Activity trackers, which started out as humble pedometers for step counting, have evolved into powerful wrist-worn training partners.
Now even the more advanced, waterproof fitness trackers that offer sleep analysis and heart rate monitoring can be bought for under $100, and I’ve researched a list of the best among them.
Track steps, calories burned, heart rate, distance traveled, and sleep with this latest generation of fitness trackers. What they all have in common is they can help anyone go from unhealthy to fit at an affordable price.
Best Cheap and Good Fitness Trackers
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: LED | Thickness: TBC | Battery: 6 months | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Swim-proof | Connectivity: Bluetooth
The Moov Now wearable is one of the best movement trackers out there thanks to its 9-axis accelerometer – the same one used in missile navigation systems. As a result it can not only track your daily steps, calories and the like but also other movements. That means guided, personalized training feedback.
The Moov Now can measure running impact, gym repetitions and swimming strokes, so you can work out with a virtual personal trainer that knows exactly how well you’re doing and can tell you how to improve.
It’s also waterproof and lasts a good six months before the watch battery needs swapping out. Buy this if you’re looking for an affordable yet impressive fitness tracker that doesn’t constantly try to distract you from your fitness.
The Moov Now is incredible value for the breadth of tracking that it offers. It might lack a screen but for the low price you can run, swim, cycle, box and do crossfit with accuracy.
- As cheap as fitness trackers come
- Brilliant range of fitness tracking
- Phenomenal battery life
- No screen
- HIIT workouts need more variety in the drills
- Not the most fashionable design
Huawei Vns 2 Pro
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: OLED | Thickness: TBC | Battery: 21 days | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Swim-proof | Connectivity: Bluetooth
The Huawei Band 2 Pro is my second favorite cheap fitness tracker in the world as it offers a lot of decent features for relatively little money.
Fitness band features include your standard step and sleep tracking but it also comes with a heart rate monitor, VO2 Max sensor, GPS for when you’re out running and it offers some good battery life too.
There’s a very slim screen on the Band 2 Pro unlike the Moov Now above, but interacting with it is a little difficult and while it does show some notifications it’s not always easy to read them. As an affordable fitness tracker though, there’s a lot to love about the Band 2 Pro.
For its diminutive size and low price it has great battery life and impressive GPS tracking, but lacks the slick interface of some of its competitors.
- Reasonable price
- Impressive battery life
- Accurate step count
- Not the most innovative design
- Metrics are inaccurate
- App is clunky
Garmin Vivofit 4
Compatibility: : iOS and Android | Display: Transflective 8-colour MIP | Thickness: 9.4mm | Battery: 1-year | Charging method: 2 x SR43 user-replaceable | IP rating: Swim-proof | Connectivity: Bluetooth
The key addition of the Garmin Vivofit 4 over the entry-level Vivofit 3 is the always-on, color display that’s visible in sunlight. This is remarkably achieved without sacrificing the year-long battery life of the stellar third edition. Basic stats like steps, distance, calories and sleep are covered off, while there’s also automatic activity detection thanks to the Move IQ system.
Thanks to the Garmin Connect app you can also customize the display, while setting timers and alarms directly from the wrist. Best of all, the Garmin Vivofit 4 is also 20 per cent cheaper than the Vivofit 3’s 2015 launch price.
Of course you’ll miss out on premium features like heart rate tracking and GPS, but that’s to be expected at this price.
Fitbit Flex 2
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: LED | Thickness: 6.8mm | Battery: 5 days | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Swim-proof | Connectivity: Bluetooth
There’s a reason Fitbit was one of the first breakthrough activity tracker makers and is still going strong today – it works. And in the case of the Fitbit Flex 2 it works well with lots of features for a low price.
The Fitbit Flex 2 will do all the usual step, distance and calorie burn tracking using its motion sensor smarts, but it goes further. You can also track sleep and even do exercises that the band will automatically detect and track.
Everything syncs wirelessly to the smartphone app and offers clear feedback to help you make health progress.
The Flex 2 is also swim-proof, comes in different styles and uses LED lights and vibrations to notify you about calls and texts from a connected smartphone. All that and it should last five days before needing a charge.
The Fitbit Flex 2 is a solid choice for those after something simple, as well as those who are in need of a water-resistant tracker. It’s smaller and sleeker than the original, but at the cost of battery life.
- Comfortable and light
- Fun software
- Water resistant
- Battery life not great
- Slow to charge
- Feature-light hardware
Xiaomi Mi Band 2
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: OLED | Thickness: 10.5mm | Battery: 20+ days | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Splash resistant | Connectivity: Bluetooth
The price of the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 is genuinely staggering and is one of the cheapest fitness trackers on my list. It offers battery life that nears a whole month, depending on how much you use it for fitness.
