5 things you didn't know cheap fitness trackers from Fitbit and Garmin could do

From measuring ECG to managing stress, here are five things cheap fitness can do you didn't know about

Athletic men wearing the Redmi Smart Band Pro for surfing
(Image credit: Xiomi)

We sometimes wonder if there is a point in getting an expensive fitness wearable or should everyone just get a fitness tracker. Nowadays, even cheap fitness trackers have a number of features that even a few years ago were considered cutting edge technology. No need to spend half a grand on a posh smartwatch when a fitness tracker fifth the price can do the job just fine.

The best fitness trackers are amazing fitness wearables that can take on a fight with entry-level running watches. Not all fitness trackers are – the Garmin Venu 2 has a hefty price tag – but many are more accessible from a price point of view than multisport watches.

Despite this cheaper price, fitness trackers can measure anything from heart rate to respiration to ECG and track exercise, sleep and even stress. Five years ago, fitness bands didn't track heart rate! Now, you can't find one that doesn't have a built-in optical heart rate sensor.

What features can you expect from your cheap fitness tracker? The ones below might surprise you...

1. They can measure ECG on the wrist

Being able to accurately measure ECG on the wrist is a relatively new feature. A couple of years ago, the Withings Scanwatch made ECG more accessible to the masses and not long after, the Fitbit Sense offered ECG readings for even cheaper. Then came the Fitbit Charge 5, which – to our surprise – also included Fitbit's ECG app and brought the price down even more.

The Charge 5 is not only Fitbit's most capable fitness tracker, but it's also one of the best fitness trackers overall, not least because of the inclusion of the ECG app. Fitbit calls it an app, but it really is a feature on the tracker itself; the ECG app assesses your heart for atrial fibrillation – a heart rhythm irregularity – and gives you a little report which you can keep for your records or share with your doctor.

Not bad for a fitness tracker at this price point!

2. They can measure workout strain

The cheapest of cheap fitness trackers can do little more than monitor your basic health stats poorly. However, not all cheap trackers are created equal. In fact, one free fitness tracker can measure much more than just heart rate; it can monitor the strain on your body to let you know how ready you are for working out.

The Whoop 4.0 is a free fitness band that comes included with your Whoop subscription. When wearing the band, via the Whoop App, you are given a Strain Score which can be anything between 0-21 and is based on your recovery and workload.

Just existing every day will increase your Strain Score, but it's exercise and stress that increases it the most. As Whoop explains, strain uses a "non-linear calculation", and the algorithm aggregates your raw data and then scales the final results to get your overall strain score.

No wonder Alan Ritchson uses the Whoop 4.0 for his workouts!

3. They can help you train more efficiently using preloaded workouts

Finding the inspiration to work out can be the hardest part of getting fit. Where should you start? How are you supposed to structure your workouts? What exercises to include? First, you get confused, before giving up on the whole thing shortly after.

One fitness tracker can help you with this: the Garmin Venu Sq. It'll do the workout planning for you by letting you download and follow preloaded cardio, strength, yoga and Pilates workouts. Better still, you can use the Garmin Connect app to download more workouts – for free!

4. They can monitor and suggest ways to improve sleep

For a fitness tracker so cheap, we really didn't expect the Huawei Band 6 to have such robust sleep tracking features, but in fact, it does.

In our Huawei Band 6 review, we said that the "TruSleep 2.0 Sleep Tracking... seems pretty accurate, not to mention the robust sleep analysis section in the Huawei Health app. TruSleep can even give you customised sleep reports, as long as you wear the band for sleeping more than twice a week."

The Band 6 measures sleep stages and recommends ways to improve your sleep, albeit in some cases, it will be as generic as "try to have a steady sleep schedule". However, more often, these recommendations will aim to improve your sleep in specific ways.

5. They can track and help manage stress

You wouldn't expect a fitness band as cheap as the Samsung Galaxy Fit2 to do anything else but measure the very basic stats such as steps and maybe heart rate. Well, it does!

In fact, the Galaxy Fit2 can do a bunch of things, including helping you manage stress. You can set up your Galaxy Fit2 with the Samsung Health app to automatically track your stress level and can practice breathing exercises when your stress level is high.

Haven't got any of the fitness trackers mentioned above but do fancy trying them out? Have a look at the below deals and grab a bargain today!

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.