What is a wearable? An intro to the tech that’s changing health & fitness

Wearables are changing our approach to fitness, but just what are they?

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
 min read
March 30, 2023

Fitness wearables aren’t just all the rage right now – they’ve become a key part of any fitness regimen. Whether it’s to get you in shape, reduce the time spent on your phone, or simply to have a quick place to log your steps, a fitness tracker, or wearable, is a great way to find your base level and build from it.

So, if you’ve been at the gym and seen a weightlifter checking their watch between sets, or a runner checking a device and wondered what’s happening, you’re in luck – this guide will help define a wearable, what they can do, and the different types.

What is a wearable?

While many companies will talk about wearables that include wireless earbuds and any other tech that’s found attached to your person, we’re focusing on fitness trackers here.

A fitness tracker/wearable is a piece of technology that’s packed full of sensors to follow your body’s natural rhythms, collating that data in a way for you to read and interpret – usually in a companion app on your phone.

Image credit: Fitbit

What does a wearable do?

At a basic level, most wrist-based fitness trackers will monitor your activity across steps, heart rate, and more. The Fitbit Sense, and other trackers, can monitor stress levels through your skin, too, while many fitness trackers can now assess your sleep for duration and quality.

While many are focused solely on fitness, some move into broader usage with devices like the Apple Watch a great example – while it can track your fitness and well-being data, it can also answer calls, reply to messages, or access its own suite of apps, blurring the line between a fitness tracker and a device that’s closer to a phone.

Image credit: Apple

Types of wearable

While it’d be fair to say the majority of wearables you’ll see out and about are wrist-based, that’s not the only place you can wear one.

Watch-like fitness trackers like the Apple Watch, Fitbit models, and many more are naturally very popular because they’re easy to read at a glance and feel just like wearing a classic watch.

They’re not the only type of fitness tracker, though, so you may prefer one of these instead:

  • Smart Ring: A much smaller device that goes on a finger that’s much easier to carry, devices like the Oura Ring can track heart rate, sleep, and activity all from a ring.
Image credit: Oura
  • Ankle tracker: Attached to your legs, these can track walking and running more accurately, but aren’t as easy to read without taking them off.
  • Chest strap: Ideal for tracking heart rate and respiration because of their proximity to your vital organs, the chest strap is a great choice if you don’t need to constantly check the data it provides mid-run.
  • Necklace: Nowhere shows the advancements in fitness wearable technology like a necklace-based option. While they’re mainly focused on step and sleep tracking, the fact those sensors can be packed into a small pendant is impressive.
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