Pedometer Watches and Fitness Smartwatches

Keep track of your walking steps, distance, calories burned and other data with these pedometer watches. They differ in whether they also have sports watch functions such as chronograph, countdown timer, and alarms. Some track your steps continuously, while others require you to turn them on to begin recording steps, and they turn themselves off after a period of inactivity. Choose wisely to get the features you want for workouts only, for total daily steps, or for both.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch with Milanese Loop Band
Apple Watch with Milanese Loop Band. Courtesy of

The Apple Watch has essential fitness tracking features, but to use most of its features you need to have an iPhone (5 or above) on you as well. The watch features an advanced motion processing chip that will allow it track steps, distance, elevation, exercise intensity, and heart rate. The Apple Watch 2 has built-in GPS for speed and distance, while with the original and Watch 1 editions, GPS is supplied by your phone. More: Best Apple Watch Features Walkers Will Love

Activity App: The integrated all-day fitness tracking feature has a 3-ring Activity screen to encourage you to reach a daily activity goal in three ways: active calorie burning, exercise minutes, and standing for at least a minute each hour. More: The Activity App Will Get You Up and Moving

Tracking Workouts: You can track both indoor and outdoor workouts. The heart rate sensor on the watch measures intensity without a chest strap monitor. The Apple Watch 2 is water-resistant for swimming and can track swim workouts, while the original and Watch 1 should not be worn swimming.

Walking Directions: Load up a destination and get a tap when it's time to turn.

Smart Features: Many other functions are convenient for walking, such as receiving and making voice calls, texts, and emails, and controlling your music playback so you can keep your phone secure in a pocket. I love the Dark Sky app that notifies me when it's going to start raining.

Sizes and Styles: You can choose between two sizes of the watch. Sport versions have a polymer band in black or neon colors (additional bands are $49 but you can buy third-party bands for much less) and the dress versions have two sizes for smaller and larger wrists. The Apple Watch 2 uses the same bands as the original version.

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Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Charge 2. Fitbit

The Fitbit Charge 2 combines some of the best elements of the Fitbit Charge and the Fitbit Charge HR. It has a larger display so you can see your data as well as incoming call, text, and calendar alerts. It tracks steps, distance, calories, active minutes, floors climbed, and sleep. You get vibrating Move Reminders each hour if you haven't logged 250 steps. You can track individual workouts and it has multisport detection. You can connect it to your phone's GPS to see real-time speed and distance.

This band features continuous heart rate monitoring via PurePulse LED lights on the underside of the wristband. It has a watchband clasp for more secure closure. The strap is easily switched so you can choose your style from day to day or hour to hour.

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Withings Activité Pop

Withings Activite Pop
Withings Activite Pop. Courtesy of Amazon

The Withings Activité Pop combines a great analog watch face with activity tracking and a battery that will last for as long as eight months before you need to replace it. On the watch face, you can see your progress towards your daily step goal.The Pop pairs with both iOS and Android apps to view your steps and sleep data.

Features: Automatic run detection records running workouts, automatic sleep detection records your sleep. Silent vibrating alarm. Adjusts time zone automatically. Pairs with Withings Health Mate app that may also be used with their scales and other health devices.
What it Doesn't Have: No smart notifications, GPS or heart rate.

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Garmin vivoactive and vivoactive HR GPS Smart Watches

Garmin vivoactive
Garmin vivoactive. Garmin

The Vivoactive combines Garmin's trusted GPS sports speed/distance technology with all-day activity monitoring, smartwatch notifications, and Connect IQ widgets/apps. It has inexpensive interchangeable bands in a variety of colors. For multi-sport enthusiasts, it has built-in apps for walking, running, cycling, swimming, treadmill and golfing. You can see your total daily steps, get Move Reminders, and track workouts.

The original Vivoactive can link to a heart rate monitor but it doesn't track your heart rate directly from your wrist. The Vivoactive HR model includes on-wrist heart rate detection. The battery life is up to 3 weeks with activity tracking or 10  hours of GPS usage for the Vivoactive, and eight days of activity tracking for the Vivoactive HR. If you don't have an iOS or Android smartphone to connect to the Vivoactive, you can download your data to your computer with the docking/charging cradle.

I've tried and reviewed Garmin's wristband activity monitors - the Garmin Vivofit and Garmin Vivosmart. They are excellent wristband pedometers/watches.

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Fitbit Alta

Fitbit Alta
Fitbit Alta. Courtesy of

The Alta displays time and date with the flick of your wrist or a tap. You can also view your steps, distance, calories and active minutes, plus smart notifications. The Alta has vibrating Move Reminders hourly if you've been sitting. You can easily switch bands, including leather and metal, to match your style needs. It automatically tracks sleep and workouts.

Full Review: Fitbit Alta

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Fitbit Surge - Fitness Super Watch

Fitbit Surge Super Fitness Watch
Fitbit Surge Fitness Super Watch. Wendy Bumgardner ©

The Fitbit Surge is an all-day wear smartwatch with all of the bells and whistles for fitness tracking, GPS speed/distance, PurePulse strapless heart rate monitoring with simplified heart rate zones, automatic sleep monitoring, message alerts/caller ID and music control when near your smartphone. It has customizable watch faces so you can change its look to match your style. I love the Flare clock view (shown in photo), which shows your activity each minute so you can easily spot when you've been sitting too long. It tracks workouts as well as all-day activity. You won't need your smartphone nearby to track your workouts via GPS, see your speed, distance and altitude climbed, and save your routes. Loyal Fitbit wearers will be able to continue adding to their Fitbit activity history. Battery life is always an issue with GPS. The Surge has a 7-day battery life before a recharge if you don't use GPS, but only a 5-hour battery life when using GPS (they recommend recharging after any GPS-tracked workout).

