The best fitness gear to upgrade your workout routine – Engadget
Maybe you like to run, or perhaps you’re many years into a regular gym habit. You’ve dabbled with fitness wearables and thought about treating yourself to a massage gun, but never got around to buying one. Perhaps your foam roller is starting to crumble, and that free tee you got with protein powder has seen better days. You might be fitter, but your fitness equipment and tech are due for an upgrade.
The Engadget team has picked some of their favorite exercise tech purchases that have made our fitness journeys less of a struggle. From the best wearable tech to our favorite smart scale, some selections command premium prices, while a few are surprisingly affordable.
As we said in our review, the Oura ring is a wearable for people who hate wearables. It also offers more robust sleep tracking than many watch-like devices. Despite the size and weight remaining unchanged from the second-gen Oura ring, it’s incredible how much technology is crammed into this thing. The third generation has sensors that can track your heart rate continuously; temperature monitoring; blood oxygenation; and period prediction.
The Oura ring is very serious about tracking everything it can. Given the lack of a display, you’ll need your smartphone to check on your recovery scores and how well you slept. These scores are synthesized from biometrics, including your heart rate variability, body temperature, resting heart rate and breathing rate. With a subscription – yes, something you may have to pay beyond the $299 asking price – you’ll get weekly summaries to show how your activity levels and sleeping hours are trending. I like Oura’s ability to tell when you’ve been training a little too hard and that the app suggests taking a day off to recover.
The ring isn’t perfect. The company has let some features drag for months – especially frustrating when some users pay a monthly sub. For example, blood oxygenation (SpO2) level tracking was promised when the third-gen Oura Ring was first announced and has only just arrived on most rings – almost half a year late.
A warning: If you’re planning to track weight lifting workouts with the Oura ring, the black edition is likely to show some conspicuous scratches if you’re gripping metallic bars and plates. I also struggled with pull-ups, as I’m not quite used to wearing a ring while gripping for my life. – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief
The most popular smartwatch series continues to lead on the feature front – if you ignore sleep tracking. The Series 7 has the biggest screen yet of any Apple Watch. It’s over 50 percent bigger than the Series 3 and 20 percent larger than the Series 6 that came before it. With more screen space and bigger buttons, it’s easier to stop and start workouts and check your heart rate and time elapsed during exercise. In addition, since watchOS 5, Apple’s wearables have been able to auto-detect specific workouts, which is great for when you forget to start logging a run or a spin session.
The Series 7 can track your VO2 Max levels, measuring your cardiorespiratory fitness level. What’s cool here is how the wearable notifies you when your levels tangibly change. So if you start a new intensive workout regime, you’ll see these figures creep up. Your iPhone will notify you when you make tangible improvements, say moving from below to above average cardio fitness levels, possibly even to its high fitness level. I’ve been hovering around 50 VO2 Max, but I’ll get to 52 eventually.
The Apple Watch also has its own connected workout platform in the form of Fitness+, offering HIIT, dance, pilates, yoga classes and more, streaming classes to your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. Your heart rate will show on screen during many classes, indicating how you’re faring compared to other Fitness+ members and hopefully inspiring you to push a little harder.
Of course, Apple Watch Series 8 (as well as a new ‘pro’ Ultra model) are both launching very soon. The Watch Ultra, in particular, packs longer battery life and a brighter screen — perfect for outdoor sports. – M.S.
Theragun’s unique triangle design helps its devices stand out from a legion of other massage therapy guns. Multiple ways to grip the Theragun make it easier to target trickier body parts. As one of the more premium massage devices, it offers 16mm amplitude (typically only bested by devices several hundred dollars more) and speeds of up to 2,400 percussions per minute. Some health claims (like improved performance) are backed up by limited studies, but others (including sped-up muscle recovery) are not. I love using mine to target specifically tight areas; it even feels good ahead of a workout.