Xiaomi has managed to pack in a lot of fitness based tech here including a heart rate tracker that we found to be quite accurate. There’s no connected GPS though, so this isn’t the best tracker for running.
It’s not the most attractive fitness tracker you can buy either, but the thin design allows you to see all of your stats easily on your wrist and there’s a useful app for you to download to your phone for any further data you’ll want to see.
The Mi Band 2 is an excellent fitness tracker from Xiaomi, which combines a host of useful features with the standard tracking metrics at a really, really good price.
On top of all that, the battery life is great, and the tracker is comfortable and lightweight to wear.
- Comprehensive suite of features
- Stand-out battery life
- Cheaper than just about everything else
- Tracking isn’t the ultimate in accuracy
- Better-looking trackers are out there
- No integrated GPS
TomTom Touch Cardio
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: Black and white, OLED | Thickness: 11.5mm | Battery: Up to 5 days | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: IPX7 splashproof | Connectivity: Bluetooth
Perhaps one of the more innovative devices on this list, the TomTom Touch Cardio is a fitness tracker with a built-in body fat scanner that should be able to give you a clearer picture of your fitness than most other trackers.
Press the button on the top and it will do a scan of your body fat to work out the ratio of flabby bits compared to what you should have.
It also comes with all the other tracking tech you’d expect, including a heart rate monitor and step counter to make sure you’re doing your best to keep fit and healthy.
The TomTom Touch Cardio is a heart rate tracking band at a fair price. However, interface niggles and relatively short battery life make it less breezy to live with than some. The main question: will you be happy charging it 2-3 times a week?
- Smart-looking OLED screen
- Simple operation
- Reasonable price
- Slow interface
- Software could be more fun
- Mediocre battery life
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: LED | Thickness: 12mm | Battery: 6 months | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Swim-proof to 50m | Connectivity: Bluetooth
The Misfit Ray is an affordable yet very attractive activity tracker that should appeal to anyone wanting to make sure their wearable enhances their look.
There are plenty of muted color options to pick from and each features the same anodized aluminum central device with LED lights. There’s also a smart button that can be set to control aspects of your smart home, for example.
The swim-proof wearable uses replaceable batteries for a charge-free six months of constant use. That includes step and sleep tracking plus vibration alerts for calls, messages, reminders and alarms.
The Misfit Ray’s unusual looks will appeal to some, but it’s limited in terms of functionality – not least because of the almost non-existent display
- Unusual design
- Slick software
- 6-month battery life
- Basic features
- Quite expensive
- Doesn’t function as a watch
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: E-ink | Thickness: 11.2mm | Battery: 6 months | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Water resistant | Connectivity: Bluetooth
The Huawei Fit is a simple device and one of the easiest to use on this list, but if you’re looking for a traditional step tracker without too many features packed in you’ll likely appreciate this option from Huawei.
It looks attractive on your wrist and also comes with a heart rate tracker, as well as a waterproof design so you can wear this in the shower.
The Huawei Fit satisfies with a nice design and feature set. But even so, a few issues make this wearable is a poor value compared to its competitors.
- Discreet, traditional look
- Heart rate and sleep tracking
- Supports stop-and-go workouts
- Spotty value for the cost
- Limited functionality compared to competition
- Error-prone interface
MisFit Shine 2
Compatibility: iOS and Android | Display: None | Thickness: 8mm | Battery: 6 months | Charging method: Proprietary wired | IP rating: Water resistant | Connectivity: Bluetooth
Another odd one to round out my list of the best cheap fitness trackers, the Misfit Shine 2 doesn’t feature a display and puts its design ahead of the health tracking features on offer.
It’s a good looking device that’s light and small, but it’ll be able to track your steps, sleep and more, as well as offering limited notifications through to your wrist. It even has a smart button that you can use to control smart home devices.
This doesn’t provide the most in-depth data of all the fitness trackers on this list, but it does offer one of the best designs if you want something slim and fashionable.
Misfit’s Shine 2 is a good choice if you’re just looking for a basic step tracker with long battery life and a stylish design, but the Shine 2 won’t be ideal if you want a fully fledged fitness tracking device.
- Super light design
- Low price compared to competitors
- Unrivaled battery life
- No display
- Lack of heart rate tracker
- Only notifications for calls and texts
How to Maximize Your Fitness Tracker Benefits
Whether you’ve bought it to make a concerted effort to get in better shape, or just monitor the activity you’re already doing, a fitness tracker can help – and it’s a lot cheaper than most gym memberships.
Here’s the thing: to get the most out of it you’ll want to do more than just strap a fitness tracker to your wrist and hope for the best – but don’t worry, you don’t have to do loads of annoying extra tasks just to actually use the thing.
