A waterproof fitness tracker is a device that allows the wearer to monitor essential health metrics while in the pool. It can also be used in the home, at the health club, or while walking in the park.
It provides something no ordinary tracker does in that it allows you to count your steps on the way to the pool and then count your laps in the pool. That’s a particularly attractive prospect for older folks who benefit greatly from both walking and swimming.
We put dozens of different waterproof fitness trackers under the microscope and determined that the following represent the best waterproof fitness trackers of 2020.
1. Fitbit Charge 3
Fitbit represents the gold standard of fitness trackers in many respects. And their Charge 3 is proof of that. The Charge 3 takes all of the laudable features of the earlier Charge 2 and adds ironclad waterproofing down to 50 meters. It is a handsome, capable device that’s as tough as it is practical.
What we like: We like that they’ve increased the size of the screen from the Charge 2. We like that it tracks so many kinds of activity, including sleep. And that it is fully waterproof down to 50 meters. Also, Bluetooth syncing with your smartphone is effortless.
Flaws: If you want location tracking, you have to sync it with your smartphone and use the phone’s GPS.
2. Garmin Forerunner 735XT
The Forerunner 735XT is light, tough, and effective. The display is clear and clean, and the band is comfortable even when you’re in the pool or sweating up a storm. Garmin offers a variety of training plans you can sync to that will provide real-time ‘coaching’.
What we like: We appreciate the watch-like styling. We also appreciate the onboard GPS tracking and that you can engage the GPS for 14 hours before it drains the battery. The number of performance metrics it’s capable of tracking is also truly impressive.
Flaws: It sometimes gets confused as to what type of stroke you’re using in the pool. And we could live fine without the white background on the screen.
3. Letscom Fitness Tracker HR
Letscom promises this fitness tracker will track everything but the kitchen sink. (Although we wouldn’t doubt if that’s coming too.) About the only thing it’s not designed to track is laps in the pool. But you can download an app for that and sync it up. Some guys might find the look a bit delicate. Others aren’t likely to have any issues with it.
What we like: Letscom feels like a logical extension of your smartphone. For instance, if you’re in the pool it will alert you to incoming calls. We like that. We also like the robust battery life and the ability to track 14 exercise modes.
Flaws: The app can sometimes behave in mysterious ways. In addition, although it will monitor heart rate and other health metrics in the water, it won’t track laps, strokes, and the like.
4. Garmin Vivoactive 3
The Vivoactive 3 blurs the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker. You could wear it to the office, keep it on when you hit the CrossFit box, and leave it on when you dive into the pool. Or just wear it in the pool. It’s light and handsome and available in several colors.
What we like: We appreciate the rock-solid build quality and that it is truly waterproof and not just water-resistant. We also appreciate that you can download a Garmin app that will let you track laps, strokes, and other important metrics.
Flaws: For the price we would have preferred if those pool metrics came as a preset. But you can’t have everything.
5. Fitbit Versa 2
The Versa 2 has received almost universal acclaim for its durability, accuracy, and its compatibility with Alexa. It tracks a wide array of health and performance metrics and displays everything clearly in real-time. The battery isn’t the longest-lasting you’ll find. But that’s as much a function of its workload as anything else.
What we like: We like that it provides easy voice control. We like that it will count your laps without having to download a supporting app. It will also notify you of incoming calls and texts and store more than 300 songs.
Flaws: They may hit you with the premium services hard sell. Also, Versa 2 and the iPhone aren’t on speaking terms.
6. Moov HR Sweat
Not everyone is comfortable with wearing a fitness tracker on their arm. For those that want an alternative, there’s the Moov HR Sweat. It looks like your standard sweatband, but while you’re playing tennis or swimming, it’s keeping track of your vitals. Including pool laps. And doing so in a discrete, comfortable fashion.
What we like: We like having an alternative to the standard wristband. We appreciate that it provides feedback on both swimming performance and your activities on dry land. And we really like that it’s a genuinely useful sweat band.
