Best Fitness Smartwatches 2023: The 7 Fitness Watches That Can Help Optimize Your Workout

Best Fitness Smartwatches 2023: The 7 Fitness Watches That Can Help Optimize Your Workout

WE KNOW it’s not easy to track all today’s modern health metrics. From your resting heart rate to heart rate variability to the amount of steps you take in any given day, there are a host of stats to track—and it’s easy to lose track. But there’s a solution all that chaos, too, and it’s the modern fitness watch.

Not sure what fitness watch is truly right for you? We can help. The writers and editors of Men’s Health have been wearing and documenting fitness watches as far back as 2015, when reviewed the very first Apple Watch. We started comparing fitness trackers and fitness watches as early as 2017. We regularly keep up with the space, too, monitoring the best devices from Apple, Google, Garmin, and a growing collection of upstarts and newcomers.

  • Forerunner 255

    Best Fitness Watch Overall

    Garmin Forerunner 255

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  • W1

    Most Accurate

    Masimo W1

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  • Pixel Watch

    Best for Recovery Tracking

    Google Pixel Watch

    Read more

  • Pace 2

    Best Deal

    Coros Pace 2

    Read more

  • Watch Ultra

    Best for iPhone Users

    Apple Watch Ultra

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Men’s Health has tested well over 40 of the latest and greatest fitness watch releases over the past eight years, covering products from brands like Garmin, Suunto, Apple, and more. We’ve seen all top-selling smartwatch models grow through each generation, which gives us an encyclopedia of knowledge in being able to cross-compare older watch models to their new versions to see if an upgrade is actually worth an upgrade. Right now in 2023, we currently list seven fitness watches that are worth your hard-earned cash, but if you want to know our number one pick before we start, that would be the Garmin Forerunner 255. It’s a watch that promises versatility in training, durability in design, and an easy-to-use interface—all at a respectable mid-level price point.

On the most basic level, the best fitness watches can offer GPS connectivity to help you stay on your training course and offer pinpointed location data and basic activity tracking. Depending on what your fitness goals are (like losing weight or cutting time off your mile PR), the addition of a fitness watch can help you identify where your training is lacking, helping you optimize your runs, your recovery time, and your training workload on any given day.

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But which watch is best for your particular goals and lifestyle? Start by studying this list, which we update constantly. There’s something for everyone here, whether you want a full-blown smart device or just a fitness-oriented timepiece to record your laps and splits.


Best Overall Fitness Watch: Garmin Forerunner 255

Best Fitness Watch Overall

Garmin Forerunner 255

Forerunner 255

Best Fitness Watch Overall

Garmin Forerunner 255

Pros
  • Excellent for all types of activity tracking
  • Ideal for triathalon and marathon training
  • Runs smooth on Android and iPhone
  • Stylish enough for everyday wear
  • Elevate V4 sensor that tracks Pulse Ox
  • Can store up to 500 songs offline
  • Long lifespan
Cons
  • Watch is not touchscreen
Accuracy 8.0 out of 10
Battery Life 8.0 out of 10
Features 8.0 out of 10
Design 8.0 out of 10

You won’t find a better nexus if feature set and pricing than the Garmin Forerunner 255. You can use it no matter what kind of smartphone you have, and you can use it for fitness and for everyday wear—the Forerunner 255 has a rugged build, but it’s slim and stylish enough to wear with casual outfits.

We loved using our Forerunner for running, cycling, kayaking, and hiking. It delivers serious battery life (up to 30 hours in GPS mode) and 50-meter water resistance make it ideal for triathlon training and marathon training. It’s a huge upgrade over the last-gen Forerunner, delivering two weeks of battery life in non-GPS mode (the Forerunner 245 could last seven days). The Forerunner 255 also delivers solidly accurate metrics for heart rate and heart rate variability.

The durability of the Forerunner 255, and of the Forerunner series in general, is another reason we love it. You can get away with using this watch for at least a few years, which in turn factors out an even lower cost-per-wear to share with it’s medium-range price point. The watch’s lone downside is it lacks a touchscreen, so you’ll interact with the watch strictly by pressing the five buttons on the sides of the device.

