For many people, the introduction to the fitness tracking world has been at the hand of a belt-based tracker, or simple step counter. For newcomer users, these devices are usually ideal as they generally are much lower priced and do not offer too much overwhelming information to the user. However, as users get more familiar with tracking their activities, they often graduate to the more advanced trackers that active users enjoy. These devices are almost always worn on the wrist rather than the belt. Wrist-based trackers generally offer more features than their belt-based counterparts, such as GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring.
For most wrist-based trackers, step tracking can become a bit of a challenge when compared to belt-based trackers. For activities like walking and running, either will typically work as expected. Unfortunately, when walking whilst holding a bag, a box, or even a shopping cart, step tracking can become slightly frustrating to the avid user, as it may lead to missing steps. In contrast however, certain activities where your feet remain mostly immobile but your hands are moving a great deal, such as table tennis or weight training, your step tracking will go much higher than a belt-based device.
If you’re trying to figure out which one is a good fit for you, here are some clues.
You should strongly consider a belt-based step counter if you meet any of these conditions:
- You are new to the fitness tracking world
- Your core activity tracking objective is simply to make sure you move sufficiently during the day
- Your main activities are centered around walking, but do not regularly partake in other physical activities
- Your budget is limited or if you find advanced trackers too expensive
On the other hand, you should seriously consider advanced wrist-based trackers if you meet any of these conditions:
- Your core activity tracking objective is to closely monitor your fitness level and continuous improvement
- Walking and running are but mere warm up activities for you
- Your budget is not the biggest consideration when it comes to health and fitness
- You are looking for advanced features like GPS tracking or heart rate monitoring
Should you find yourself somewhat in-between these two sets of conditions, there may be a third option for you. There are some trackers that offer the convenience of both and more. These trackers, which we classify as multiple-use trackers, give users the option of wearing it on their belt, around their wrist or ankle, or even neck depending on what fits best for them at that time.
Alternatively, some brands such as Fitbit, give users the option to swap devices throughout the day. This allows someone who has perhaps started with a belt device like a Fitbit One, then later upgraded to a Fitbit Blaze, to use both depending on the activity. It has even been reported that some users have worn both types simultaneously and let the app sort out the exact step count. This is by no means a recommendation, but it can become an option for those who already own two devices from the same brand.
There is no single best option for everyone, however the trend in the fitness wearables world is moving more towards either wrist-based devices or multiple use devices. Users tend to want more features lately, such as heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking, something that is seldom available for belt-based devices. In the end, don’t overthink it, many users go for trackers that end up being underused. Look at your basic needs and pick something that fits. You can always upgrade down the road should the need arise.