Maximize Workouts with Smartwatches: Top 5 Devices Reviewed  | HotelGyms.com Blog
12Sep 2023
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Maximize Workouts with Smartwatches: Top 5 Devices Reviewed

It is fair to say that people have an opinion about most fitness products on the market. We either like or dislike most of them. Similarly, smartwatches divide the market, but they do so unlike any other product we have seen.

On the one end, we have the camp of people who adore smartwatches. But, many people also see them as nothing more than a waste of money. Is it even fair to call them watches? So, who is right? Is there value in using a smartwatch for our training, or would we be better off saving our money? Let's discuss.

What are Smartwatches?

As their name suggests, smartwatches are, well, watches. But, unlike a regular watch that tells the time and possibly the date, a smartwatch offers a lot more functionality. Specifically, a smartwatch is a type of miniature computer you wear on your wrist and use for various things. The modern Smartwatch offers a touchscreen display, a range of options, and the remarkable ability to pair up with your smartphone. Some models also provide apps and 'watch-phone' capabilities, allowing us to make and receive phone calls without needing our phones for that.

What benefits do Smartwatches offer?

The most apparent benefit of smartwatches is their versatility. Aside from seeing the time, you have access to numerous functions that make your everyday life easier. Often, a smartwatch will include a set of sensors to track data, such as steps taken, heart rate, blood pressure, and more.

Another benefit is that you can customize the watch to show you notifications, instantly connecting you to e-mails, texts, calls, and push notifications from any app on your phone.

That can truly be a benefit if you have emergency notifications you need to take care of immediately. However, you need to be aware that this might become a drawback if you are not careful. As far as training goes, a smartwatch can offer some fantastic benefits. Examples include:

  • Track your daily steps, caloric expenditure, and heart rate
  • Map your runs with a watch instead of carrying a phone
  • Time your workouts and recovery periods to stay productive and avoid slacking off

More expensive smartwatches are also waterproof, making them an excellent pick for swimmers to time laps and such. Also, if you typically use a note-taking app (Evernote, OneNote, etc.) to log workouts, you can use more sophisticated solutions with a smartwatch. Fitness apps are another great add-on, allowing you to access your workout program from your wrist. More on that below.

Are there any Downsides to using a Smartwatch?

Having a smartwatch can be great in many ways, but we can not go on without discussing some of the potential downsides. It mostly comes down to how you choose to use the device, so you have to be careful. A drawback of a smartwatch is that it can turn into a massive distraction for people, preventing them from training effectively. For example, if you constantly find yourself answering e-mails, text messages, and calls while training, you can not focus on your training and put in as much effort. Also, using your watch for something every time you glance at it will make you waste a lot of time and break up your workouts.

Another issue with smartwatches is that they might not always be accurate when tracking fitness parameters, such as steps taken, heart rate, caloric expenditure, and similar. Smartwatch manufacturers are working hard to improve their algorithms and improve their products. But, as of right now, you should not put too much stock into the data. Here is a quick example of why that is the case. A smartwatch collects heart rate data from your wrist. But, according to research, the method might not be helpful for some people and specific activities, resulting in inaccurate heart monitoring.

Another significant drawback of smartwatches is their short battery life. Many models need to be charged at least once every two days. As a result, using your Smartwatch often can result in having to charge it every night. Plus, we have to consider that smartwatches are a relatively novel technology and are still pricy. A decent model will be in the $300 to $500 range.

An overlooked benefit of Smartwatches

Everyone talks about the apparent benefits of smartwatches, but few realize one of the best advantages when a smartwatch is paired with your phone.

A notable benefit of most smartwatches is that you can connect them to your fitness app. Instead of carrying the phone with you while training, you can enjoy the many functionalities from your wrist without having the distraction from your phone with you. Just Set up the workout on your phone for convenience, and then start the workout from your smartwatch. Once we do that, we will be able to access, log, and customize each workout right on the watch, including:

  • Picking and replacing exercises
  • Logging sets, reps, and weight
  • Tracking rest periods
  • Browsing previous and upcoming workouts

As you can see, you can leave your phone in the locker room or another room (if you train at home), log everything from your wrist, and have great workouts. Check also our guide on Fitbod and the steps you need to follow. Also, check our Fitness App Advisor to find your workout companion.

Which is the best Smartwatch?

Given how quickly technology advances these days, the answer to this question changes almost every other month. So these are the top five smartwatches for fitness in 2023:

Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch

If you are an iPhone user, you unavoidably have already heard of the Apple Watch. When it comes to fitness, the Apple Watch detects when you are active, such as working out. It also automatically detects running, cycling, swimming, and many other workouts. Apple's ring system, which lets you know how active you are during the day, is a helpful gimmick and fun to view. Plenty of fitness apps also work on the Smartwatch, making it easier to focus on your workout without the need to have the phone with you. Your fitness statistics are very insightful in combination with the optical heart sensor. The Smartwatch also comes with an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart's rhythm and electrical activity and a blood oxygen monitor.

  • Year released: 2022
  • Size: 41mm or 45mm
  • OS: Watch OS
  • Battery life: ~1 day
  • Amazon Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars (39k reviews)

Tip: If you are an advanced user, consider the Apple Watch Ultra. It has a more reliable GPS, enhanced water resistance, and numerous additional features. Plus, with a new Apple Watch, you get three months of Apple Fitness+ for free.

