Workout Watches: The Best Fitness Watches of 2022

The coolest thing about fitness watches is their variety. Sports watches can assume virtually any shape and function depending on the sport. The best sports watch is in the eye — er, on the wrist — of the beholder. That said, every watch on our list has one thing in common: a heart rate monitor. Any athlete in any scenario can benefit from one.

If you’re a runner, you’ll definitely want a heart rate monitor and something with lightweight construction. If you’re a dirt bike trail rider, you’ll probably want a sturdy watch with GPS that resists grit and grime. If you’re a rock climber (like me), you’ll want something you can read easily and forget about.

Watches used by athletes usually combine outstanding sports features in reliable, compact units capable of taking a beating.

Sort out the pile with our guide to the best fitness watches of 2022.

Best Value: Garmin Forerunner 35 Fitness Watch

 

garmin forerunner 35 running watch

  • Activity tracker with notifications
  • MileIQ senses changes in activity/exercise type

Specifications:

  • Brand: Garmin
  • Model: 010-01689-00
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Battery Life: With GPS 13 hrs/watch mode 9 days
  • Material: Silicone
  • Device Compatibility: iPhone and Android
  • Water Resistance: 5ATM/50 meters

PROS:

  • Recognized brand at entry-level price
  • Helpful proprietary technology

CONS:

  • Short battery life
  • MileIQ may lack complete accuracy

GPS legend Garmin plants the Forerunner 35 at the value end of the fitness watch spectrum at $170 MSRP. It’s a basic fitness watch with a trusted brand pedigree and a well-substantiated reputation. Short battery life is a concern.

The watch checks the essential fitness tracking boxes like step and calorie counters, heart rate monitoring, and GPS tracking. Information automatically uploads to the Garmin Connect app, where you can track your progress and interact with community features. The Forerunner 35 also satisfies the categories of sleep monitoring, message notifications, and a music controller.

That’s where the differentiation starts. The Garmin pings you with its activity tracker when you become sedentary (it would be pinging me right now, which would be welcome). And where many fitness tracker watches use different modes for tracking different activities, the Forerunner 35 uses Garmin’s in-house MoveIQ technology to sense when you’re in one activity or another. The only question is how well the tech works.

Battery life — 13 hours in GPS mode — is a drawback. But with its low/moderate price, complete feature set, and solid brand pedigree, the Garmin Forerunner 35 looks like a good entry point for those who want a basic fitness smartwatch. Read the in-depth review here.

See the Garmin Forerunner 35 on Amazon

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Best All-Around: Garmin Instinct Fitness Watch

 

garmin instinct fitness watch

  • Military-grade durability
  • Full fitness tracker suite
  • Compatible with Garmin Connect App

Specifications:

  • Brand: Garmin
  • Model: 010-02064-00
  • Weight: 1.76 ounces
  • Battery Life: GPS mode 16 hrs/smartwatch mode14 days
  • Material: Polymer/Silicone
  • Device Compatibility: iOS and Android
  • Water Resistance: 10ATM/100 meters

PROS

  • Simple
  • Easy to use
  • Robust

CONS

  • Non-standard charging cable

Our tester was on the hunt for a smartwatch that would allow him to track his fitness activities and stay connected without being intrusive or overly expensive. Garmin’s Instinct watch is a simple unit that looks more akin to the G-Shock style sports watches than a smartwatch — it’s a no-frills option for those that favor simplicity and ease of use over apps and touch screens. It delivers the goods in a durable, intuitive package at MSRP $299.

Setting up an activity on the watch can be as simple as pushing two buttons — super easy to do on the fly. Garmin’s Connect app can push your activity data to many different services, including Strava, and keep track of other stats like sleep quality, steps, and stress level.

Our tester’s only qualm was the unique charging port and cable. The port’s design is proprietary to all Garmin watches and not as easy to replace in a pinch as more generic USB-micro and USB-C hubs. So keep track of that cable, especially when traveling!

The Instinct’s battery life was solid — our tester reported 10 days or so between charges, with connectivity features on and full tracking of several activities each week.

