Fitness Trackers-Types and How they Work

Fitness trackers are one of the recent technological developments in fitness gadgets industry. Find out what these wearable devices are, history, types, how you can benefit from using them and the popular brands in the market.

What is a Fitness Tracker?

A fitness tracker, also known as an activity tracker is an application or device that is used to track, and monitor fitness metrics. It can be used to track and monitor your:

  • Calorie consumption
  • Quality of sleep
  • Distance you have run or walked
  • Heartbeat rate
Activity fitness trackers

Activity fitness trackers

In short, the fitness tracker can best be described as a wearable computer. It is a term that is mainly used with smartwatches, which are either wirelessly synced to your smartphone or computer. Syncing the fitness tracker with these devices helps ensure that data can be tracked and stored for long periods.

Thanks to technological advancements, there are now apps that can be used with it. The apps mean that the tracker can be connected to your mobile phone, or social media networks, e.g., your Facebook account.

Studies have indicated that using these gadgets can indeed help a person lose weight at a faster rate, as well as keep track of their fitness goals.

History of Activity trackers

Activity trackers today refer to a wearable device that can be used to not only monitor, but also record your fitness levels. This is a concept that began with written logs, before progressing on to become computer like spreadsheet logs which relied on manual entries.

However, the technological improvements made in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries means that recording and monitoring of one’s fitness activities can now be done easily by wearing these gadgets.

An early example of a fitness tracker was the bicycle computer worn on the wrist, and which was used to monitor distance, duration, and speed. It is a device that was in use in the early nineties. But athletes had access to wearable heart rate monitor gadgets by around 1981.

Modern-day fitness trackers which could be integrated with commercial grade equipment’s, such as the one found in gyms became available in 2000. An electronic activity tracker is like an upgraded version of the pedometer. Apart from counting the number of steps taken by a person, they also calculate physical activity, and your mileage by relying on altimeters and accelerometers.

Additionally, there are now apps that can be used to log your activity, and which can be connected to your social media accounts or your smartphone. Good examples of these are the Nike+ system, and the Apple Watch. For elderly people, there are activity trackers that can be used to monitor sleep disorders or epilepsy and send an alert to a caregiver.

Headphones and earbuds have for long being considered the best options or measuring certain data, e.g., your body’s core temperature. Valencell, for instance has come up with sensor technology that takes its reading from your ear, as opposed to your waist, wrist, or arm.

Much of the appeal that comes with using an activity tracker is derived from the ability of a person to share their data with other users via social media. This means that people in one group can make this a game, with the aim to seeing who is more active than the other. Basically, this means that the activity tracker can be used to identify with a particular community, and this would extend its use to broader participation.

Currently, the fitness tracker in use today is only able to present its data in statistical form, which means that it can only be viewed after you have completed your workouts. But if one is to be able to get a better understanding of their activity data, manufacturers will need to come up with intelligent systems that can run simultaneously with the apps.

Types and how they work or are used

Are you looking for a fitness tracker to use the next time you go hiking, biking, or running? If this is the case, it will be important to ensure that you carry out some research first. Below are the different types of trackers you are likely to come across in the fitness activity market.

1.    The Ring

Did you know that there was a fitness tracker designed like a ring? Well, there is one. It comes with a monitor that can track your fitness activity, heart rate, and monitor your sleep patterns. Additionally, it comes equipped with a battery that can last you for up to five days without having to recharge.

Many rings are made using a titanium body, and measure around 8mm. As is the case with the traditional ring, this ring is also waterproof, which means that you can use it anywhere.

An added bonus of using the ring is its Bluetooth connectivity. You can use it to connect to your car, helping you track and monitor your activity progress. A good example of a ring fitness tracer is the Motiv Ring.

2.    Your Everyday tracker

These are basic trackers whose main goal is to motivate you to take that extra step with regards to your fitness goals. With this tracker, you can track the number of steps you have taken, and the total distance covered within a certain timeline.

It is ideal for people looking to push themselves further each day. The good thing about these kinds of trackers is the fact that they are able to accurately measure the number of steps that you have taken, and can be used in all positions, i.e., vertical, flat, and horizontal.

The trackers are known to automatically reset themselves at midnight. This means that each day you have to start afresh. You can use it to keep a seven-day log that shows the steps you have taken in that week. These trackers are easy to use and are ideal for that person who has just started becoming active. A good example to consider would be Fitbit Zip.

3.    Sleep Measurement

Ever wanted to track your sleeping pattern, fitness routines, and at the same time be able to analyze your diet. Well, this is more than a basic tracker, as it is also compatible with iOS and Android.

One of the best things that you can be able to do with this kind of fitness tracker is wearing it on your wrist before going to sleep. Additionally, it also makes it possible for you to connect with family and friends.