The Theragun Prime is better than most of the massage gun competition. It’s more flexible, too. Compared to Therabody’s own more basic options, the Prime comes with three extra attachments in addition to the standard ball: a cone, a dampener with a flattened head, and a thumb attachment, which can help dig deeper. The battery is thankfully long-lasting, too. – M.S.
It’s time to throw away that chunky analog scale with the wobbly dial. Instead, for a more aesthetically pleasing design and deeper insight into your body weight and composition, it’s time to go digital. Several smart scale options are available, but I’ve used the sensibly priced Eufy Smart Scale P1. This smart scale connects with your smartphone to sync your data, and you just need to remember to open the app. Otherwise, it won’t track your progress.
It can monitor your weight in imperial or metric measurements and even make a rough guess at your body fat and water percentages. However, it’s worth noting that domestic smart scales are often not hugely accurate at gauging these measurements.
There are even more advanced smart scales too. Still, they are usually over double the price of the Smart Scale P1, often adding unnecessary features like multiple user profiles, Alexa voice activation, athletic modes for pro athletes and more. At some point, it’s diminishing returns, but the ability to digitally track (as well as set up weigh-in reminders) helped me form better habits to monitor my weight. – M.S.
Many true wireless earbuds, let alone conventional headphones, weren’t made for working out. Some have non-removable parts that can get gunked up, while others lack water and dust resistance or have wires liable to tangle up or tug at you during workouts. For many of these reasons, I swear by true wireless earbuds and the Beats Fit Pro deliver on everything I want from workout buds. That includes active noise cancellation (less weight slamming and awful gym music), an understated profile, and a comfortable fit with a convenient fin design to lock it into your ear without making your ears ache.
Thankfully, they don’t stick out your ears like many earbud options. The company recently launched a series of even more subtle skin-colored buds in collaboration with Kim Kardashian. With Apple’s H1 chip, the Beats Fit Pro can offer hands-free Siri functionality and enhanced Find My item tracking. – M.S.
One of the best things I’ve done for my fitness routine as of late is introducing some variety. Since I work out in the morning right after waking up, it’s pretty easy for me to fall into a routine of doing the same thing over and over again. However, I’ve found it much easier to switch things up by relying on an on-demand fitness subscription.
I’ve tried a handful of the many services out there now, but the ones I’ve stuck with are Peloton and Alo Moves. I don’t own a single piece of Peloton hardware; I instead spend $13 each month for app access only, and that’s where I take most of my strength-training classes. I like that they’re constantly putting out new offerings every day, but the backlog of on-demand classes is bursting at the seams, too. The sessions are challenging and engaging, and there are plenty of options if you don’t have any equipment at all.
Alo Moves is more focused on yoga, pilates and barre, and it’s a bit more expensive at $20 per month. I’m more interested in toning than bulking up, so I try to incorporate some of these classes into my strength training routine. I particularly like that Alo Moves has a “series” of sessions that fall under the same umbrella that you can take over the course of many days. When I really don’t want to think about what I’m doing on a given morning for a workout, it’s easy just to turn to the next class in the barre series I was already working on. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor
For a lot of us, space is at a premium. We might have enough space to roll out a yoga mat, but not much more beyond that. Consolidating (and shrinking) your home workout gear is a nice way to keep your exercise habits going without tripping over weights or resistance band. Bowflex is a well-established fitness company that’s made adjustable dumbbells for several years now. The weight range will depend on the model, but the Bowflex SelectTech 552i can be dialed (literally) down to 2kg (4.4 pounds) and up to 24kg (53 pounds) each, making them suitable for all kinds of full-body and dedicated muscle group moves. A dial on each side of the weight adjusts how many plates the bar latches onto, with the remaining weight staying behind in the included storage tray.
There are several adjustable dumbbells out there, but I prefer this classic ‘dumbbell’ look compared to some of the more squarish-looking rivals. One minor issue is that you’ll have to tinker with both sides to adjust the weight. Also, if you’re looking for an on-demand workout service, Bowflex includes a free one-year subscription to its JRNY streaming service. – M.S.
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