Full Review: Fitbit Surge

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LiftTrak Brite R450

LifeTrak Brite R450
LifeTrak Brite R450. Courtesy of

This pedometer watch has a feature not found on many others—yet. It also measures your exposure to bright light, so you can aim to get enough in the morning and less before bedtime. You can see your heart rate either with a finger touch or link to most Bluetooth chest straps. It has a great customizable vibrating inactivity alert -- you aren't locked into just once per hour. It automatically detects and tracks sleep and naps. The face shows your steps, time (including seconds), date and more. You can view much of your data on the watch itself as well as in the app. The replaceable battery lasts six months without recharging! You can track workouts as well.

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Timex Metropolitan+ Analog Quartz Watch with Activity Tracking

Timex Metropolitan+ Activity Tracking Quartz Watch
Timex Metropolitan+ Activity Tracking Quartz Watch. Courtesy of

This hybrid pedometer watch works well for both functions. First, it's an analog quartz watch with sweep-second hand and unisex styling. It has an indiglo on-demand backlight. Second, it has an accurate pedometer mechanism built-in. You can see your steps and distance on the face of the watch and sync it to a phone app via Bluetooth. It uses a replaceable battery with an estimated life of 1.5 years. The activity data is basic - just all-day steps, distance, and calories burned, with weekly averages. Sleep tracking is promised with a future firmware update. If that's all you need, this is a good timepiece and tracker.

Review: Timex Metropolitan+

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Polar A300 Fitness and Activity Monitor Watch

Polar A300
Polar A300. Polar

The Polar A300 Fitness and Activity Monitor is both a 24/7 activity monitor and a sports watch. It counts your all-day steps and active time, tracks your sleep quality and has inactivity alerts when you've been sitting too long. You can also track workouts, including heart rate and zone alerts when teamed with the optional Polar Bluetooth heart rate monitor chest strap. It doesn't have smartwatch notifications or GPS, but it feeds into the excellent Polar Flow app and online dashboard and plays nice with other Polar devices.

Review: Polar A300

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Moto 360

Moto 360
Moto 360. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

This Android smartwatch has an impressive array of features. It tracks your steps, distance, calories and heart rate continuously. It has a built-in optical heart rate monitor, so you don't need a chest strap. It responds to voice commands and can give you directions to walk, bike or drive where you want to go. It gives you coaching advice, too.

Beyond fitness tracking, it sends you Android Wear alerts for weather, traffic, flights, and more. Send texts by voice command. The battery life is approximately one day before recharging. Unfortunately, it doesn't play nice with iPhones. It comes in a variety of finishes and either leather or steel watchband.

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Polar M400 GPS Sports Watch with 24/7 Activity Tracking

Polar M400
Polar M400. Polar

This sleek watch has GPS built-in for speed and distance tracking of your workouts on demand. But it also tracks your all-day activity (steps, distance, calories), gives you inactivity alerts when you've been sitting too long, and automatically tracks your sleep.

You can comfortably wear the Polar M400 as a watch, with a choice of analog or digital watch faces. If you pair it with the Polar H7 Bluetooth heart rate monitor strap, you can also view your heart rate and automatic heart rate zones. You can view lots of data on the watch itself, including training advice, trophies, and stats. You get into more detail on the app and Polar Flow website, including maps and graphs of your GPS-tracked workouts.

Other features I enjoy are a finish time estimator, interval timers, and a "navigate back to start" arrow. The battery charge should last for 30 days of activity tracking or 8 hours if you use GPS or heart rate monitoring. It recharges with a standard USB cable.


Polar Loop

Polar Loop
Polar Loop. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

The Loop is a stylish black band until you press the button. You can see the time of day, your total steps, total daily calories burned, and progress towards a daily activity goal. Then it has a motivating activity display showing you how many more minutes you need of jogging, walking, or just achieving the activity goal for the day.

It links with an iOS app via Bluetooth Smart or with PC and Mac computers via a USB cable. But its secret sauce is that it can also pair with Polar's Bluetooth heart rate monitor straps and you can track your workout heart rate on the Loop as well as with apps. Online and in the app you can see full details for your daily fitness activities as well as your sleep time and quality. It's a great wristband activity monitor.


Withings Pulse O2

Withings Pulse O2
Withings Pulse O2. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

The excellent Withings Pulse O2 activity monitor can be worn as a watch. It has a pulse oximeter and allows the time of day display to be vertical for easier reading as a watch.

The wristband holder allows you to slide the Pulse into it, and use one of the bands they offer or replace with a standard watchband. The blue LED display is fairly dim and hard to read in bright sunlight. But it has an accurate pedometer function and tracks sleep as well.

You can view your data on the Pulse and see analysis and history in the phone app, which is available for multiple devices. You can also wear the Pulse O2 on a belt clip, so you aren't locked into wearing it as a fitness band. One caveat is that it is not waterproof.

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