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Do you need a biotracker? I tried 3 popular health trackers — here's my honest review

I tried the Fitbit, the WHOOP Band, and the Oura Ring — here's what I thought.

hand pointing to black smart watch on wrist, what are wearable biotrackers, Fitbit, WHOOP Band, and Oura Ring
The pros and cons of top biotrackers: comparing the Fitbit, WHOOP 4.0, and Oura Ring (Getty Images).

You may have noticed that our societal definition of a healthy lifestyle is slowly expanding. Fitness no longer stops at a daily workouts and eating lots of vegetables; to be healthy in 2023 is also to drink enough water, manage stress, sleep eight hours, and prioritize mental health. Even the name has changed: we don’t say fitness anymore. We say wellness.

Quick Overview

A renewed interest in our own health undoubtedly stems from having an unprecedented amount of biotracking data at our fingertips. Our watches, wrist bands, and even rings now remind us through daily beeps and vibrations when to de-stress, hydrate and, yes, get off the couch and move. And as long as we do not become addicted to our own wellness tracking, this wealth of new data is a great thing — it allows us to know more about how we should treat our bodies than ever before. There are now dozens of bio-tracking apps in the world that capture your own metrics and help you make sense of them. Here, we compare and contrast three of the most popular wellness wearables, to help you decide which of these technological marvels best suits your needs.

💤 Best for sleep monitoring: Oura Ring

🏋️ Best for high-intensity exercise: WHOOP 4.0

👟 Best versatile health & activity tracker: Fitbit Charge 5

woman with long red hair wearing blue denim shirt and silver Oura Ring Gen3 (photo via Oura Ring)
Oura Ring Gen3 (photo via Oura Ring)

Oura Ring

What is it:

  • The Oura Ring monitors sleep, activity, recovery, temperature trends, heart rate, stress, and more

Why it's great:

  • Sleek, unnoticeable

  • Top-notch sleep metrics

  • Personalized experience

Room for improvement:

  • Oura alone will not track your workouts as accurately as a GPS watch

  • Can be pricey. Be prepared to shell $400, and then to pay $6 per month after the first six months

  • Dearth of real time data while exercising

This understated, barely noticeable wearable looks more like a piece of jewelry than a biotracker — I keep confusing them for the engineering degree’s iron ring. Weighing in at a minuscule four grams, the Oura Ring packs an incredible punch. Its sleep monitoring technology is its most impressive feature: overnight, it captures its wearer’s heart rate, body temperature and movement to accurately measure sleep duration and quality. All of it then appears on the Oura app the next morning, along with information about how long you spent in light, deep and REM sleep. Even better, the more you wear it, the more informed recommendations you receive on how to improve your own sleep pattern.

My historical qualm with wellness trackers is that they sometimes feed me data without instruction. I like Oura because it’s a so what device. Not only will it shell out a wealth of sleep data, but it combines it with my current calorie expenditure and my heart rate to give me a readiness score before exercise. Basically, it tells me when I am physically recovered to work out. I am a stubborn runner, and this setting is a valuable guardrail from my own tendencies to burn out.

I’ve made a habit of wearing Oura throughout the day, even on my runs. I’ve still preferred to stick with a watch and Strava to track my pace and heart rate while exercising, as the ring can sometimes show discrepancies- especially on hot and sweaty days. Also, the ring obviously cannot provide real time data on pace and distance; so it should be seen as a supplement to a watch, and not a replacement. Otherwise, it’s a top notch, low-maintenance tracker that you can wear around the clock without ever disrupting your style.

The Oura Ring retails for $299 USD (approx. $395 CAD). 

$395 at Oura Ring
WHOOP HydroKnit Band (photo via WHOOP)
WHOOP HydroKnit Band (photo via WHOOP)

WHOOP 4.0

What is it:

  • A WHOOP Band monitors your sleep, training, recovery, and health with personalized recommendations and coaching feedback

Why it's great:

  • Accurate fitness-tracking across activities

  • Subscription-based, so no huge price up front

  • Seamless, user-friendly app

Room for improvement:

  • Bulky and undeniably a fitness tracker

  • Becomes sneakily expensive over years

  • Watch-size without the real-time visual feedback

The WHOOP 4.0, in practice, is a lot like the Oura Ring. It tracks sleep data and offers easily interpretable suggestions. It monitors heart rate variability and respiratory rate and uses them to give wearers a stress score. It also uses all of that data to spew out its own recovery percentage.

Still, I’ve marked a few key differences between the two. For one, I prefer the WHOOP for high-intensity exercise. While the band is about six times heavier than the tiny Oura Ring, my heart rate data from the WHOOP appears to be more consistent with what I’ve collected on wearables for years and even from run to run. That being said, WHOOP does not have the Oura’s sleekness or style points. Yes, the band is available in various sizes and customizable colours, but it clearly looks like a fitness tracker that appears somewhat out of place in business or formal settings. WHOOP does sell undershorts with a back pocket where you can embed the tracker without it being seen, but how far are you willing to go to privately wear fitness trackers, anyway?

The Oura and the WHOOP have vastly different pricing structures. While the Oura will immediately put you $500 in the hole, WHOOP’s subscription model allows you to pay $40 per month, or to save money by purchasing a one-year ($319) or two-year ($539) subscription. In the long term, the WHOOP becomes slightly pricier than Oura, especially if you pay per month. Overall, the two items are so comparable that, when choosing between the two, keep it simple and just ask yourself: do I want a band or a ring?

The HydroKnit Band is quick-drying and strength-trainer compatible. 

$59 at WHOOP

Fitbit Charge 5

What is it:

  • The Fitbit Charge 5 is an advanced health and fitness tracker with built-in GPS, sleep and heart rate tracking, stress management tools, and more

Why it's great:

  • Built-in GPS for pace and distance

  • Interactive screen for information on the run

  • Affordable

Room for improvement:

  • Less depth of biodata

  • Hidden fees

Longtime Fitbit users will like the Charge 5 for its combination of the brand's usual features like seven-day battery life, step counter, custom wristbands, and intuitive app; and the new features like an AMOLED user-friendly touchscreen, and workout breakdowns by heart rate zone. The Fitbit curious, meanwhile, should try the Charge 5 if they are looking for a versatile and affordable activity tracker with all the necessary specs.

But keep in mind: the Fitbit is not as sophisticated a tracker as the Oura Ring and WHOOP Band. While the inclusion of a SpO2 sensor that monitors blood oxygen levels during the night is a nice update, the Charge 5 still does not provide the granular sleep and readiness information of its counterparts. It's also worth noting that Fitbit charges users $9.99 per month to unlock and use its readiness score feature.

And yet, I know of no device that can monitor your sleep, recovery and stress – and then accompany you on the run and record your pace, distance and elevation in real time – as well as the Fitbit can. It's a useful cross between a wearable and a GPS watch and, for activity tracking, it’s the best on the list. Bottom line: get the Fitbit if you want to track your workouts while saving money. Get the Oura or Whoop if you’re looking for round-the-clock, hyper-specific biodata.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is available in three colours on Amazon Canada: White, black, and blue.

$200 at Amazon

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