Flaws: The tracking and display software is not the most sophisticated you’ll find in this type of device. Also, if you’re not into the young Andre Agassi look, you’re out of luck.
7. MorePro Waterproof Fitness Tracker
The MorePro Waterproof Fitness Tracker doesn’t break any new design ground. But f you don’t have $200+ to spend on a fitness tracker (and are not obsessive about tracking what every cell in your body is up to), this is a viable entry-level waterproof tracker.
What we like: We appreciate what a thorough job it does keeping tabs on your heart and that it’s sleek and unobtrusive. The band is also fairly comfortable and doesn’t irritate when it gets wet. The waterproofing is also first-rate.
Flaws: The fact that there’s no native GPS is not great. Also, the battery life is fairly pedestrian. And you need to download a lap tracking app to your phone and sync up.
8. Polar H7 Bluetooth Fitness Tracker
The H7 provides highly accurate information about the state of your heart. In order to read the data it’s collecting, however, you’ll need to sync it with your smartphone. Fortunately, Polar offers broad platform compatibility. This tracker is truly waterproof, but don’t look for it to count laps or strokes.
What we like: There is no arguing with the accuracy of the device when working on dry land. Also, we appreciate that it’s compatible with both iPhone and Android. And that there are some smartphone tracker apps you can sync it to.
Flaws: While it provides very accurate heart rate data on dry land, that accuracy falls off in the water. Also, if you’re looking for a display screen, you’re out of luck.
9. Samsung Gear Fit 2
You will find just as many people who swear this is a smartwatch as you will those who swear it is a waterproof fitness tracker. And in truth, that is where the market is headed: convergence. It is a very handsome, well-made device that you’re likely to wear whether you intend to work out or not.
What we like: We love the way this thing looks. Maybe the most attractive fitness tracker on the market. We appreciate that it’s compatible with both Android and iOS. And we can’t get enough of that integrated GPS. It’s also fully waterproof and tracks a dizzying number of activities.
Flaws: The Fit 2 has an issue with holding a charge. But it’s not consistent. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. They’re still working out some bugs in the software apparently.
10. Huawei Band 2 Pro All-in-One Activity Tracker
While not as attractive as the Samsung Gear Fit 2, the Huawei Band 2 Pro is a solid entry into the waterproof fitness tracker market. It’s sleek and light, fully waterproof, and tracks heart rate, sleep, laps, steps, and myriad other metrics.
What we like: We like the impressive battery life (when GPS is not engaged). We like that it works with your Android or iOS phone. The fact that it syncs with a wide range of fitness apps is also a plus as is the attractive price point.
Flaws: GPS tracking really devours the battery. So if you’re going on a long bike ride and want to track it, the battery might die before you finish your ride.
Why Should I Get a Waterproof Fitness Tracker?
There are many reasons why people, especially seniors, should consider getting a waterproof fitness tracker. First and foremost because swimming is one of the best ways for older folks to stay in shape (1). It’s the ultimate low-impact, high-value form of exercise. A waterproof fitness tracker can help you monitor yourself while you’re swimming. That way, you can make any necessary adjustments to refine your technique and enjoy even greater benefits.
But the benefits of the waterproof fitness tracker don’t stop at the poolside, as we’ll see in greater detail in a moment. They also help you monitor weight loss efforts, retain a bit of autonomy over your personal affairs, and provide motivation when it may otherwise be hard to come by.
How We Ranked
Fitness trackers are a fast-evolving technology. That can make it challenging to determine which devices are ‘best’ at any given time. The only way to do so is to distill the purpose of these devices to their essence. Then try and determine if a given tracker lives up to that purpose.
So what is the purpose of the waterproof fitness tracker? It is to enable the wearer to keep track of their physical performance in the pool, pond, health club, or house. By doing so, they should be able to determine which aspects of their performance are paying dividends and which are not. Ideally, they will then tweak their workout so that it’s more beneficial to their overall health.
The waterproof fitness trackers on our list all meet this standard. They all do a reasonably good job providing data that you can use to improve the efficiency of your workout. With an emphasis on water-based workouts.