Samsung Galaxy Watch5

Samsung Galaxy

The new Galaxy Watch is one of the comfiest smartwatches. It runs the latest version of Wear OS, which includes access to Google Maps plus the Samsung Health features. Like other smartwatches, it is an excellent device for checking notifications and responding to them. These health features include SpO2 measurements (also known as oxygen saturation), auto-workout detection, sleep tracking, and an electrocardiogram (ECG). Unfortunately, this watch only works with Android phones, and ECG tracking is limited to Samsung phones (as is blood pressure monitoring).

  • Year released: 2022
  • Size: 40mm or 44mm
  • OS: Wear OS
  • Battery life: ~1.5 days

Tip: If you need a smartwatch with more durable materials and better battery life, longer than a day with a single charge, you might want to explore the Galaxy Watch5 Pro.

Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu

The Venu 2 is Garmin's answer to the smartwatches from Apple and Samsung. It blends the fitness- and health-tracking features you would expect from a Garmin device with smartwatch features such as mobile payments, notifications, a touchscreen, and even storage for up to 650 songs. In addition, onboard sensors review your stress, heart rate, sleep, and activity level to gauge your body's energy levels. This gives you an interesting metric, the Body Battery, which calculates how much energy you have for the day based on your heart rate, variability, stress, and activity. On top, this Smartwatch is preloaded with 25 sports apps, and can show animated on-screen workouts. Finally, its detailed activity profile puts scaling and strength PRs right at your wrist, plus graphics that show what muscle groups you worked.

  • Year released: 2021
  • Size: 40mm, 43mm or 45mm
  • OS: Garmin OS
  • Battery life: 11 days
  • Amazon Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (8.5k reviews)

Tip: Finding the best Garmin can be difficult, as the portfolio ranges from $150 (Forerunner) to $999 (Fenix). Try to be clear about your needs and preferences before buying.

Garmin epix

Garmin epix

Some Garmin devices focus on fitness tracking, designed to count your steps, distance, and calories burned; others are designed for hardcore athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, such as the Garmin epic. This Smartwatch is epic in almost every way: its design, display, and battery life are all excellent. The Garmin Epix can track just about everything when it comes to health and fitness tracking. This Smartwatch has five buttons, which can be handy when you are out running or are wearing gloves. However, it also comes with a touchscreen, so you have the flexibility of how to interact. Compared to the Venu 2, a fantastic all-rounder, the Epix is a Smartwatch for serious sportspeople. The advanced training tools are designed to help you smash your goals and reach your new personal best. As exciting as the Garmin Epix is, the price is, however, around twice of the Garmin Venu 2.

  • Year released: 2022
  • Size: 47mm
  • OS: Garmin OS
  • Battery life: 16 days
  • Amazon Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (76 reviews)

Tip: If you need even more battery life than the 16 days, the Fenix 7 might be a Garmin Smartwatch to consider. It lasts 18 days in smartwatch mode, and in battery saver mode, you can go up to 57 days (compared to 21 days with the Garmin Epix).

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge

Fitbit has been one of the first with its fitness trackers. And their devices have always been in a particular sweet spot between attractiveness, affordability, and ease of use. As a result, they are perfect for everyone who wants to remain smartphone independent and is not into running a marathon. Their "Charge" model contains almost every sensor you wish to, from stress scans to electrocardiograms (ECG). And their FDA-cleared Heart Rhythm Notifications feature can detect atrial fibrillation. Unfortunately, a subscription (USD 80/year) is required to access most of the best parts. So it might add costs that could justify another, more expensive, Smartwatch.

  • Year released: 2021
  • Size: 47mm
  • OS: Garmin OS
  • Battery life: 16 days
  • Amazon Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars (23k reviews)

Tip: You should know that Fitbit has belonged to Google since January 2021. However, their devices are still less expensive and easier to use than others on this list.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

For completeness; this Smartwatch is already three years old; for long it was very popular as one of the best cheap fitness trackers. The sporty design is timeless, and the reliable software makes it a bargain. However, with the move from Tizen OS to Wear OS, the Watch Active 2 will stop receiving software and security updates.

  • Year released: 2019
  • Size: 40mm or 44mm
  • OS: Tizen (OS 4.0)

Tip: As this Smartwatch is no longer receiving software and security updates, evaluating an alternative moving forward is highly recommended. An attractive option might be the Fitbit Charge 5 introduced before.

And which model is the best?

Similar to smartphones, many personal preferences are related to brands, operating systems, ecosystems, etc. For example, some people lean toward the Apple watches because it fits well with their laptop, phone, and other Apple products, creating an excellent ecosystem.

It could be beneficial to research which one works best with your phone and provides the functionality you need for your fitness activities. For example, many friends use Garmin products for running and cycling. Others prefer the Apple Watch to track runs with Adidas Runtastic or Fitbod, or the Hevy App for weight training and bodyweight workouts.

Which is the best Fitness Tracker for Women? Fitness trackers work equally well for men and women. However, specific features cater more to women's needs. For instance, the Fitbit Sense Advanced and Apple Watch have menstrual cycle tracking that can predict periods and fertility windows as they gather more data. Ultimately, the best tracker aligns with one's personal health goals and lifestyle.

Some Final Words

There is no doubt that smartwatches are a promising technology that will only improve with time. A smartwatch tells us a lot more than the current time, and these tiny devices will probably become a huge part of our lives. You might want to follow Ray Maker (dcrainmaker.com), who regularly tests the latest gadgets he uses for all kinds of sports.

Investing in a smartwatch could be great for those interested in the benefits and can live with the current drawbacks. But, realize that just as a smartwatch can be a cool gadget, it can distract you, leading to poor productivity and suboptimal training.

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