By connecting with them, it means that you can start an activity community which you can all use to achieve your fitness goals. You could also use the leaderboards to check who is leading, and by how many steps.

4.    Heart rate tracker

Sleep is not the only thing you can track using your activity tracker. Currently, there are heart rate trackers that come with Bluetooth connectivity, and are compatible with iOS 7.0 and Android 4.4. With such trackers, you can be ale to monitor your heart rate when engaging in grueling activities such as playing sports or when working out.

Another good thing about these trackers is that they can send you alerts to warn you when you have been seated for too long. This means that you can use it to time your fitness routines to know when to work out, and when to remain seated.

5.    Trackers that have smart features

These are currently the most popular activity trackers in use around the globe today. The reason they are preferred by many is due to the fact that they are able to log the length of time that you have been active, total number of calories burned within a certain duration, distance covered, and the total number of steps that you have been able to take.

Such trackers come with thin designs, which means that one can use them as bands or bangles. You can also easily hide them beneath your everyday attires. Another important thing to note is that they are to recognize your workout routines and maintain accurate records of each activity that you have taken part in.

If you want, you can also set it to receive call and text notifications. These come with vibration patterns and color-coded LED lights. In the same manner, you can also use it to track our sleep patterns, including how long you sleep or stay away.

6.    Running watches that come with GPS trackers

It is crucial to have GPS when you are out running. You can use it to try out new routes, and is the surest way to ensure that you will not get lost, or become disoriented in the course of your workout. Having this kind of device with you means that you will not get into any kind of trouble. Additionally, remember that when running or cycling, it is key to have GPS with you as it will make it possible for you to track your distance, and your paces.

7.    Fitness trackers for kids

Have a child who is into fitness? Do you want to track how they are working out? Well, worry not as fitness trackers for children are also available. The trackers are ideal for children between the ages of four and ten.

The good thing about them is that they come with flexible wristbands, a battery that can last for up to one year, and are water resistance. As a parent, you can also be able to monitor their behavior when conducting chores by setting up the parent mobile app.

Benefits of using trackers

Activity trackers have become all the rage of late. As mentioned above, they come in different forms, each offering the wearer something unique. But despite their increased popularity, do they have anything to offer to you? Read on to learn about some of their benefits.

1.    You can monitor your progress

For many people, especially those who have just started practicing a new routine, or have just started working out, being able to see the progress that you are making can help motivate you to keep on working out.

Being able to keep track of all the miles that you jog or walk on a given day is a helpful motivator that will help you keep going. By seeing the numbers, you get to see that you are indeed making some progress towards achieving your fitness goals.

This is what you will need to keep you going on the days you are feeling lazy, or those days when you do not feel like waking up to workout.

2.    Personal goals

Regardless of the kind of exercises that you are involved in, you will find that there is a tracker that can help you achieve these goals. If your intention is to speed up your time for each mile or increase the number of miles covered each week, the tracker will be there to help you achieve these goals.

The activity tracker will help you track the distance covered, and it will indicate the total amount of time taken to cover each mile. You will, therefore, know how long it can take you to complete a certain distance.


1.    Getting fixated

Tracking your progress will normally help to keep you motivated, and can be useful to helping you achieve your goals. But using the activity trackers do come with some downsides.

There are people who may look at the numbers indicated by their trackers and go down on themselves if they think they are too slow, or have covered a shorter distance than before.

If you become fixated on always being able to outdo yourself, it means that the metrics will now have become a tool that are you using to judge yourself, rather than measure your performance.

2.    It can be expensive

Although there are now free apps available for download online, some of the wearable gadgets are still a bit pricey. Additionally, if you do not like the gadget in the end, it will mean that you will have spent a lot of money on a device that will eventually end up lying on your drawer.

Therefore, you have to ensure that the wearable device is right for you before buying it, or else it will just end up being of no use to anyone. You can always try out the cheap devices before upgrading to something that is pricier.

Top Brands of trackers

  1. Moov Now
  2. Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
  3. Huawei Band 2 Pro
  4. TomTom Spark 3
  5. Amazfit Bip

Further reading



  • Ridgers, ND; McNarry, MA; Mackintosh, KA (23 November 2016).

“Feasibility and Effectiveness of Using Wearable Activity Trackers in Youth: A Systematic Review”. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 4(4): e129. doi:10.2196/mhealth.6540PMC 5143467PMID 27881359

  • Sly, Liz (29 January 2018). 

“U.S. soldiers are revealing sensitive and dangerous information by jogging”The Washington Post.

  • Mónica Guzmán,

“Using tech to change your habits? Lessons from a behavior change fanatic”, Seattle Times

  • Jill Duffy

“Whistle Dog Activity Tracker Adds GPS Location Finder”PC Magazine