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Best fitness watches and fitness trackers for 2021

Looking for a fitness tracker? From Apple to Garmin, here are some of your best options depending on your goals and price point.
A guide to the best fitness watches and fitness trackers in 2021.
A guide to the best fitness watches and fitness trackers in 2021.NBC News, Fitbit, Apple, Garmin, Amazfit

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With the rising popularity of at-home fitness, you might be looking to elevate your at-home workout habits. We’ve talked to experts this year about the best exercise bikes, the best treadmills, the best under-desk ellipticals, the best suspension trainers and so on. Smart fitness trackers can also help any health-oriented person find a tangible metric for virtually any health goal. And they aren’t just for tracking steps anymore: These smart wearables have expanded to include a wide variety of wellness-related features, including sleep monitoring, built-in GPS, music connectivity and fitness coaching. Some are even water-resistant and can be used for swimming laps.

It’s perhaps this widespread functionality that’s made fitness trackers so popular: As of early 2020, one in five Americans use fitness trackers, according to Pew Research Center. We know that NBC News Shopping readers are fairly concerned with their health and, as they’re able to, willing to invest in it. And since there’s basically a tracker for every fitness goal out there, it can get hard to choose the right one. To help guide you to the best fitness tracker for you, we’ve rounded up some of the best trackers out there for every type of person. So if you’re ready to join the fitness trend, here's how to find the right smart fitness tracker.

The best smart fitness trackers

1. Fossil Gen 5E Smartwatch

This sleek Fossil smartwatch includes thousands of watch faces for personalization and offers hundreds of apps to assist you with measuring health and fitness, including tracking your heart rate, sleep history, cardio levels and more. It also allows you to access everything from social media and the news to music, texts and emails including contactless paying with Google Pay. Additionally, the battery can last over 24 hours when on an extended battery mode.

2. Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit is a household name in the smart fitness world, and its wearable trackers are some of the best — and most affordable — out there. The Fitbit Charge 4 is perfect for the athlete who wants an all-in-one fitness tracker without the smartwatch capabilities. The Charge 4 comes with plenty of added features, including text alerts, sleep and step tracking, guided breathing and female health tracking. The Charge 4 also equips GPS, allowing you to track your workout on a map — a great feature for runners, walkers and cyclists. It sports Spotify integration and automatic syncing with the Fitbit app. Trackers come in one size with bands in three sizes. The battery lasts up to seven days.

3. Apple Watch Series 6

Apple’s newest addition to its popular Apple Watch series is more expensive than most other models, but makes up for it in features and sleek design. The Series 6 comes with faster charging, a brighter screen and a blood oxygen level monitor. The watch also has sleep and heart rate tracking, payment apps, messaging and Facetime and Siri, among many other features. The fitness tracker can monitor almost any type of exercise, including running (indoor and outdoor), cycling (indoor and outdoor), yoga, dancing, rowing, step machine, elliptical, hiking, strength training, core workouts — you get the idea. The Series 6 makes the most sense for Apple users, who can sync their account and easily use Apple-specific services, like iMessage and Apple Music, on the watch. The largest drawback, as you can guess, is the lack of integration for Android users. The Series 6 battery life also remains at 18 hours, much shorter than other brands.

4. Amazfit Bip

The Bip is a good option for those looking for a simple smart tracker that’s low-cost and doesn’t come with many bells and whistles. You can expect a long battery life — up to 45 days — and basic heart rate and step tracking. The tracker supports outdoor and indoor running, cycling and walking, but not much else. Users can receive notifications but the watch doesn’t allow installable apps, so you’ll have to go on your other device to view them. If you’re looking for a basic, functional watch that’s a fraction of the price of other models, the Bip is your best bet.

5. Fitbit Sense

The Sense is Fitbit’s advanced smartwatch, with features comparable to that of the Apple Watch. The model comes with advanced health tracking, including blood oxygen, skin temperature, breathing rate and more. Like the Charge 4, the Sense comes with GPS, sleep and workout tracking, visualized on the Fitbit smartphone app. The Sense’s battery lasts over six days and is water-resistant. Similar to other smartwatches, users can take calls from their wrist, have call and text notifications and can access apps via their watch. If you’re looking for a features-loaded smartwatch that isn’t Apple, the Fitbit sense is perfect for you.

6. Garmin Vivoactive 4

The Vivoactive 4 sports a high-resolution face with a rotating app menu. Users can connect to Spotify, digital payments and other apps. The smartwatch offers tracking for just about anything fitness related, including running (both outdoor and treadmill), cycling (both indoor and outdoor), swimming, HIIT workouts, weight lifting, golf, yoga, rowing — basically any type of cardio you can think of, plus customized workouts. The watch is water-resistant and sweatproof, so you won’t have to worry about damage while on the move. Outside of exercise, the Vivoactive offers women’s health tracking, hydration tracking, sleep tracking and even stress tracking. One of the most unique features? The battery life, which can last up to eight days. Models come in six colors and have an adjustable band, and the watch face comes in two different sizes.

7. Huawei Band 4 Pro

This affordable band is another great no-frills option for fitness enthusiasts. The watch can track running, walking and cycling (both indoor and outdoor), swimming and strength training. The Pro can also track heart rate and sleep tracking. The watch also has GPS tracking, allowing users to follow their exercise on a map. All watches come in black and have a strap for a more adjustable fit. This simple fitness tracker is another great affordable option for those looking for the basics without a high price tag.

8. Amazon Halo

Halo is Amazon’s foray into the fitness tracker space, a thin fabric brand easily mistaken for a bracelet. The tracker is more fashionable than other fitness wearables, which could be more appealing for those wearing it throughout the day. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have a screen — users will have to view their data via a separate app. The band is priced similarly to other smart trackers, though it includes a $4 monthly membership for access to additional fitness features like sleep and activity tracking. A key trait of the Halo is its ability to measure your body composition and body fat — it can even make a digital 3D model of you. It also includes voice analysis, which monitors the user’s tone throughout the day and can predict emotions, Amazon claims. The Halo is currently only available via early access for Amazon Prime members, and is expected to be released more widely in the future.

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