The Instinct works for the fitness-minded individual who wants some added functionality out of a wristwatch but doesn’t want an Apple watch or something more involved and expensive. If you’d like a timepiece with some added capabilities, or you’re looking to reduce your phone usage, check out the Garmin Instinct.

See the Garmin Instinct on Garmin

See the Garmin Instinct on Walmart

 

Most Versatile: Suunto 7 Fitness Watch

 

suunto 7 fitness watch

  • Sport/casual crossover styling
  • Exhaustive features and capabilities
  • Simple interface

Specifications:

  • Brand:SUUNTO
  • Model: SS050378000
  • Weight: 2.47 ounces
  • Battery Life: Training mode 12 hrs/time mode 2 days
  • Material: Stainless Steel/Polyamide/Silicone
  • Device Compatibility: iOS and Android
  • Water Resistance: 5ATM/50 meters

PROS

  • Versatile
  • GPS and heart monitor tested well

CONS

  • Short battery life

The Suunto 7 watch is just as capable as an everyday smartwatch as a GPS tracker. The styling reflects this watch’s crossover appeal. We tested the understated all-black model with a sturdy and comfortable polyamide case and subtly textured silicone strap. The design reflects this stylish sports watch’s ability to fit in on the trail or in the city.

The operation is simple (just four buttons and a bright, responsive touchscreen), but the utilities are seemingly endless. Scrolling through over 70 different sport modes is as intuitive as checking a text or checking your caller ID.

Testers found the Suunto 7’s GPS tracking was spot-on. And the wrist-mounted optical heart rate monitor was accurate and quick, keeping us informed of how hard we were working during any of the myriad sports it tracks. And that’s not all — after a month, our tester had barely scratched the surface of sports features available.

The Suunto 7 is powered by Google’s Wear OS software, which — among other things — allowed us to access Google Pay, reply to messages, accept or reject calls, and control Spotify from the wrist. We’re used to using GPS watches primarily for workouts and hike tracking, but the 7’s smartwatch capabilities quickly elevated it to become an EDC watch.

Our usual gripe with most GPS-capable watches is battery life, and Suunto 7 is no exception. MIxed use gets you around 30 hours before the battery dies. Using just the watch’s ‘time mode’ setting delivered about a month per charge, but most don’t buy a smartwatch just for that.

On the plus side, the 7 took less than 2 hours to get a full charge, so we got back online in no time. MSRP for the Suunto 7 is $400.

See the SUUNTO 7 BARO on Amazon

 

Highest Performance: Suunto 9 Baro Fitness Watch

suunto 9 baro fitness watch

  • 80 sports modes included
  • Extensive fitness tracking
  • GPS uses Suunto technology for increased accuracy

Specifications:

  • Brand: SUUNTO
  • Weight: 0.58 pounds
  • Battery Life: Training Mode 170 hrs w/ GPS/time mode 14 days
  • Material: Titanium/Polyamide Nylon
  • Device Compatibility: iOS and Android
  • Water Resistance: 10ATM/100 meters

PROS

  • High battery life across activities
  • Features are accurate and useful

CONS

  • Compatible Suunto app falls short

The Suunto 9 Baro didn’t leave much to want at MSRP $500. This ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass) fitness watch tracked and guided outdoor endeavors and supported recovery from those efforts with lifestyle-oriented features. And the battery life for endurance-oriented activities was hard to beat.

The Suunto 9 Baro comes preloaded with over 80 sports modes, including climbing and motorsports (which excited our particular tester). Beyond the usual GPS and heart rate tracking (wrist-based or optional chest strap-based), the 9 Baro provided Suunto’s version of workload and recovery tracking, including sleep tracking. Our tester reported these recovery aids very helpful during the testing period, adding that he considered them a step above what other high-end GPS watches offer.

Suunto also uses a proprietary system called “FusedAlt,” which combines the GPS reading with the barometer reading to produce a more accurate altitude reading. During testing, it proved more precise than other ABC watches we’ve used. The Baro 9 also has a storm warning function that proved correct, keeping our tester from getting hammered by spring storms on a few bicycle rides.

