Fitness Tracker Buying Guide 2021 (Worth Buying or Not)

Fitness bands are quite popular for the last couple of years as we are getting more conscious about our health and in upcoming years it will surpass smartwatches. All thanks to its compact size and reasonable price.

Fitness bands market share

If you are thinking about a fitness tracker merely a show off object, then you might be looking at the one side of the coin.

Though fitness bands don’t provide you as accurate data as professional medical devices, still you get better guesstimates that allow you to track your fitness level on a regular basis. 

Guesstimates means estimated data based on limited inputs to provide you an overall guess where the things are going on.

In April 2016, a 42-year old patient admitted in London’s hospital after a seizure attack. One of the medical staff found the patient wearing a fitbit band, he when inquired the tracker, he found that his heart rate was irregular and almost double than his resting heart rate as given below.

fitbit saved life

The doctors then came to know that they can safely give him shock to get back the heart rate into sinus rhythm. The Fitbit band data saved doctors time in decision making which was crucial at that time of urgency.

Secondly, checking your step counts, calorie burnt gives you motivation to stay fit everyday.

Let’s first understand what different technologies that work in a fitness band to track multiple measures.

How a Fitness Band Works

#1. Activity Tracker

A fitness band uses a 3-axis accelerometer to sense your activity. The 3-axis accelerometer senses your forward or backward movement along with inclination or tilt. The step counts are calculated by the 3-axis accelerometer.

Another sensor Gyroscope detects the gravity to determine body position, and change in speed during various body movements for activity tracking.

Accelerometer and gyroscope

The software algorithms then provide you guesstimates about your daily activities such as step counts. That’s how a fitness band counts steps and your activities.

#2. Heart Rate & BP Monitoring 

Let’s understand how fitness band measures heart rate.

Fitness band has a heart rate sensor in the back that touches your wrist’s skin. Heart rate sensor sends an optical light signal to detect the blood supply changes happening by the scattering of that light in blood.

The technique is called PhotoPlethysmography (PPG). PPG sensor detects the change in blood plus rate along with change in blood volume to get the heart.

Wearable-with-heart-rate-monitoring

It can detect the heart beat rate during different activities like walking, running, sitting idle but you get more accurate results while sitting idle or sleeping because when there’s no movement, the light scattered inside the skin can be detected more accurately as compared to while you are in move.

As per the studies, the wrist-worn heart rate monitors are not so accurate but if you are a heart patient, then a change in blood flow while being idle may help you detect anything serious coming your way.

For example, an old person whose resting heart rate is 70 bpm (beats per minutes), if he observes a sudden spike or fluctuation in the heart rate very often like going up to 150 bpm and then coming down to 60 bpm.

The heart rate monitor will inform him in advance about any upcoming cardiovascular issue, so that he can rush to the doctor to diagnose the real cause before its too late.

Fitness band tracks your blood pressure using the same PPG sensor, however BP monitoring is not so accurate.

#3. Oxygen Level Tracking (SPO2 and VO2)

Your fitness tracker detects oxygen level using a pulse oximeter also called SPO2 sensor (similar technique used in finger-clip oximeters used in hospitals). 

The SPO2 sensor sends two lights – one red and one infrared under the skin. 

Oximeter working

The oxygenated blood absorbs the infrared light in a better way as compared to blood with lesser oxygen levels and that lets the oximeter detect the oxygen level in blood.

Some premium watches also brag about the VO2 calculation that depicts how better oxygen is utilized in the body or in other words, how well oxygen is absorbed from lungs to the blood.

But the studies have shown that wrist sensors VO2 calculations are unreliable as compared to dedicated chest straps. So you needn’t worry about VO2 if your fitness band misses that.

#4. Sleep Tracking

Sleep Score on Mi Band

Fitness bands detect and store your movements as well as your stillness during sleep to guesstimates how good your sleep cycles are.

The software then converts the stored data into graphical form to let you understand how well your are sleeping.

#5. Female Health Tracking

Mensuration tracker

A female user can also save her basic menstruation cycle details and track the period lengths, fertility window and ovulation period that can help her get a better idea about dates when she is ready to conceive a baby.

Fitness bands don’t keep the track however, the app saves the inputs and then give you option to track your periods.

You get notifications about your ovulation days as well as your safe days.

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Things to Consider while Buying a Fitness Band

#1. Display

If you are looking for a fitness tracker for your parents, then you must go for a big size display so that they can easily check the stats with big font sizes.

You can easily get fitness bands with AMOLED displays that are more clear and consume less power giving you better vision and battery life.

#2. Battery Life

You need a fitness band with at least 7 days battery life so that you don’t have to charge it frequently. 

#3. Water Resistance

Always go for a water resistance level of 50m or 5 ATM so that you get the facility to wear the band while swimming as well as you won’t have to worry about protecting your band if you get a sudden downpour while returning from your jog.

#4. Activity Type

Choose a fitness band as per your activity style. For example, if you want to know only about your step count or calories burnt on a regular basis, then you can go with any basic fitness band.

