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Fitness & Activity Trackers

Time to embrace… or ignore?

A holiday involving some gentle activity, specifically an easy going walking holiday through serenely undulating terrain in deepest France, should not really become a tech-fest for a gadget-crazed techno-junkie.

It should be more about the bucolic countryside, the dramatic arc of history and the indescribable allure of French charm and culture that stretches back centuries. The only synching to be done should involve arriving promptly on the hotel terrace in time for aperitifs. 

But it is the 21st century and technology is all around us. Some of it useful and with more benefits than might initially meet the eye.

The fitness tracker is one such. Also known as activity monitors or fitness bands, they go beyond the trusty (actually not so trusty) old pedometers that counted out your daily steps with unreliable accuracy not so long ago.

Today these devices count your steps, measure the distance walked (or cycled) and the calories expended. And a whole lot more besides.

What gets measured gets done

The serious point behind them is that they encourage you to exercise and thus to improve fitness and maybe lose weight. This is all based on the familiar principle of ‘what gets measured gets done’ and is not necessarily compatible with a Belle France holiday where the emphasis will inevitably be on the evening’s dinner menu and the extensive wine list. 

The tracker device is typically worn on the wrist (or possibly attached to clothing) and synchs information with a smartphone in most cases, or a computer. Here you can see the data as it builds into impressive looking (or perhaps daunting) graphs and tables.

Depending on models and software, you can even share with friends, or even – heaven forbid – strangers. This can be a real test of friendship, whether online, offline, real or virtual.

The right brand of wristband 

In terms of the models and brands available, they all perform the same basic functions but then diverge when it comes to levels of detail, notifications, clock, sleep tracking, vibrating alarm, barometer, heart rate monitoring, ability to cope with rain or even swimming. 

Having GPS on-board is a boon but does increase price – remember, without GPS your smartphone will need to come with you if you plan to measure distance and route walked.

Of course, a Belle France walking holiday is not the optimum occasion for fine tuning high level physical performance. But a fitness tracker will tell you how far you have walked and, yes, the calories you’ve burned off. If you review this data in relation to ‘normal’ life at home it might be revealing. 

It could be interesting. It could make you more health aware. It could help make you fitter and healthier.

Tracking the trackers

Prices vary hugely, naturally, depending on brand and functionality. Cheapest models might be well under £50 while Apple Watch is easily over £300. Here we round up a few of the more popular models.

Fitbit Charge 2 £99.99 / £139.99

A popular model with interchangeable straps and a high-res display that works well for the user looking to generally lose a little weight, and the more serious sports fanatic keen to track performance. 

Features include: sweat and dust proof, heart rate sensor, cardio fitness level, sleep tracking, interchangeable bands, choice of colours and upgrades to special editions, multi-sport modes, reminders to move, GPS enabled, guided breathing exercises, up to a week of battery life, vibration feedback, smartphone notifications incl calls, texts and calendar alerts, control music, silent alarms, HD touch screen, customisable watch faces, easy-to-use accompanying smartphone app, over-the-air system updates and wireless syncing. 

USP: sleek design, interchangeable bands and PurePulse® heart rate sensor.

Misfit Ray £49.99 / £69.99

Distinctive design with a choice of colours, this appeals to those keen to retain individuality. Battery life is good.

Features include: water resistant up to 50m, interchangeable bands and other accessories, choice of colours, multi-sport modes, up to 4 months of battery life, vibration feedback and easy-to-use smartphone app.

USP: endorsement by Speedo and waterproof up to 50m.

Moov Now About £45

Good for workouts, it measures levels and personal bests, making it a good bet for bursts of activity. It also provides voice coaching which is not on everyone’s wish list but represents great value. 

Features include: up to 6 months battery life, waterproof, 3D movement tracking.

USP: 6 month battery life, waterproof and Omni Motion™  3D movement tracker.

Samsung Gear Fit2  £179.99

In return for a slightly higher price than other models, this offers a great screen and works on iOS and Android. It has lofty ambitions with regard to smartwatch functions (though on a screen that is arguably not quite up to the job). You’ll need to be clear how you’re going to use this in order to make it a recommended purchase.

Features include: GPS enabled, heart rate sensor, multi-sport modes, touch screen display, customisable watch faces, choice of colours, ability to race against friends, easy-to-use accompanying smartphone app and compatible with Android and iOS.

USP: compatibility with Android and iOS devices and race against friends feature.

Fitbit Alta HR £99.99 / £129.99

This will measure steps and other basic metrics but also has Call ID and texts displaying messages. Some will find this useful, others find this blurs boundaries between devices. 

Features include: heart rate sensor, cardio fitness level, sleep tracker, up to a week of battery life, interchangeable bands and other accessories, choice of colours and upgrades to special editions, smartphone notifications incl calls, texts and calendar alerts, control music, OLED touch screen, reminders to move, silent alarms, vibration feedback, easy-to-use accompanying smartphone app, over-the-air system updates and wireless syncing.

USP: OLED display, stylish design with accessory options and low price tag. 

Apple Watch Series 3 from £329 up to £1,399

The aspirational one – with high spec and good looks, its effortless and intuitive functionality will have Apple lovers cooing with delight as they review performance.

Features include (basic model): water resistant to 50m, interchangeable bands, heart rate sensor, GPS connectivity, strengthened glass display, up to 18 hours of battery life, over-the-air system updates, smartphone notifications, control music, Siri, AirPods compatible, built-in workout app, customisable watch faces, third-party apps available, reminders to move, activity sharing, guided breathing exercises, easy-to-use accompanying smartphone app and wireless syncing.

Models include: the cheapest model features GPS connectivity and a choice of bands and casings. If you're willing to spend a little more you can expect GPS and cellular connectivity meaning you can leave the house without your smartphone and still make and receive calls. The top end models feature a collaboration between Apple and French fashion house Hermès. You can expect luxury leather straps and iconic watch faces with built-in GPS and cellular connectivity.

USP: wide variety of upgrades and customisation options, ability to leave phone at home and intergrated OS allowing for use of Siri and third-party apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter.

Choose your ability and get counting those steps!