From staying motivated, to using apps and not taking certain metrics too seriously I’ve come up with a list of top fitness band tips, to help ensure you’re maximizing your activity and your tracker of choice is still a part of your daily life in six months, rather than gathering dust at the bottom of a drawer.
Set Moving Targets
Monitoring how much you walk, run or cycle can help motivate you to do more in the short term, but to keep the momentum up it helps to set targets and slowly but surely build on them.
Seeing how much of your activity of choice you do over one day or one session and then aiming to beat it the next one is always a good place to start.
But build gradually rather than setting unrealistic goals, as that can lead to failure and constant failure is even more demotivating than having no targets at all.
Enjoy Some Competition
Another way to stay motivated is to get competitive, or at least social.
As with targets there’s often a social side or even a whole community built into fitness tracker software, but if yours isn’t cutting it there are apps, such as Strava, which have leaderboards that you can compete on, as well as allowing you to follow friends and comment on each other’s activity.
Plan (and Follow Through on) Rewards
The sense of achievement after a hard workout coupled with the endorphins released can be their own reward, but it can help to find additional ways to reward yourself too.
You don’t want to derail your efforts, so grabbing a takeout after a 5K may not be the best idea, but you can treat yourself to other things.
Track Your Food, Too
Exercise is only one part of the fitness puzzle, to really achieve or maintain a healthy body you also need to watch what you eat, so you should try and log your food as well as your exercise.
Sadly, your tracker itself won’t be able to automatically do this, but some of the accompanying apps that download with your purchase do give you the tools.
And if the software for your tracker doesn’t you can download a third-party app, such as Calorie Counter from MyFitnessPal. This has a database of over five million foods, with nutritional information for all of them.
So just add what you eat and you can easily keep track of fat, calories and other nutritional intake. In the same way as tracking your activity makes you aware of how much you do and pushes you to do better, food logging pushes you to eat more healthily.
(By the way, you don’t need to be mega exact with this. Just putting in your best guess will give you a far better feeling for what you’re eating than if you don’t at all – and that’s a huge weapon in your arsenal).
Don’t Rely on the ‘Calories Burned’ Calculations
While logging your intake of calories can be useful you shouldn’t put quite as much weight on the amount of calories your tracker tells you you’ve burned.
Aside from the fact that calorie intake is only one part of fitness the bigger issue is that the numbers generated by trackers tend to be far from accurate, as they don’t have the expensive sensors needed to accurately measure it.
In fact, a study from Iowa State University found that there’s more than a 15% margin of error in most trackers.
If there’s a built in heart rate monitor that can help, but those too aren’t always that accurate. If you are counting your calories then if anything you should assume you’ve burned at least 15% fewer calories than the tracker claims, so don’t worry if things aren’t exact. Remember: broad strokes is fine.
Wear It 24/7 (Except When Charging)
A fitness tracker is only useful if it’s on your wrist, but it’s easy to forget it when you leave the house, particularly if you’re not used to wearing one, so try to wear it as much as possible.
Many are water resistant, so they can be taken in the shower and only really need removing to charge.
When you do charge it either set a reminder on your phone to put it back on later or try and charge it at the same time every day – overnight for example – so you get into a routine.
Not only will that ensure you have it on for every workout but you’ll also be getting activity data throughout the day, which can be useful for building a complete picture of your movement.
All Movement is a Good Thing
The great thing about having a fitness tracker on all day is that it can be a constant reminder to move more, but movement doesn’t have to mean going for a run or a cycle. It feels like nothing, but trust us: even just getting up from your desk every now and again or taking the stairs rather than the elevator can play its part.
And don’t get me started on the amount of data that shows the need to just move every hour or so.
They’re small things, but do them every day and they’ll add up to an impressively large whole.
Over time, your fitness band will have been tracking all that and will give you an immense picture that you couldn’t see without something dedicated to track it.
Even if all you do one day is walk around a bit more than you would have otherwise that’s something – and your fitness band is the perfect partner to do it with.
Everyone needs motivation to propel themselves to achieve their goal. When it comes to staying fit, health tracking is vital, the activity fitness tracker band acts as a wellness device and gives the 24/7 heart rate monitoring.
As my readers know, I’m a huge fan of multitasking products, and one little fitness tracker provides so many benefits beyond monitoring your heart rate.
Your fitness tracker will really motivates you to simply compete with yourself to improve your daily steps goal. It will also help you form and stick to healthy habits by monitoring your sleeping time, and reminding you of your specific goals, as well as your commitment to health in general.
With all the fitness tracker choices available at budget-friendly price points, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying the pay-off of a fitter, healthier life!
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