On the other hand if you are a cardiac patient and you want to observe your heart rate or oxygen level at regular intervals, then you should go with a band having a PPG monitor.

Best Fitness Band in India

As per IDC’s latest report, Realme is now at second position with 12.3% market share in 2020 whereas Xiaomi is still at the top with 46.7%.

Let me show you the top 3 fitness bands in India

#1. Xiaomi Mi Band 5

Mi Smart Band 5

Xiaomi Mi smart band 5 has a decent 1.1” AMOLED screen to see the details clearly. The display is bright so you won’t have any problem in checking the stats in bright sunlight.

You get a large 125 mAh battery that gives you a battery life of up to 14 days. The Mi band 5 comes with a magnetic charging adapter to let you charge hassle free.

You not only jog in drizzle but also swim wearing your Mi band 5 without any worry thanks to the 5 ATM water resistance that allows you to keep the band underwater up to the depth of 50 meters for a maximum of 10 minutes.

So no worries in your regular swimming sessions.

The Mi smart band has a PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) tracker that allows you to track 11 different activities such as yoga, rope skipping, cycling, swimming and many more.

You can also track your heart rate 24×7 with its inbuilt PPG monitor that is an improved version from the previous model.

You can just start running and your band automatically detects your run and start tracking it, thanks to the Automatic Activity Detection feature.

You also get a unique feature of stress monitoring that guides you to deep breathe while your pulse rate is high but you are in resting mode to lower the stress level.

You can also track your sleep patterns as the band detects your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleeps to let you understand how good is your sleep or you need to improve your sleep.

Pros of Mi Smart Band 5

  • Large AMOLED display
  • Heart rate and sleep monitoring
  • Stress level monitoring
  • Menstrual periods tracking
  • 5 ATM water resistance
  • 14 days battery life
  • Check weather, calls, set alarms and music control
  • 100 plus watch faces
  • Inexpensive

Cons of Mi Smart Band 5

  • No ambient sensor so automatic brightness control is missing
  • No Oxygen level monitoring
  • Ads in the app are annoying
  • Display glass is not scratch resistant

Best for – An overall value for money fitness band

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#2. OnePlus Smart Band

One plus fitness band

If you need a blood oxygen saturation (Sp02) monitor in your fitness band, then the OnePlus smart band is an ideal choice.

You also get an optical PPG monitor to measure heart rate continuously. The band also has a high heart rate vibration alarm that notifies you for irregular heartbeats.

OnePlus band has dual ratings – 5 ATM and IP68. 

You can swim or take shower wearing your band thanks to 5 ATM water resistance certification. Secondly, it also has dust resistance due to IP68 rating so you can track your outdoor activities without any worry.

You get 13 different workout modes including cricket to track your activities. 

OnePlus smart band has a 1.1” AMOLED display which is very bright and rich in colors. You have various inbuilt watch faces and you can also add a pick as wallpaper.

Pros of OnePlus Smart Band

  • SPO2 oxygen level monitoring
  • 24 hours heart rate monitoring
  • Sleep monitoring
  • 5 ATM water resistance and IP68 dust resistance
  • 10 days battery life
  • 13 workout modes
  • Skin friendly rubber strap

Cons of Oppo Smart Band

  • Battery life is lesser than rivals
  • User interface is not so good

Best for – if you are looking for Oxygen level monitoring in a good quality fitness band.

#3. GOQii Vital 4.0 

GoQii Vital 4.0

If you need an All-in-One fitness tracker, that comes with a heart rate monitor, oxygen level tracker, and Blood pressure monitor, then you can rely on GOQii Vital 4.0. 

Vital 4.0 is certified by ISO for its highly accurate results but still it will give you just guesstimates (80-90% accuracy) about your health signs such as blood pressure.

You can also check your body temperature all the time while wearing the fitness band.

The tracker has a IP68 rating that protects it from dust and water splashes.

GOQii also offers a 3 month online fitness coaching program bundled with the band.

Pros of GOQii Vital 4.0 

  • Accurate heart, BP, SPO2 and body temperature monitor
  • Sleep monitoring
  • IP68 ratings
  • 3 months online fitness coaching program
  • AMOLED display
  • 7 days battery life

Cons of GOQii Vital 4.0 

  • Poor battery life
  • Little expensive

Best for – Who needs a All in One fitness tracker with high accuracy

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Final Thoughts

Though fitness trackers can’t replace medical equipments for your body investigations but still they provide you enough data to track your health on regular basis.

Moreover, they keep your motivated when you check your stats on regular basis. Thus helps you achieve your goals such as weight loss as well as if you are having heart disease, your fitness band can alert you if there’s any change in your heart rhythm before its too late.

About Shilpa

Shilpa Gupta is the editor-in-chief of ElectronicWorld with a vision to help the reader by providing genuine advice on electronic products & the latest technology. She loves hills more than beaches.

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