If you pick up the Forerunner 255, opt for the Music Edition. This allows you to upload over 500 songs for offline usage, no phone required. No more having to run with your phone in your hand.

Sizes: 41mm, 46mm | Battery life: Up to 30 hours in GPS mode, 14 days in smartwatch mode | Water resistance: 50 meters | GPS: Yes Sleep tracking: Yes | Music storage: 4 GB | Warranty: 1-year

Read more: Best Gifts for Outdoorsmen


Most Accurate: Masimo W1

Pros
  • Superior metric tracking, especially when it comes to heart rate
  • Innovative features like Hydration Index
  • Display is simple and easy to read
  • Generous warranty
  • 40mm watch face looks good on all wearers
Cons
  • Doesn’t have music storage or phone notifications
  • Barebones style
Accuracy 9.0 out of 10
Battery Life 7.0 out of 10
Features 7.5 out of 10
Design 7.5 out of 10

The Masimo W1 is a favorite of MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, and it’s increasingly brought up in our office conversations. Why? Because point blank, this is the most accurate tracker on the market. During testing, Samuel wore both the W1 and a pulse oximeter similar to those used to track your heart rate in hospitals. The W1 was within two beats per minute of the pulse oximeter at all times. (Another popular fitness tracker was often 10 beats per minute off from the oximeter during the same test.) “The W1 is the most accurate smartwatch I’ve ever used, period,” says Samuel. It’s also forward-thinking, aiming to track your hydration levels via a suite of Hydration Index stats.

masimo w1

The W1’s ultimate calling card, though, is its tremendous accuracy. Typically, if you want the most accurate heart rate readings during a run or training, you’d want to don a wearable heart rate strap around your torso. The W1’s pinpoint accuracy changes that.

Unfortunately, the W1 doesn’t do much else: it has zero ability to download or listen to music and doesn’t send phone notifications. It’s also $500, which is a steep price for a fitness watch. Thus the ultimate decision on the W1 comes down to how serious you are about tracking your fitness, and how little you care about special features or sleek and sexy watch design.

Sizes: 40mm | Battery life: Up to 24 hours | Water resistance: 50 meters | GPS: No Sleep tracking: Yes | Warranty: 3-year

Read more: Best Heart Rate Monitors


Best for Recovery Tracking: Google Pixel Watch

Best for Recovery Tracking

Google Pixel Watch

Pixel Watch

Best for Recovery Tracking

Google Pixel Watch

Pros
  • Easy-to-read display
  • Quality sensors that help provide reliable readings
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters
  • SOS emergency feature
  • ECG reader
  • Tracks sleep
Cons
  • Battery life could be longer
Accuracy 8.0 out of 10
Battery Life 7.0 out of 10
Features 8.0 out of 10
Design 7.0 out of 10

Running Google’s Wear OS and connected to Fitbit activity tracking, the Google Pixel Watch is an excellent fitness watch for tracking recovery. Thanks to high-performance sensors, you get spot-on readings for all the standard metrics, like heart rate, HRV, and breathing.

google pixel watch

Philip Friedman

Most Google Pixel Watch users have strong opinions on how they view the smartwatch. Common qualms include a need for better battery life (Google promises up to 24 hours), and there are annoying quirks, too, like the way you have to activate bedtime mode manually before going to sleep. But the Pixel Watch still delivers solid health and sleep metrics, and it does so on a vibrant display. The watch design is also blissfully simple, and doesn’t look or feel too bulky or heavy on the wrist (if anything, the Pixel Watch could probably have a few larger watch sizes to offer). All-in-all the Pixel Watch is the best all-around Android watch option.

