Having worn and written about dozens of smartwatches and fitness trackers, and in this article, we’ll review the best smartwatches for fitness; the ultimate combination.
These offer activity tracking and workouts, delivering phone notifications, give you access to apps, and some even go as far as keeping your phone in your pocket or leaving it at home while you’re out for a short period of time.
There are a couple of things that you have to consider, and we’ll list them in the buying guide at the end.
Without further ado, here are the best choices with their pros, cons, and what target audience they suit the most.
List of Best Smartwatches for Fitness in 2021
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Best Overall
- Garmin Forerunner 645 – Best for Runners
- Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch – Best for Design
- Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Activity Tracker – Best for Swimmers
- Garmin Vivosport Smart Activity Tracker – Best Budget Option
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
1.2 or 1.4-in.
Garmin Forerunner 645
Fitbit Versa 2
Fitbit Charge 3
0.38 x 0.76-in.
The 5 Best Smartwatches for Fitness in 2021
1. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Best Overall
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is available in two sizes; a 40mm one and a 44mm one. You can get the aluminum Bluetooth model or the stainless-steel LTE model.
It’s still as lightweight and easy to read as its predecessor, the Galaxy Watch Active, with a 1.2-inch or 1.4-inch OLED screen, depending on the model size you get. Both flaunt a 360 x 360-pixel resolution that brings out your info and stats.
To navigate the watch, you simply use the rotating bezel, which is a touch-sensitive strip rather than a physical rotating circle. There are also two buttons on the side; one to act as a “back” button and the other as a “menu” one.
In terms of activity, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a lot more accurate thanks to the upgraded heart sensor and accelerometer, and it even integrated an ECG sensor.
It’s also water-resistant up to 5 ATM so you don’t have to take it off during showers or before you go swimming.
As for the technology, it’s available in both a Bluetooth and an LTE version. It delivers your phone notifications, which you can clear with a simple swipe upwards.
What’s more, it comes with better support for Bixby, so you can use it to activate a workout or control smart things gadgets.
As for the battery life, it ranges from a day and a half and up to two days, depending on the model you get and how heavy your use is.
- Comprehensive exercise tracking
- Easy navigation with the digital rotating bezel
- The display is ready to read in all lighting
- Comes in two sizes
- LTE connectivity
- Attractive minimalist design
- 2-day battery life
- Thick bezel
- Limited third-party app support
- ECG monitoring is not live
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 comes with some improvements over the original model. These include a bigger display, a digital rotating bezel, ECG, and the availability of an LTE model. Although it doesn’t pack the most features compared to other choices on the list, it’s still a great choice overall.
2. Garmin Forerunner 645 – Best for Runners
The Garmin Forerunner 645’s silicone band feels very comfortable on the wrist and doesn’t bother you with any extra weight.
It comes with a 1.4-inch Chroma display that’s easy to read, even in direct sunlight.
With plenty of customization options, you can modify any aspect of the display, including the watch face, the widgets, the activity profiles, and the running-data screens.
If you’re a dedicated runner or even a triathlete, you’ll love how reliable the Forerunner 645 is. It gives you precise data and allows you to interact with it using physical buttons, which doesn’t obstruct you during vigorous workouts.
Thanks to the 165-feet water resistance, you can take the Garmin Forerunner 645 swimming without having to worry about anything happening to it. Not only that, but it also comes with swim-tracking features as well as cycling, besides the basic activity, calories, stress tracking, and heart rate monitoring.
It’s equipped with a VO2 max sensor that indicates the maximum amount of oxygen in your blood, which can help you identify what intensity you should work out using and how many calories you can burn.
Not only does it track activity, but it also comes with sleep tracking to give you an all-inclusive activity report.
The Forerunner 645 delivers all your smartphone and app notifications to your wrist, so you don’t miss out on anything.
However, it is a little pricier than most other options on the list. Its GPS is also not the most accurate, so you shouldn’t rely completely on it to evaluate your pace while running.
On the upside, the Forerunner 645 can store up to 500 songs to hype up your workouts.
- Highly accurate readings with several sensors
- Advanced fitness metrics
- Swim-proof design
- Excellent battery life
- Not the most intuitive
The Garmin Forerunner 645 is an amazing choice for anyone that’s a running enthusiast or a triathlon. Its readings are accurate thanks to the robust sensors, and it provides you with a wealth of metrics.
