An activity tracker uses sensors to gather information about the steps you take and the calories you burn. It can be synched to your phone or computer when you're ready to crunch the numbers. But are activity trackers accurate? In Consumer Reports' labs, a panel of volunteers wore them on wrists, arms, and clothing to find out.
First the panelists walked on a treadmill, used an elliptical exerciser, climbed the stairs, and picked up toys and dropped them in a box across the room. Testers kept track of every step and compared their step-count against the trackers'. All of the devices did well at counting steps.
Next a metabolic analyzer was used to measure the calories each panelist burned. Some of the activity trackers proved better than others at counting calories. And some give feedback during your workout. Most of the panelists said they really like that feature.
One tracker that gives instant encouragement is the Fitbit One. It earned top ratings and costs $100. Another bonus: The Fitbit One lets you track the calories you eat and how well you sleep. But Consumer Reports has one caution: Not all of those fitness gadgets sync with every type of smart phone or computer, so check before you buy.