Sizes: 41mm | Battery life: Up to 24 hours in GPS mode | Water resistance: 50 meters | GPS: Yes Sleep tracking: Yes | Warranty: 1-year

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    Best Deal: Coros Pace 2

    Pace 2

    Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
    Pros
    • Awesome price point
    • Great entry watch for running
    • Customized training modes
    • Insightful muscle heat map feature
    • Fun to wear for outdoor sports and activities
    Cons
    • Not as many specs as other GPS watch competitors
    Accuracy 7.0 out of 10
    Battery Life 7.5 out of 10
    Features 7.0 out of 10
    Design 7.5 out of 10

    The latest version of this affordable GPS watch is ultralight thanks to a 50-percent weight reduction in a new nylon band. This watch also definitely tries to make an impression as a fitness-focused device. Look no further than the new muscle heat map, which aims to show you which muscle groups you’re training the most on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Granted, the feature can’t collect the data needed to properly assess this, but it is fun and forward-thinking.

    The Pace 2 may not succeed with hits muscle heat map feature, but it does stand out in other areas, namely durability and battery life. With GPS on, the Pace 2 can go up to 30 hours, and with GPS off it can go up to 20 days. The downside of all that endurance is a lack of UI fluidity. But for this price ($200), you just may be willing to look past that.

    Sizes: 42mm | Battery life: Up to 30 hours in GPS mode, 20 days in smartwatch mode | Water resistance: 50 meters | GPS: Yes Sleep tracking: Yes | Music storage: N/A | Warranty: 2-year

    Read more: Best Sport Watches


    Best for iPhone Users: Apple Watch Ultra

    Best for iPhone Users

    Apple Watch Ultra

    Watch Ultra

    Best for iPhone Users

    Apple Watch Ultra

    Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
    Pros
    • Rugged style design
    • Can be used as a dive watch up to 100 meters
    • Great for everyday use
    • Blood Oxygen and ECG reader
    • Wayfinder face with a live compass
    • Siren for emergencies and water temp sensor
    • Upgraded microphone and speakers over Apple Watch Series 8
    Cons
    • Popular colors sell out fast
    • Battery life not as long as other outdoor watches
    • Expensive
    Accuracy 8.0 out of 10
    Battery Life 8.0 out of 10
    Features 9 out of 10
    Design 8.5 out of 10

    With a starting price of $799, the Apple Watch Ultra may seem pricey, but it’s not really outlandish compared to other devices in the same tier. In fact, one can argue the Ultra is in a class of its own, blending the superior day-to-day use of an Apple Watch with rugged specs one might see on the most expensive Garmin and Suunto watches. It contains the same new features as the Apple Watch Series 8, plus a few more. You get a bigger watch face, a seriously strong titanium frame, better battery life, and 100 meters of water resistance.

    apple watch ultra

    The Ultra’s durability is especially impressive. After wearing the Ultra for over six months, we’ve noticed it reacts quite well to nasty falls and dings. It’s fallen from shoulder high and smacked right into concrete and come away unscathed. None of this means you shouldn’t remember to flip your Ultra before a set of kettlebell cleans, but you do get peace of mind knowing that this watch can take a pounding.

    The Ultra also delivers a bigger screen than a Series 8, and a unique Wayfinder face with a live compass, a siren for turning on in emergencies, a water temperature sensor, a depth gauge, and an upgraded speaker and microphone setup. The Watch Ultra’s biggest win, though, is (you guessed it!) its ultra-seamless link to iPhones. Nothing beats the ultra-easy pairing (and later, data sharing) that can take place between any Apple Watch and an iPhone. We’ve come to trust the Watch Ultra for occasional everyday wear, traveling, and fitnessing alike.