The most impressive thing about the Suunto 9 Baro was the battery life. Four different battery modes deliver a claimed 25 to 170 hours of continuous GPS-enabled tracking. The 9 Baro displays a battery life estimate while recording, allowing switching of modes to ensure continuous recording for the outing’s expected duration. Suunto’s estimates were accurate during testing: using the Tour mode delivered a week’s worth of tracking. The 9 Baro also sent out timely ‘charge’ reminders.

The one glaring shortfall of the Suunto 9 Baro sports watch was the associated app; it was rudimentary compared to other fitness or activity-tracking apps. But its otherwise well-rounded feature set makes it one of the top fitness watches available.

See the SUUNTO 9 BARO on REI

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Best Style: Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Fitness Watch

samsung gear s3 frontier fitness watch

  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • Capable fitness tracking
  • Wireless charging

Specifications:

  • Brand: Samsung
  • Model” SM-R760NDAAXAR
  • Weight: 2.24 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 3 days
  • Material: Silicon
  • Device Compatibility: iOS and Android
  • Water Resistance: IP68/1.5 meters for 30 minutes

PROS

  • Suitable for a variety of lifestyles
  • Intuitive interface

CONS

  • Minimal water resistance
  • Low/moderate battery life

The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is equipped for your adventures and sleek enough to suit your life in the big city. The luxury sports watch for men is built with military-grade materials and construction but still works with a jacket or button-down. Samsung’s S Health fitness tracking app adds incentives to your workouts. A wireless charger and Samsung Pay round out the package.

The Gear S3 Frontier is shock-, water-, temperature-, grit-, and drop-resistant. It’s tough, but it’s got a trim case that looks good anywhere. The face and band are highly customizable. In a cool nod to the bridge between digital and analog, the bezel rotates to choose between apps and functions.

Along with standard features like heart rate monitoring and step counting, the S Health app lets you add personal goals to your workout program. You can even participate in and compete in online communities — by posting your progress and checking leaderboards.

Enable the Samsung Pay app and pay for anything you buy with your Gear S3 watch; wave your wrist over the card reader, and you’re good to go. Even though it’s a Samsung, the watch works with Android and iOS. Battery life is always a concern in smartwatches. According to Samsung, the Gear S3 Frontier’s battery lasts “three days on average”; wireless charging makes it quick and easy.

See the SAMSUNG Gear S3 Frontier on Amazon

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Cheapest: YAMAY Smart Watch

yamay smart watch

  • Basic fitness tracking
  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • Music controller

Specifications:

  • Brand: YAMAY
  • Battery Life: Maximum 7-10 days
  • Device Compatibility: iPhone and Android
  • Water Resistance: IP68/1.5 meters for 30 minutes

PROS

  • Bang for your buck
  • Seemingly responsible mystery brand

CONS

  • Unproven performance
  • Minimal water-resistance / HR monitoring

YAMAY makes one of the cheapest fitness watches available for in-town or front-country use. The $50 unit (available for $35 as of this writing) is compatible with Android and iOS, with rudimentary fitness tracker capabilities, message notification, and swimming-suitable IP68 water resistance.

The YAMAY fitness suite includes various sport modes and monitors steps, mileage, calories burned and time elapsed. GPS tracking is available via the VeryFitPro app. The YAMAY’s heart monitor takes a reading every five minutes (which is a little low — if you’re in a short-duration strength sport like me, your heart rate may not elevate for more than a minute and a half during exercise).

The YAMAY offers message notifications through the app, though you can’t call or text with the watch. The watch also features a music controller and curiosity-provoking “deep breath guide.” Overall, the YAMAY looks like quite a bit of a smartwatch for $50. For a mystery brand, YAMAY’s marketing materials and instructions are courteous and coherent, and reviews are generally positive.