Waterproof fitness trackers are, well, waterproof. Not every fitness tracker is waterproof. And not everyone needs a waterproof fitness tracker. Sometimes water-resistant is enough. That will protect your device from sweat and from getting splashed or from a light to moderate rain. But if the pool factors into your health and wellness routine – and for older folks it should (2) – then you’re probably going to want a truly waterproof fitness tracker. One you can wear on your walk to the pool to count your steps and which you can also wear in the pool to count your laps or strokes. But why stop there? You may also want to wear it in the shower after your swim to monitor your heart rate as you cool down.
Waterproof fitness trackers provide self-motivation. Let’s face it. Motivation is a tricky thing (3). That’s often apparent when it comes to working out in groups. Sometimes you welcome others trying to push you on to ever-greater heights. And other times, you’d rather just be left alone to work at your own pace. But if you sometimes struggle to motivate yourself, working out alone can yield disappointing results. That’s where the waterproof fitness tracker comes in. You receive that external motivation, except it’s not in the form of someone standing next to the pool yelling at you to go faster. Instead, it’s a quiet, impartial observer reporting what it sees in a non-judgemental, low-key fashion. You can then take that data and use it as motivation to do better.
Waterproof fitness trackers allow you to share as much or little as you want. Motivation is the key to success. And fitness trackers can supply that motivation in a discreet fashion. But sometimes, when you achieve your goal, you want to share that news with friends and family. Waterproof fitness trackers allow you to do that. You can sync your tracker to your smartphone and post your results to social media. Or you can join groups of like-minded individuals in your area who share and compare results and sometimes meet up for group sessions. The point is you have the power to decide what to share and with whom.
Waterproof fitness trackers are like having your own personal trainer. A lot of older folks want to get and stay in shape but don’t have a lot of experience with working out. Sure, they could always join a health club or hire a personal trainer. But waterproof fitness trackers offer you a third option. Most of the best have a number of preset workouts queued up and ready to go. You input your starting point, and your ultimate goal, and the app presents you with a roadmap to get there. It’s like having a personal trainer at your side, guiding you incrementally through the process. If your waterproof fitness tracker doesn’t have the routine you’re looking for already pre-loaded, fear not. The best trackers allow you to access and download scores of different workouts to your device.
Waterproof fitness trackers encourage you to get your money’s worth. Waterproof fitness trackers aren’t going to set you back as much as a high-end smartphone. But the better ones aren’t exactly cheap either. That can actually be a good thing and may very well lead to you using it more often. Why’s that? Because there is this quirk in human nature where people tend not to value things unless they paid real money for them (4). How many times have you heard someone say, “I paid for it, I’m going to use it!” or some equivalent statement? So having a fitness tracker on your arm that you paid good money for may spur you to action in a way a free online training video won’t.
Waterproof fitness trackers come in a variety of styles. Gone are the days when all fitness trackers looked alike. Today the line between fitness tracker design and smartwatch design has blurred almost beyond recognition. That is good news for those who value choice. Waterproof fitness trackers are now available in virtually any color, size, and shape. Some are square or rectangular. Others are tube-like or flat. And there is no end to the ways they display relevant information. While some are still aggressively bulky and scream ‘fitness tracker’, others are sleek and stylish and can be worn to your favorite fancy restaurant without giving away their true nature.
Waterproof fitness trackers provide easy access to your data. Once you’ve chosen the right waterproof fitness tracker for your needs, all the data it generates will be readily accessible. You’ll be able to monitor your vital metrics in real-time. You’ll also be able to retrieve the information later to review and make changes to your workout based on that data. Most will sync to your smartphone where the data can be viewed in a large, easy to read format. Or you can choose to keep everything in-house and simply view the data on the tracker’s screen. Whichever route you choose, the data is only a click away.
Waterproof fitness trackers are a great way to keep track of weight loss. One of the primary goals of most exercise is to either lose weight or make sure lost weight stays off. And while a waterproof fitness tracker can’t display your weight, it can help you meet your exercise goals so that you stay on target with your weight loss program. Swimming is actually a good way to lose weight and keep it off (5). And a waterproof fitness tracker can help make sure you stay on course in the pool.