    Sizes: 49mm | Battery life: Up to 36 hours | Water resistance: 100 meters | GPS: Yes Sleep tracking: Yes | Storage: 32 GB | Warranty: 1-year

    Read more: Apple Watch Ultra Review


    Best for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

    Best for Android Users

    Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

    Galaxy Watch 5

    Best for Android Users

    Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

    Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
    Pros
    • Ultra strong titanium case
    • Sizable scratch resistant screen
    • Solid price point
    • Advanced sleep coaching and body comp features
    • Seamless compatibility for Android users
    • Thin design that’s similar to Apple Watch 8
    Cons
    • Water resistance isn’t ideal for avid swimmers who like to use a fitness watch
    • Battery life can fluctuate on the watches
    Accuracy 7.5 out of 10
    Battery Life 6.5 out of 10
    Features 7.5 out of 10
    Design 7.5 out of 10

    No iPhone? No problem. The Galaxy Watch 5 can go anywhere thanks to a large scratch-resistant screen and a strong titanium case. Our favorite features include advanced sleep coaching that analyzes your sleep habits and suggests what you can do to improve, as well as a body composition reader. In just a few seconds, the Galaxy Watch 5 works to tell you your body fat and several other vitals. These stats are prone to inaccuracy (few home devices can accurately track body fat), but give props for Samsung for trying to push metrics to another level.

    samsung galaxy watch 5 pro

    Philip Friedman

    The Galaxy Watch 5 also delivers the features you’ve come to expect in high-end smartwatches. That means accurate GPS specs and voice navigation. Nailing these features (as Samsung does) is extra-critical in 2023, in part because the Galaxy Watch 5 actually has competition this year (from Google’s Pixel Watch). But the Galaxy Watch gets the edge, thanks to several generations of trial and error. The array of features available and the materials used to craft the watch have been optimized a few times over, thus producing a seriously strong, long-lasting fitness smartwatch most users will be happy adding to their training arsenal.

    Sizes: 40mm, 44mm, 45mm | Battery life: Up to 20 hours in GPS mode | Water resistance: 50 meters | GPS: Yes Sleep tracking: Yes | Music storage: 16 GB | Warranty: 1-year


    Best Outdoor Fitness Watch: Suunto 9 Baro

    Best Outdoor Fitness Watch

    SUUNTO 9 Baro Titanium

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    9 Baro Titanium

    Best Outdoor Fitness Watch

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    Credit: Courtesy of Retailer
    Pros
    • Strong build
    • Barometer tracks altitude and provides storm alerts
    • Premium GPS system
    • Excellent price for what you’re getting
    • Extremely long lifespan
    Cons
    • Not a touch screen
    • No blood level oxygen tracking
    • Watch software can feel slower to some
    Accuracy 7.5 out of 10
    Battery Life 9 out of 10
    Features 7.0 out of 10
    Design 7.5 out of 10

    The 9 Baro is a top adventure watch for hiking, trail running, and other outdoor activities due to its ability to combine body metrics with a GPS and barometer. What’s nice is the barometer can help determine altitude and also determine when air pressure changes quickly, which will thus trigger a Storm Alert feature that helps predict if there’s some nasty weather swirling around. As for the GPS, you get ultra-accurate route plans and location positioning. Google Map fans can’t run the program on the watch, but what you do get is a program called “Breadcrumbs”. Breadcrumbs will help you navigate routes and give you precise turn-by-turn notifications when you approach forks in the road—so really you just have to learn how to get comfortable with a new map program to get the most out of the Baro.

    In terms of fitness tracking, the 9 Baro is right on par with many of the other watches. The heart rate monitor of this watch is good, not great. However, the 9 Baro ultimately does two things exceptionally well: the first is it’s tough as nails (stainless steel case, waterproof up to 100 meters), and the second is it’s built to go the distance (battery life exceeds 20 hours in GPS mode). You can find other outdoor watches with much more features and shiny displays, but when you consider the price point of the 9 Baro to the reliable performance, it’s a solid watch for any and all types of outdoor activity. If anything, start here when looking at a fitness watch that also functions well as an outdoor watch, and then specialize further into outdoor watches if you want to get more advanced.