See the YAMAY Smart Watch on Walmart

 

Best for Home Workouts: Apple Watch 6

 

apple fitness watch

  • Apple Fitness app
  • 5GHz WiFi with call/text capability
  • Sleep goals and fall detection features

Specifications:

  • Brand: Apple
  • Model: Series 6 GPS
  • Weight: 1.08 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
  • Material: Stainless steel, aluminum, or titanium/various bands
  • Device Compatibility: iOS
  • Water Resistance: 50 meters

PROS

  • Broad, capable fitness features
  • Relatively inexpensive

CONS

  • Short battery life
  • Only compatible with iOS devices

Apple’s new Watch 6 is all about capability. Cast the Apple Fitness app to any screen from the watch to access personal trainers for ten different activities, on-screen health monitoring, and Apple Music. The Watch 6 also includes 5GHz WiFi, blood oxygen monitoring, calling and texting from the device, and sleep-oriented goals feature.

With the Watch 6, you can control Apple Fitness with voice commands for easier navigation, especially while exercising. New workouts are loaded every week, so don’t worry about getting bored with the same old routine. The watch also displays on any Apple-enabled screen, like an iPad or a TV equipped with AppleTV.

With WiFi and full call and text capability, plus GPS location, the Apple Watch 6 is as close as a watch gets to a phone. A blood oxygen monitor adds another layer of analysis to the heart rate monitor, and a cool sleep goals feature (I need it) takes sleep monitoring one step further. The watch includes a fall detection feature, helpful for older (or more accident-prone) active people — if you take a nasty fall with nobody around, the watch dials emergency services for you.

The Watch 6’s short battery life — Apple says up to 18 hours — is a limitation. Also, the watch is compatible with iOS devices only. MSRP starts at a middle-of-the-pack $400.

See the Apple Watch 6 on Walmart

See the Apple Watch 6 on Amazon

 

Best Battery Life: Casio G-Shock Move

casio g-shock move

  • Highly capable proprietary app
  • Shock-absorbing design
  • Solar-assisted charging

Specifications:

  • Brand: Casio
  • Model” GBDH1000-1
  • Weight” 9.14 ounces
  • Battery Life: 12 months timekeeping/66 hrs with HR monitor on
  • Material: Resin/Alloy/Urethane
  • Device Compatibility: iPhone and Android
  • Water Resistance: 200 meters

PROS

  • Easily track progress and goals in-app
  • Durable

CONS

  • App can be temperamental
  • Bulky, not suited for casual wear

Industry classic Casio introduces the G-Shock Move solar sports watch as a tough, utilitarian fitness watch that emanates old-school cool. App-connected but button-operated, the G-Shock Move is a link between the present and past of sports watches.

This G-Shock watch is one of the most water-resistant fitness watches for men, with claimed 200-m water resistance. Its shock-absorbing shape and resin-coated case resist breakage if it’s dropped. Solar-assisted charging gives the watch theoretically endless battery life. Even without solar assistance, it lasts 66 hours  — that’s with the heart rate monitor turned on.

The associated app features a capacity for planning and analyzing workouts. If you set a goal in the app, it can create a workout plan on its own to help you reach your goal. Data measurements — like distance traveled and heart rate — are integral, and the app communicates with Strava, Google Fit, and Apple Health.

A drawback is that it can be difficult to use and sync. You can also view an impressive array of information on the Move’s seemingly rudimentary face. Use buttons and the app to toggle between displays.

At MSRP $400, the Casio G-Shock Move is tough enough to go anywhere you do and loaded with technology to keep you on top of what’s going on with your workouts.

See the Casio G-Shock Move on Amazon

See the Casio G-Shock Move on REI

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Best App Connectivity: Fitbit Versa 2

fitbit versa 2

  • Works with many devices and apps
  • 15 built-in sport modes
  • Uses connected phone’s GPS

Specifications:

  • Brand: Fitbit
  • Model: FB507GYSR
  • Weight: 0.16 ounces
  • Battery Life: 6+ days
  • Material: Polyester/Aluminum
  • Device Compatibility: iPhone 4s and above, Android 7.0 and above
  • Water Resistance: 5ATM/50 meters

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Some rare features

CONS

  • Needs connected devices/apps to be fully capable

The Fitbit Versa 2 is one of the most popular running fitness watches for men available, with nearly 100,000 Amazon reviews. The fitness watch’s originator delivers an easy-to-access display, a complete array of activity tracking — including sleep monitoring — and a music controller at $180 MSRP.

