Tracking it: 5 best fitness monitors

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If you're serious about fitness, you need to keep tabs on your progress. These bands and watches all do the job admirably. Ready. Set.

1. Nike+ Fuelband SE

Do you use more energy playing football than your friend does jogging? What about your mum walking to the station every day, or your brother who cycles to work? Or your girlfriend who refuses escalators and takes the stairs at work every time? This is your chance to find out. The Nike+ Fuelband SE may look a little like a charity wristband (it’s actually a fixed shape, so less comfortable to wear than those charity bands), but make no mistake – beneath the slightly rubbery surface, this bangle packs a techie punch. It has an accelerometer that tracks motion, and a button you press when you’re about to start vigorous exercise or go to sleep. It calculates how active you are in Nike’s own units of “Fuel”.  Like other fitness bands, it synchs with apps or laptops over Bluetooth so you can track your progress. The Fuelband SE also lets you share your good news (read: gloat) on social media – and see how you measure up against 149 other people in a Nike+ group. Comes in four colours and three sizes, and unlike many wristbands, it actually tells the time. Radical.


2. Adidas miCoach Smart-Run

The watch that cries out: I’m serious about this workout! The Smart-Run looks very cool – a plain silver square with just one button - you control it by swiping your sweaty fingers on the 1.45-inch screen. It has a GPS monitor to track your run, an accelerometer to measure your movements, an optical heart-rate monitor (no chestband required) to follow your heart rate, and 3GB of storage for high-octane running music. You’ll need to be serious about exercise to justify the price-tag, but it does integrate with the brilliant miCoach site that will give you a fitness regime tailored to your sport. The one downside? The claimed battery life is not impressive: four hours in full exercise mode, eight hours in marathon mode (less frequently updated information) and two weeks as a watch. And you only need to look at the discussion boards to see what some long-term users think of those figures.


3. Jawbone Up

If you’re obsessed with tracking the fitness impact of sleep or even snacks, this could be the right option for you. Not only does it measure your motion while you’re out walking the dog or running, it measures how long it took for you to get to sleep, how many hours of sleep were deep sleep, and whether you tossed and turned. You can scan barcodes or take snapshots of your meals, then sync with the app to really get under your skin. It may not tell the time, but then neither does it scream “fitness freak!”


4. FitBit Flex

Not quite as good-looking as the Jawbone Up – but not as expensive either. The FitBit Flex syncs with iPhones and Android smartphones to track steps, distance, calories, sleep and those in-between sort-of-energetic moments such as a walk home from the pub. It comes in a good range of colours, and though the strap is a bit fiddly, the idea is that once it’s on, you don’t have to take it off – not even for the shower.


5. Polar FT4

Long before the dawn of the smartwatch, Polar were making fitness watches – majoring on heart-rate monitoring. If you want a trusted brand what will deliver quality, their FT4 comes at a good price and looks pretty serious to your gym rivals too. It works wirelessly with a heart-rate monitor you strap to your chest, gives accurate read-outs for pulse and calories, and helps you stick to your programmed zone. Comes in five colours (pink, gold, silver, blue and green). Go-faster strip included.


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