    Sizes: 50mm | Battery life: Up to 25 hours in GPS mode, 7 days in watch mode | Water resistance: 100 meters | GPS: Yes Sleep tracking: Yes | Music storage: N/A | Warranty: 5-year

    Read more: Best Outdoor Watches


    How We Selected

    For the past eight years, we consulted with Men’s Health‘s fitness and gear editors on the top fitness watches for men. Experts, including our fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., our fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM, and our gear and commerce editor John Thompson, put countless fitness watches through the gauntlet and scored each fitness on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) on four separate design categories. Those qualities are accuracy, battery life, special features, and overall design.

    • Accuracy: The accuracy score of a fitness watch begins and ends with how precisely it tracks your heart rate (most other stats, with the exception of new hydration tracking features, are derived from this baseline data). This mark is as much about pure accuracy as it is about consistency of accuracy, which is key in helping you understand your own fitness trends. We rated the Wasimo W1 at the top of our accuracy pool based of each watch’s ability to give precise readings better than the fitness watches on the roundup.
    • Battery life: Reflective of each watch’s battery life, this score also took into account fitness watches that had variability in the times it took between charging. The Samsung Galaxy 5 watch took a ding because the battery life seemed to fluctuate, giving us an average time of 20 hours per use. Fitness watches that could go for days with GPS turned off were also taken into consideration and given a boost in scoring.
    • Design: Design takes into account the overall wearability of the fitness watch. Does it sit well on the wrist? Does it look good? Is the software smooth and easy to use? Are the button nice and fast, or are the slow and sticky? The Apple Watch Ultra takes the cake for best design out of all our fitness watches.

    One More Note on Selection: In the final analysis, picking the right smartwatch comes down to getting the features you need at the right price, so yes, we took price into consideration, too. You’re always deciding between price and features when you deal with tech, though. Just remember: In theory, you’ll be with your news smartwatch for a year or two, so it may not be a bad idea to purchase something a bit more cutting-edge, so you can get more mileage out of your device.

    best fitness watches

    Philip Friedman


    Should I Buy a Fitness Watch?

    An easy way to decide if you should get a fitness watch or not is by identifying a few key metrics you’d like to track. In a recent article, we spoke with Michael J. Joyner, M.D., a human-physiology researcher at the Mayo Clinic, to get his opinion on fitness trackers. “If your goal is to finish a 10K, then the distance you can run without stopping is more relevant than something like your respiration rate,” Dr. Joyner told MH. “You have to ask yourself how collecting more-granular data is going to help you achieve your goals.”

    Before purchasing, take a second to write down your specific needs for a fitness watch and then list some metrics you’d like to measure. Whether you’re looking for a watch that will help you train for a marathon, or looking for a watch that’s going to help you hiking, you can find a fitness watch out there tailored to what you want.

    Read more: How to Get the Most Out of Your Fitness Tracker


    Key Features to Look for in a Fitness Watch

    As mentioned above, you’re going to want to list down what you think you might want in a fitness watch. The main key feature we strongly recommend paying close attention to is music storage and playback, as this will allow you to listen to your music without having to carry your phone in your hand or strap it to your arm.

    Every fitness watch should have basic features like step counters and heart rate monitors. A quality fitness watch should also carry basic water resistance (especially when against sweat) and durable construction (scratch-resistant screens and strong case materials).

    The more bells and whistles you attach, the higher in price your watch can climb. The sky is the limit in what you can pay—there are watches out there over $800—but sometimes those prices are worth the investment. This is especially true when looking at adventure watches that are outfitted with state-of-the-art GPS systems and barometers that track storms and weather patterns—a powerful set of features that ultimately helps keep you safe. Whatever you settle on, make sure you’re choosing a fitness watch that covers the bases. Then, you can go up in price from there and get a better-customized device with each upgrade.


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    Headshot of Ebenezer Samuel,  C.S.C.S.

    Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

    Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men’s Health in 2017, he served as a sports columnist and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.  

    Headshot of John Thompson

    Gear and Commerce Editor

    John Thompson is the Gear and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, where he covers fashion, grooming, gear, and technology. He was previously the Style & Gear Editor at BroBible.com, and a commerce writer for TheManual.com. His interests include attending concerts, spending time outside, and following his favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals. 

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