The Versa 2 is well-equipped for swimming or running, with sport-specific trackers and water resistance. It connects to your phone’s GPS so you can monitor your activity in real-time. Select the always-on option if you want to keep track of your stats as you go without touching the watch.

The Versa 2 has a few features that set it well apart from the field. First of all, the sleep tracker comes with an oxygen saturation sensor, which is a cool way to monitor your sleep quality. Menstrual health and guided breathing aids — a rarely-seen option in this product category — are also available.

Fitbit is highly compatible, so you can download and use hundreds of apps right to the watch, including Spotify and Strava. This fitness watch claims 6+ day battery life.

See the Fitbit Versa 2 on Amazon

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Lightest Weight: COROS Pace 2

 

coros pace 2

  • Total weight 29g (nylon band equipped)
  • Fitness tracking through COROS app
  • Choose between sport modes

Specifications:

  • Brand: Coros
  • Weight: 1.02 ounces
  • Battery Life: Full GPS 30 hrs/20 days regular use
  • Material: Polymer/Nylon
  • Device Compatibility: Any w/ Bluetooth
  • Water Resistance: 5ATM/50 meters

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Entry-level price

CONS

  • Only compatible with proprietary app
  • Newcomer brand

The COROS Pace 2 has the important distinction of being the lightest sports watch available. At just over an ounce, it’s as close to weightless as you can get with a GPS watch. It also offers 20 hours of full-GPS battery life and up to 20 days of battery life at light/background use.

The nylon band is a primary component of the Pace 2’s lightweight system. COROS graced the smartwatch with it for lighter weight, added breathability, and comfort. Once you’ve got it on, select from various sport modes and go! The Pace 2 can also help you design workouts while monitoring your heart rate and calories burned. Share your progress with the community in the COROS app.

COROS’ claimed 20 days of the battery includes using the watch for heart rate and sleep monitoring, step counting, backlighting, and alarms. The Pace 2’s most consistent setback is reported difficulty with screen and app navigation. Still, it checks in as one of the best active watches around, considering its $200 MSRP.

See the Coros Pace 2 on REI

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Why You Can Trust Us

Our team of outdoor sports and fitness professionals has too many combined years of experience in the field for me to count. Testing outdoor gear around the clock means keeping track of time — we often find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, facing a strict turnaround time to get back to the keyboard and meet a deadline. Wearing the right fitness watch is the best way for us to stay one step ahead.

Who This Guide is For

Good fitness watches are for athletes and anyone interested in staying punctual and maintaining their fitness and wellness. Whether you’re counting the seconds between avalanches while skiing unexplored couloirs in the Himalaya, or you want to monitor your heart rate during your midday treadmill break, a fitness watch specific to your objectives can benefit you.

How We Picked

Every watch on this list has heart monitoring. We thought every sports watch should have it, so we made it our category standard. From there, we included other features — timers, GPS, app connectivity, etc. — and considered price points across brands. Good sports watches for men combine capable features with solid construction.

How We Tested

Trial and error led the way. We’re constantly fighting the war between meeting deadlines and sending the gnar, so time is of the essence. The best sports watches helped us ride the fine line with key features and settings, plus rugged reliability. With their data analysis functions and recovery/sleep monitoring, some fitness watches helped us formulate the best use of our available training time.

Features to Look for in Sports Watches

Digital vs. Analog

There’s something attractive and old-school about an analog watch. The argument for a digital display is that it’s easier to read, and you can make it show the time in 24-hour format. But if you really need to look at your watch to identify whether it’s sunrise or sunset, you probably have bigger problems on your hands.

Battery Life

Battery life is critical to fitness watches. If you have a rechargeable smartwatch, does it have enough battery life for one day? 36 hours? Two weeks? Better know ahead of time. Alternatively, your watch may have quartz or mechanical movement (in other words: old-school). In these cases, worry less: just keep an extra watch battery handy or make sure to wind your timekeeper properly.

Water Resistance

IP and ATM ratings are common ways to express the waterproof qualities of a watch. To put it simply: if it’s going to rain on your watch, it should be at least IP61 or 3ATM. If you’re going to swim in it, you need IP68 or 10ATM. Easy-to-read charts that are readily available through a quick Google search.