Check also: Best Smartwatches for Texting
3. Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch – Best for Design
The Versa 2 comes with the same great features found on the original Versa with an even bigger and livelier display.
It flaunts an always-on 1.4-inch and 300 x 300-pixel resolution AMOLED color display, so forget about those weird wrist movements you had to make to activate your watch’s screen.
It’s equipped with basic step-counting, and calories burned tracking as well as 24/7 heart-rate monitoring relying on a pretty accurate sensor.
You can choose different clock faces to display certain metrics, including resting heart rate, active minutes, or other stats from the personal dashboard. There are different modes you can also choose from, including relax, timer, exercise, weather, alarm, settings, as well as view all your notifications.
The Versa can track up to 15 different types of exercises, including walking, running, biking, and weight training. It also allows you to track your goals as well as motivates you. And it doesn’t stop there as it’s water-resistant up to 165 feet, so you can safely take it swimming.
Although it doesn’t come with built-in GPS, you can use a phone-connected GPS to get live location tracking and real-time info during outdoor activities.
Moreover, the Versa 2 comes with sleep-tracking that detects and logs different sleep stages (REM, light, deep).
Evidently, it’s not jam-packed with smart features, but it does deliver all your smartphone notifications. It also allows you to accept and reject calls, view calendar alerts, and even reply to text messages if you pair it with an Android smartphone.
You can use your Versa 2 to make online payments thanks to the NFC chip, and it even comes with onboard music storage and control.
Finally, the Versa 2 has an impressive 5-day battery life that goes pretty well with the functions it has to offer.
- Color display on a large screen
- Always-On AMOLED display
- Built-in Amazon Alexa
- Straps are adjustable and easy to change
- Sleep tracking features
- Accurate heart sensor
- Female health features
- Lack of built-in GPS
- Fitbit OS is a little hard to adapt to for some users
- Shorter battery life
If you’re in the market for an affordable smartwatch that integrates some solid fitness-tracking features with a sleek design and a top-notch display, the Versa 2 would be the best option for you.
4. Fitbit Charge 3 Fitness Activity Tracker – Best for Swimmers
The Charge 3 flaunts a trimmed down aluminum case that makes it compact and sleek. The concave black design makes it look very thin and inconspicuous on your wrist.
It comes in a leather band or a silicone one, so you can wear it on different occasions. However, I wouldn’t say it’s the most suitable for formal wear.
The Charge 3 uses no physical buttons and relies on an inductive one with haptic feedback instead. This button acts as a “back” one, which you can press to get to the previous screen or the home screen.
You can easily navigate apps and notifications through the 0.72-inch, 100 x 150-pixel OLED touchscreen. It’s not the biggest and only work in grayscale, but that suits the minimalistic design.
Weighing only an ounce, the Charge 3 is super lightweight and feels comfortable to wear all day long.
In terms of activity-tracking features, the Charge 3 delivers basic metrics, including step count and resting heart rate thanks to the super accurate heart rate sensor. You can also choose the clock face from the Fitbit App, along with other customization options.
Besides the heart-rate measurements, the Charge 3 is equipped with an SPO2 sensor that calculates the level of oxygen in your blood. Not only does it give you great insight into your workouts, but it also makes the sleep monitoring stats more accurate, including light, deep, and REM sleep.
Moreover, you can check health stats, including calories burned, active minutes, or female health tracking from the personal dashboard. Swiping to the left of the display presents you with various modes, including timer, weather, alarm, exercise, relax, alarm, and settings. Similarly, swiping down displays all your notifications.
The Charge 3 allows you to track your swimming session in-depth as it can track distance lapsed and laps. Of course, it’s water-resistant up to 165 feet.
It can track 15 different types of exercises for which you can set goals, including a target for calories burned, distance covered, or time-lapsed. On top of that, it has an auto-stop feature that automatically pauses exercise mode until you start being active again.
The Charge 3 doesn’t have much to offer in terms of smart features, but it does provide the basics. It delivers smartphone notifications, including accepting and rejecting calls, viewing calendar alerts, and replying to text messages (if you pair it with an Android smartphone).
However, it doesn’t have onboard music, but possible updates might allow you to control music controls for third-party music apps.
On the Special Edition, you can enjoy online payments using Fitbit Pay.
