifying your health search. These are all things that make getting in shape less of a chore
Some of the apps and web services also allow you to enter everything you eat, calculating calories consumed as well as burned, in order to help you stick to daily diet goals. That does seem like a bit of a chore to us, but if that's your bag, go for it we say!
As noted, these are not for super-serious fitness regimes. While swimmers can use the waterproof likes of the Misfit Shine and Withings Activité Pop, and some of the bands can detect when you're running, these are usually not much use for cyclists, unless you want to strap it to your ankle instead of your wrist. They also don't really have the accuracy and wealth of data that "proper" athletes requre.
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, they're even, whisper it, getting quite stylish.
Looking a lot more like a smartwatch than your typical fitness band from Fitbit, the Surge has from a rubber strap and a stainless steel buckle, plus a 1.25-inch monochrome LCD touchscreen display.
Headlining the Surge is the 24/7 optical heart rate sensor, that’ll keep an eye on your blood and give you accurate readings when you’re working out. There’s also onboard GPS, a must for runners, that gives you much better run tracking and results. Like the majority of fitness bands you’ll have access to some strong sleep tracking features, plus this is done automatically, so you won’t have to manually set it into a sleep mode before you hit the hay. You’ll also be able to beam smartphone notifications from your phone and even switch your music, which is a nice addition.
£200 | Fitbit
Powered by Microsoft’s new multi-system health platform, the imaginatively titled Band is a feature packed fitness tracker and smartwatch hybrid that’s looking to take pride of place on your wrist. It features guided workouts, with extra presets downloadable, 24 hour heart rate tracking and GPS, essential for runners who want to get accurate results, plus the ever useful sleep tracking. Smartphone notifications, like email, texts and incoming calls, will also show up on the 1.4-inch display. Cortana, the virtual assistant first introduced in Windows Phone 8.1, is also along for the ride, so you can use your voice to set reminders and make calendar appointments.
£149 | Microsoft
Built on an ‘advanced multi sensor platform’, the latest addition to Jawbone’s family of fitness trackers features a newly designed tri-axis accelerometer, bioimpedance sensors, plus skin and ambient temperature sensors. But what do they all mean? Well, Jawbone says that they can measure your resting heart rate, perspiration, BMI and hydration, some of which we haven’t seen in a fitness band yet. The UP 3 should also be much better at auto-tracking your activity, while the sleep tracking tech has also seen a big improvement. Along with telling you if you were in a deep, light or REM sleep, it’ll also give you handy tips on how to improve your slumber. Unlike the Fitbit Charge, there’s no display, so you’ll have to check the iOS or Android apps for detailed stats, but you will get a week of charge.
£149.99 | Jawbone
Fitbit Charge/Charge HR
The long awaited update to the Flex, the Charge and Charge HR feature some nifty updates. The biggest change is noticeable straight away and that’s the new OLED display, which shows the current time, along with a quick read out of your daily stats and, taking a page from a smartwatch, incoming calls from your connected smartphone. While there’s no GPS on board, it does boasts a load of sensors to keep a track of all your steps, sleep and the like. The HR version also packs an optical heart rate sensor, for 24/7 blood tracking. You’ll get around seven days of use from the Charge and the addition of the heart rate monitor takes the HR down to five days.
Charge £99, Charge HR £119 | Fitbit
Sony SmartBand Talk
Another smartwatch and fitness tracker hybrid, Sony’s SmartBand Talk takes all the features from the brand’s SmartBand, like step counting, sleep tracking and pairs it with a curved display to give you a load of glanceable information on your wrist. It evens connects with your phone to receive notifications and you can use the in-built speakerphone to answer calls. It’s waterproof up to 1.5m and should last about three days on a charge.
£130 | Sony
Razer Nabu X
At CES 2014, Razer unleashed its first wearable with the Nabu band. Even though the Nabu has yet to see a full release, Razer is back with a slightly cheaper option, the Nabu X. Ditching the display, which was there to show you notifications from your phone, the Nabu X replaces it with three lights, which flash when you need to check your device. The regular set of fitness features is still here and Razer is hoping in the future you’ll be able to easily communicate with other wearers with just a tap.
$49.99 | Razer
While it’s only a minor update to the already impressive Vivofit from 2014, the sequel does bring a couple of new features to the party. Audible alerts tell you to get up if you’ve been sitting at your desk for too long while a new backlight brightens up the two-colour OLED display. The biggest update though is in design, with new models coming complete with interchangeable bands constructed from leather and steel.
£99 | Garmin
Coming to the market as a cheaper option to one of our favourite fitness trackers, the Misfit Shine, the Flash ditches the classy metal looks of the Shine, replacing them with a sturdy and durable plastic body. It’s little chunkier, but thanks to the improved band it feels great on the wrist and it’ll withstand more wear and tear than its smarter brother. Looks aside, both bands from Misfit are practically the same. They work with the same iOS and Android app, track steps and sleep and, thanks to the replaceable battery, last for about 6 months without running out of juice. It’s a bargain too, coming in at under £50
£49.95 | Misfit
Jawbone Up Move
Nope, that’s not a re-designed Misfit Flash your gazing upon, but in-fact Jawbone’s first attempt at a bargain fitness band. Coming it at just £39.99, this is one of cheapest fitness accessories we’ve seen so far, yet it still packs some essential features. It’s made from an anodised aluminium material, will be available in five colours and just like the Flash, boasts a ring of LEDs around the face to give you a quick readout of your progress. Just like the previous Jawbone bands, it uses MotionX tech to track your steps and sleep, beaming the results to the great mobile companion app.
£39.99 | Jawbone
Withings Activite Pop
If you want a watch that can also track your sleep and steps, you don’t need to look much further than the Activite Pop from Withings. While the original Activite was a Swiss made timepiece which some added extras, it also cost over £300, so the Pop is looking to give you style and substance for less than half the price.