Extra Features

Extra sports watch features include app connectivity, heart rate monitoring, GPS, a compass, step plus calorie counting, a sleep tracker, call and text notifications, chronograph, tachymeter (for measuring speed), and a thermometer — and that’s just a few. Think about what you need for your sport. Otherwise, it can get a little overwhelming.

Lighting

Smartwatches have screens, but traditional style sports watches can have a backlit face or luminescent hands and numerals. They’d better — you never plan on losing sight of the trail on your hike out and getting benighted, you know?

Syncing Data

If you have a smart fitness watch, what data does it sync with, and how does it sync with it? Keep your emails out of there — trust me — but grab some key selections from the music library. Some sync automatically, others by Bluetooth, others with a USB cord.

Replacing Bands

Every sports watch should come with a replacement band (at least in our opinion). If you blow the band without losing the watch, you can resurrect it as long as you have an extra band.

Overall Design

You’re probably not going to play whatever sport you like to play wearing a gaudy oversized watch. That’s my way of backing into saying this: you should evaluate what you need out of your fitness watch in terms of materials, fitness features, device compatibility, etc. Get a cool sports watch, and you’ll wear it all the time — we do.

Display Quality

What does your display need to show you for it to be effective? Do you need to know how many unread emails you have or not? Do you need to know what temperature it is? How does the watch display these items, and is the information you need readily available to you at a glance? (It should be.)

Ease-of-Use

Your sports watch shouldn’t distract you from performing your sport. Maybe that sounds obvious, but it makes a difference. For instance, if I’m at altitude, gunning for a summit during a weather window, I need a straightforward timekeeper — I can’t be bothered to stop and fiddle with my watch in that scenario.

Fitness Watch FAQ

Q: How do you use a fitness watch?

A: We’ll address using smartwatch connectivity and navigating sports watch features like GPS and heart rate monitoring later. The bad news is, I don’t know how your watch works because I only have my watch. The good news is, every watch comes with an instruction manual. Read it closely! Using apps on watches is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it, and button-pushing is a lot more productive if you know what you’re doing.

Q: What are fitness watches?

A: To meet our definition of a ‘fitness watch,’ the unit must have heart rate monitoring capability. Whether it’s displayed on the watch’s screen or its app-connected to display on your phone, every sports watch must give you up-to-date heart rate information.

From there, a fitness watch’s features and function drive its performance in the field: water and shock resistance, GPS, compasses, lap timers, and sleep monitoring are common accoutrements.

Q: How do I choose a fitness watch?

A: What’s your sport? Suppose you need a watch that can reliably survive outdoor adventure sports (think whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, backcountry skiing). In that case, you’ll want high water and shock resistance, good battery life, and probably a GPS.

If you want to measure your heart rate while you jog around your neighborhood, you can get away with a lot less.

Q: What kind of watch should I get for running?

A: I recommend a Fitbit. They’re lightweight, easy to use, and reliable.

Q: Are sports watches accurate?

A: In terms of measuring other (fitness) variables accurately, the answer can be complicated. Step counters are estimates: the device measures your acceleration, then uses an algorithm to calculate steps. Heart rate monitors are similar. Most use green LED (harmless) light to detect the flow of blood through your wrist. Accuracy can vary based on skin tone or exercise intensity. Read here.

While we’re at it, watches should also accurately tell time. In that department, both quartz movement and mechanical movement are highly accurate, with quartz maintaining the edge.

Q: Are fitness watches bad for you?

A: Currently, scientific consensus indicates that fitness trackers are harmless. There’s no definitive evidence that proves a link between mobile devices and cancer. In fact, leading a healthy lifestyle is a great way to prevent chronic disease and cancer — if a device helps you stay active, it’s probably a net positive.

Sources:

  1. No, Your Fitness Tracker Won’t Give You Cancer – University of Utah, Huntsman Cancer Institute
  2. Are Fitness Trackers Safe? – BestSpy
  3. How Accurate Is Your Commercial Fitness Tracker? – The Markup