Waterproof fitness trackers even let you monitor your health while you sleep. The value of sleep monitoring is a hotly debated issue (6). And the jury is still out on whether it’s a trend with legs or just a passing fad. Still, a waterproof fitness tracker that also monitors the quality of your sleep may be able to provide some information you can use to get a better night’s sleep. And that can’t be a bad thing.
Q: Is there a difference between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch?
A: Smartwatches can be used to read texts, read emails, and in some cases, place and receive phone calls. Some offer apps that can monitor various vital signs like body temperature and heart rate. But these options are secondary to communication. Fitness trackers, on the other hand, exist to monitor first and communicate second. They collect data and present it to you in what is hopefully a clear, easy to understand manner. Many have GPS capability as well so that you can monitor your route as you walk, run, or cycle. They’re not there to send and receive texts. However, many can be synced to your smartphone so you can share the data through that device. Should you want to.
Q: Are waterproof fitness trackers really waterproof?
A: In most cases, the question isn’t whether they are waterproof. If the fitness tracker says in its marketing that it is waterproof, then it’s waterproof. The question is, how long will it remain waterproof? Some low-end waterproof fitness trackers begin to lose their ability to hold water at bay pretty quickly. Maybe in just a few weeks of regular use. The better ones, however, should retain their waterproof capability for a year or 2. Sometimes more.
Q: Are water-resistant fitness trackers the same as waterproof fitness trackers?
A: No. And if you need a waterproof tracker, it’s important that you not pick up a water-resistant tracker by mistake. Water-resistant simply means that the device will repel small amounts of water without sustaining damage. So if you get caught in moderate rain for a few minutes, and the watch gets wet, it will probably be alright. However, if you mistakenly jump into the pool with your water-resistant tracker on, you’ll be very lucky if it’s working when you emerge.
Q: How do I know the tracker is really waterproof?
A: Waterproofing is typically expressed by an ‘IP’ rating (7). This is a set of standards devised by related industries to indicate the degree of protection a device provides against ‘ingress’ by water and dust. A truly waterproof fitness tracker will provide IP67 or IP68 protection. That means you can wear it while you swim, as long as you’re not scuba diving.
Q: Are fitness trackers compatible with all smartphones?
A: Not typically. Most are compatible either with Android phones or iPhones. But some will work with both. Therefore, if you intend to sync your fitness tracker to your phone, make certain you purchase one that is compatible with your type of handset. Keep in mind too that if you plan to sync to your smartphone, it will need to have a fairly up-to-date version of Bluetooth (8). Since most trackers today aren’t compatible with less than Bluetooth 4.0.
Q: How do I know if I have a fitness tracker or a smartwatch?
A: Fitness trackers, even waterproof ones, and smartwatches are getting harder and harder to tell apart these days. And while they do share quite a bit of functionality, there are still some fundamental differences between the two, starting with their purpose. Simply put, the purpose of a smartwatch is to facilitate communication. By contrast, the purpose of a waterproof fitness tracker is to collect and present data.
Q: How much does a waterproof fitness tracker cost?
A: Most of the waterproof fitness trackers on the market today that are worth anything cost between about $30 and $200. Essentially, the smaller the name and the fewer the features, the lower the price. So a simple tracker designed only to measure a couple of base metrics like heart rate, and steps will be at the low end of the price spectrum. While a big name tracker that will measure everything from body temperature to the length of your strokes in the pool is going to come in at the high end of that range.
Q: What metrics does a waterproof tracker measure in the pool?
A: The better ones will track the number of laps you swim. Some will allow you to enter the length of the pool while others will be preset to assume a length of 25 or 50 meters. In the case of presets things can get a bit dicey. There are also some that will track your speed. And a few will identify the various types of strokes you’re using (backstroke, sidestroke, butterfly, etc.). Stroke count is another metric offered by some trackers and is roughly akin to step count. Keep in mind that keeping track of exactly what’s going on in the pool while you swim is a complex task (9). Few are the waterproof fitness trackers that are going to provide 100% accuracy. What they’ll typically give you is a close approximation of what you’ve done.