Finally, the Charge 3 comes with one of the longest battery lives on a smartwatch or fitness tracker as it can last up to seven days.
- Lightweight case
- Simplistic design
- Great battery life
- Touchscreen display
- Interchangeable straps
- Not fully compatible with iOS
- No built-in GPS
- Heart rate isn’t the most accurate
- Touchscreen can be slightly unresponsive
Admittedly, the Charge 3 is one of the best smartwatches for fitness-tracking out there as it’s very activity-focused. There’s pretty much no activity that it leaves undetected or unlogged. It also has ample smart features, a minimalistic design that keeps everything simple, and comes at an affordable price.
Read also: Best Smartwatches for Google Pixel
5. Garmin Vivosport Smart Activity Tracker – Best Budget Option
If you’re an avid cyclist who also walks or runs, you’ll love what the Garmin Vivosport has to offer. It comes in a vertical design similar to the Charge 3’s except that it’s a color one instead of a grayscale one. It’s an always-on 0.38 x 0.76-inch MIP LDC display on which you view all your workout stats. Despite the advantage of an always-on display, however, the size makes it a little tough to see the screen clearly.
It not only tracks activity including steps, calories, and heart rate but also tracks sleep. That’s besides walking, running, cycling, strength training, and cardio. All of which you can check on the Garmin Connect app, which is easy to navigate and has an intuitive UI. There’s even stress-tracking, similar to the Forerunner 645.
Another feature similar to the Forerunner 645 is the VO2 max sensor.
The Vivosport also helps you set goals for yourself, including steps taken, distance traveled, and calories burned.
Although it’s fine for swimming as it’s water-resistant, it doesn’t support swimming as a particular sport.
While it’s not the most extensive on smart features, it still has ample ones, including smartphone and app notifications, as well as music control.
On a single charge, the Vivosport can last up to seven days. On medium to heavy use, however, this number may go down to four or five days.
- Easy to use
- Superb automated activity-tracking options
- Decent degree of customization
- Supports push notifications
- Lacks swim-tracking features
- Not the best design
- Looks cheapish
The Garmin Vivosport integrates some solid features and is a quite functional unit. If you’re on a tight budget and want a simple smartwatch/tracker, this one will serve you well.
Check also: Best Smartwatches for Texting in 2021
How to Pick The Best Smartwatch for Fitness
Shopping for a smartwatch could be a little hard if you’re not sure exactly what to look for. This is why I’ve made this help section to explain the things that will make a difference when it comes to how you experience your watch.
1. Design and Display
It’s pretty much pointless if you get a smartwatch with all the tracking features in the world only to be unable to read them, that’s why you should opt for a big display with decent resolution.
Better yet, go for a touch LED or AMOLED screen. Typically, a touch screen would be a great addition, but since you’re getting a smartwatch for fitness, you’ll probably use it with sweaty fingers a lot, so it’s better if it’s equipped with buttons that help you navigate it during exercise.
Make sure the band feels comfortable on your wrist and that it wouldn’t slip with vigorous movements.
2. Smart Features
Since you’re opting for a smartwatch with fitness capabilities, it’s important to check out the integrated technology.
Look for smartphone and app notification delivery, the ability to accept and reject calls, or reply to text messages.
It’s always an advantage if your smartwatch allows you to make online payments, has a “find my phone” feature, stores onboard music, or if it comes in an LTE model to enable you to leave your phone behind during runs.
3. Fitness and Health Features
The basic fitness features would include step-counting, calorie-tracking, and recently, heart-rate monitoring.
Some watches are able to detect and log various activities in general, while some put special focus on certain ones like the Charge 3 that packs impressive swim-tracking features or the Forerunner 645 with its run-tracking and features that suit triathlons.
4. Battery Life and Charging
On average, modern smartwatches last between a day and three days on a single charge.
Generally, the more features there are on your smartwatch, whether smart or fitness ones, the less its battery life would be.
Now that I’ve listed the best smartwatches for fitness and activity tracking, you can make your choice more easily.
And though most of them focus on a plethora of activities, I’d recommend the Forerunner 645 for runners or triathlons.
If you’re an avid swimmer, you should opt for the Fitbit Charge 3.
Finally, if you’re on a bit of a tight budget, you should opt for the affordable Vivosport.