My four favorite fitness gadgets for the summer

For many of us in the northern hemisphere spring – and soon summer – is upon us. That means it's time to do some house cleaning, but also dust off the mountain bike, get some new runners and think about that thing none of us like to think about: exercise.

Trying to get in shape is often perceived as a chore in and of itself, but that's the wrong way to think about it. If you're like me and into technology the best way to give yourself some motivation is to geek-it-out with the latest gear.

Here are the top four tech-related exercise items that I recommend if you want to get motivated!

1. Fitbit Versa — Step to it

I think the Fitbit Versa is the best all-around wearable for early 2018, at least for my needs. I've owned just about every Fitbit, starting with the Fitbit One from 2012 up through the Surge, Blaze, Charge HR, and the 2017 Fitbit Ionic.

The Versa is priced reasonably at $199 and works with Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Xbox One, Android, and iOS. Featuring a 24/7 heart rate tracking, the best sleep tracking in the business, hundreds of custom watch faces (thanks to the ex-Pebble community), and a sleek design the Versa is easily the best choice for those who want a fitness-first, smartwatch-second experience.

Review: Fitbit Versa the best wearable right now

Compared to the Ionic the Versa is lighter, smaller, and has more pixels (300 x 300 versus 348 x 250). I'm also okay with connected GPS as I don't run outside and I only bike with my phone. While the battery life is not as good as the Ionic, the sleek design and comfort make up for it.

Fitbit paired to my Surface Book 2.

Fitbit paired to my Surface Book 2.

While some Wear OS (ex-Android Wear) devices and the Apple Watch are perhaps better smartwatches neither have the exercise chops and fun community like Fitbit. Did I also mention the Versa is 1/3 the weight of the Apple Watch? It makes a huge difference.

If you can, splurge for the Versa Special Edition. The extra $30 gets you an excellent woven band (in addition to the default rubber one) and NFC for tap-to-pay in the United States.

Plus, you can now get your very own Windows Central clock face for the Versa or Ionic!

2. Nokia Body+ — Body Composition Wi-Fi Scale

If you're trying to lose weight what you likely really mean is, you want to lose fat. That's not semantics. People often confuse the number on the scale with general health and leanness. But it's more important to focus on losing fat, which is not always the same as dropping pounds (or kilograms).

How to measure your fat level (versus muscle mass) while also nailing your Body Mass Index (BMI)? You get a smart scale.

While I've been using the Fitbit Aria scale for years (read my review), but I recently switched to the Nokia Body+ – a rebranding of Withings Body.

Featuring Wi-Fi and Bluetooth the Body+ measures all sorts of things including:

  • Weight.
  • Fat mass.
  • Bone mass.
  • Muscle mass.
  • BMI.
  • Body water.

Oh, and it tells you the weather for the day.

Compared to the Fitbit Aria (version one, not the new model) the Nokia Body+ reports more accurate body fat percentage, has many more features, and it was super simple to set up.

With the Nokia Body+ the information gets synced to my Fitbit and MyFitnessPal accounts where it can all work together. While there is no Windows 10 support, the Body+ does have apps for Android and iOS to manage things.

Smart digital scales are not the end all, be all for figuring out your fat percentage and BMI. But we all don't have access to a proper DEXA scan, and this is more about consistency and habit forming.

If you want to get in shape and slim down, get yourself a smart scale first. It makes all the difference.

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3. MyFitnessPal — Keep those calories in check

Okay, it's an app, not a gadget. Just go with it, because no matter how much of a pain counting calories may seem, it's crucial if you're trying to slim down. I guarantee you are under-estimating how many calories you consume a day (and that assumes you are bothering even to consider calories).

MyFitnessPal has been around for ages and while they have discontinued Windows Phone support the company, now owned by Under Armour, is still going strong. Granted, the company did just have a pretty serious breach, which is unfortuante (and a good reminder why a strong password is necessary).

What makes MyFitnessPal so unique is the ease in which it makes calorie counting. The app for Android and iOS lets you barcode scan food items letting you then pick portion sizes and more. This tool makes recording what you are consuming for all your meals very easy especially with the quick-access widget in Android.

I also like MyFitnessPal because it works with almost everything. If you link it to your Fitbit account, your exercise and step goals get auto-imported into MyFitnessPal affecting your daily calorie goal. So, while you may set 1,600 calories as your daily limit running for an hour and burning 500 calories then bumps your target to 2,100. From my experience, this incentivizes exercise. Want that cookie tonight? Hit the elliptical for 20 minutes, and you're good to go!

Like Fitbit MyFitnessPal also has a large community. That means you can add your friends to your account to help motivate each other.

4. Bose SoundSport Free — Hands-free music

No one likes being bored while exercising which is why listening to music (or a podcast) is so important.

I recently went on the hunt for new Bluetooth headphones to use with my Fitbit Versa (the Versa can store up to 300 songs on it and links to Pandora and Deezer).

For various reasons, it came down to the Jaybird X3 and Bose SoundSport Free.

After using both, I ended up going with the Bose. I spend up to two hours a day at the gym, so comfort was my main priority. I prefer my headphones to not go into my ear canal, which can result in ear fatigue and the Bose fit nicely. I can wear these for hours and hours and forget they are there.

Battery life is also excellent, pushing five hours on a single charge. The carry case is also its charger so dropping the SoundSport Free into them gets you another ten hours. I find this whole method infinitely easier than having to take my headphones out of my bag every other night and plug them into a wall charger.

While I liked the Jaybird X3 app for Android and its abundant equalizer presets, the Bose just sounded better to me. I can pair the Bose to my Android phone, while at the gym I use them exclusively with the Fitbit Versa. The result is a hands-free, ultra-light, wire-free experience that is super comfortable whether running, using the elliptical or lifting weights.

Don't get me wrong the Bose are expensive as hell at $199. But if you want something that motivates you, you get the best so that you can enjoy it. Don't cut corners here as you'll end up using it as an excuse later to stop hitting the gym!

Use tech to motivate

There are so many cool bits of technology right now for fitness that you owe it to yourself to get started today.

Whether you prefer Garmin to Fitbit or Jaybird to Bose, it doesn't matter. What does matter is finding something – anything – that works for you and lets you hit your goals.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.