Q: How accurate are waterproof fitness trackers?
A: The ability to track an activity is one thing. The ability to track it accurately is something else entirely. The fact is that most of the best activity trackers – waterproof or not – are accurate enough to provide you with a reasonable approximation of what you’ve done. Reasonable enough that you can draw some conclusions and decide if you need to change anything or should stay the course.
Q: Can a waterproof fitness tracker monitor heart rate while I swim?
A: Some can and some struggle. But even the ones that struggle in the water will typically do a good job tracking your heart rate on dry land. Why is that? Because of the nature of the environment and the nature of the device. Wrist-based fitness trackers typically use a light on their underside that can detect your pulse. Once in the pool or the pond, though, the water interferes with this ability. It may cause the tracker to slide around on the wrist. Or water that comes between the skin of the wrist and the tracker may mess up its ability to detect the pulse in a reliable fashion.
Q: Are heart rate counters on waterproof fitness trackers accurate?
A: Heart rate counters on fitness trackers are usually quite accurate (10). At least when you’re not moving. Once you begin to engage in vigorous exercise, heart rate counters tend to wander off the range a bit. Those that measure how many calories you burn use an algorithm that considers your height, weight, sex, and age and then factors in data regarding your activity to estimate how many calories someone in your position should burn.
Q: Do waterproof fitness trackers require a lot of maintenance?
A: Entropy (11) ensures that everything ever made either by nature or by man requires some type of maintenance. That, of course, includes fitness trackers, waterproof or not. Fortunately, taking care of your waterproof fitness tracker is a pretty straightforward and simple enterprise. If you use your waterproof fitness tracker in the ocean or the pool, you should rinse it off with clean water afterward and dry it. Salt from saltwater in particular can have a corrosive effect on the device and likely shorten its life if you don’t wash it off in a timely fashion.
Q: Can I leave a waterproof fitness tracker lying in the sun?
A: It’s not a good idea to leave the tracker sitting in direct sunlight. The intense heat may damage the battery or undermine the integrity of some of the materials used to make the device. Finally, even if you just wear your waterproof fitness tracker when you go out for a walk you should still clean it off afterward to remove any salt left behind by sweat (12).
Q: Do waterproof fitness trackers come with a warranty?
A: The better ones certainly do. And you really shouldn’t consider purchasing any piece of high tech hardware that doesn’t. As for the length and extent of the warranty, that will depend on the manufacturer, the model, and whether you buy from an authorized reseller or some guy online. Before you purchase a waterproof fitness tracker, you should compare the warranties of several different ones. Because this technology is complex and still relatively new, we would suggest prioritizing the warranty over a few more bells and whistles. It’s likely to save you some headaches in the long run.
Q: How long do waterproof fitness trackers last?
A: The lifespan of a waterproof fitness tracker will depend on the quality of the device you purchase and how you use it. If you purchase one of the high-quality items on our list and use it as intended, you can reasonably expect it to last a couple of years. If, on the other hand, you purchase a lower quality item that’s water-resistant instead of waterproof (13) and you wear it in the pool or while playing rugby, you’ll be looking for a new one in a few weeks. Maybe less. So the key to longevity is to understand the limitations of the device and operate within them.
The waterproof fitness tracker is a valuable asset for people of all ages who appreciate the many health-related benefits of swimming. But they’re not one-trick ponies. They’ll also allow you to keep track of vital health metrics while you work out with your resistance bands at home or ride your bike through the park.
Today’s waterproof fitness trackers are more accurate and stylish than ever and can be synced with a vast number of health and wellness apps via your smartphone. In this regard, they are a kind of fitness nexus that can help you enjoy a better life.
The waterproof fitness trackers on our list have all passed muster with our product review experts who found them capable, comfortable, and durable. As such, there is sure to be one that will dovetail with your fitness needs.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended waterproof fitness tracker, click here.