Fitness trackers are all the rage these days and are still becoming more popular every day. For good reason, because the smart wearables help to incorporate more movement into our increasingly sedentary everyday lives and also bring numerous other health benefits.
One huge target group of fitness trackers are swimmers. The manufacturers also seem to have caught on to this trend and are therefore increasingly advertising their products as “waterproof” or “designed for swimmers”. However, all that glitters is not gold, because many of these supposedly waterproof models quickly give up the ghost when swimming.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what really matters when it comes to fitness trackers for swimming and in the end, we’ll take a look at good, waterproof models. Have fun ?
Here’s Why You Need a Fitness Tracker when Swimming
Fitness trackers are not only the ideal everyday companion but are especially useful when doing sports. And what’s even better: even when you’re swimming, the smart wristbands are very useful and can take your training to the next level.
Fitness trackers were primarily created to count our steps, track our heart rate and calculate our burned calories. Nonetheless, the technological progress is now increasingly expressed in the functionality of fitness trackers as well, so that there are numerous special swimming functions on many models. I would like to briefly introduce you to some of the most useful swimming features.
Accelerometers and gyroscopes build the foundation of a fitness tracker. Since these sensors detect when you start to turn while swimming, most trackers can easily calculate how many laps you have already swum.
In the same way, the arm strokes performed are also counted. The accelerometers detect even the smallest form of movement.
In a way, this value is the result of the previous two. The so-called SWOLF value is a very popular parameter among swimmers, which indicates the swimming efficiency. It is the sum of the time required and the number of strokes for one lap.
The faster you swim, and the fewer strokes you need, the lower the SWOLF value and in turn the higher your swimming efficiency. So, for example, if you need 30 seconds and 15 arm strokes for one lap, your SWOLF value is 45.
A good fitness tracker calculates the SWOLF value on its own, and thus helps you to control your swim training in a promising way.
Accelerometers and gyroscopes have become very sophisticated technologies. That’s why fitness trackers nowadays can even detect your swimming style, because we move in a different way for each swimming stroke style.
Advanced fitness trackers can even give you a complete swimming style analysis.
Tracking Swimming Distance
Especially in open water swimming, the distance covered is of course of great interest. In order to calculate distances, a fitness tracker must be equipped with GPS. You should be careful here, because many models that are advertised with GPS do not come with their own GPS module, but simply use the GPS signal of a paired smartphone.
However, carrying the smartphone with you while swimming is rather impractical. Fortunately, there are more and more trackers that provide an own built-in GPS module which makes it possible to track distances without having to pair your smartphone.
So, if counting laps is not enough for you, or if you want to swim in open water, then you should go for a fitness tracker with built-in GPS. Later on, we’ll have a look at exactly these models ?
Did you know that the Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, which is Latin for “faster, higher, stronger”? In fact, it’s always about beating records and improving performance. Unsurprisingly, pace plays an important role in swimming as well.
It is usually given as an average value and can also only be calculated via GPS. A good fitness tracker for swimmers should definitely be able to track your swimming pace.
Open Water Swimming Mode
Now I’ve talked so much about open water swimming and yet I’ve almost forgotten one thing. If you want to venture out into the sea, lake or river, then you need a fitness tracker with an open water swim mode. This is not provided by every model for swimmers and can rather be found on more sophisticated trackers.
A good fitness tracker for swimming should also be equipped with a water lock mode so that the movement of the water does not unintentionally activate the display. Fortunately, this is the case with almost all models.
Can Fitness Trackers Monitor Your Heart Rate While Swimming?
Heart rate monitoring is one of the features that comes with sports watches, fitness trackers and the like since the beginning of time. It all started with it, and still the heart rate monitoring is one of the major parts of most models.
It is important to know that working out in different heart rate zones elicits completely different training effects. Do you primarily want to strengthen your cardiovascular system or would you rather aim for burning fat? These and other workout goals require a different approach and only with an accurate and reliable heart rate monitoring you will always be able to control your workout intensity. You can find more information about these heart rate zones here.
The heart rate can be measured in different ways. More and more products are equipped with a sensor that can monitor your heart rate on your wrist. Simply put, this works by the sensor detecting color differences on the skin that occur when the heart rate is elevated. It’s impressive what technology can do these days. ?
Meanwhile, this technology has proven itself and works flawlessly in most cases. However, for this to be the case, the tracker must be worn very tightly on the wrist so that it does not slip at all. However, this is unfortunately unavoidable when swimming, and thus this wrist-based approach is rather not recommended for swimmers.
It is much better to use the well-tried chest strap. This detects changes in the electrical voltage caused by the contractions of the heart muscle. This type of measurement is not as sensitive to minor jerks and is therefore simply more accurate and reliable overall.
Chest straps are cheap to buy and are usually very easy to pair with a fitness tracker. This makes them the ideal add-on, especially for ambitious swimmers! ?
For example, the Garmin HRM Swim is a chest strap designed specifically for swimmers, which has built a very good reputation with its slip-resistant and comfortable design.
Waterproof or Not? How to Recognize a Good Fitness Tracker for Swimming
The IP Code
Similar to the ANSI Letter for standard printer paper dimensions, there is also a standardization with which you can recognize whether and to what extent a fitness tracker is waterproof. If you are looking for such a tracker, you will find abbreviations, such as IP54, IP67 or IP68.
IP stands for International Protection and is an international benchmark to rate the degree of protection of an electronic device against all kinds of external circumstances. In other words: How well is product X protected in environment Y?
There is a variety of tests that a product has to go through. Starting with dust and wind, the products are also tested for their suitability for deep diving. The question is always how well a fitness tracker withstands these circumstances.
This results in a two-digit IP code. The first digit stands for the general protection against foreign objects (e.g. dust, sand, etc.) and the second digit refers specifically to protection against water.
If you are interested, you can have a look at all of the specific IP codes here.
You might also be interested in this diving packing list.
The ATM Value
Even though it is the most accurate way to indicate how waterproof a fitness tracker is, the IP code can only be found on some devices. For many other models, such as the very popular Fitbit trackers, you will rather find an ATM value.
ATM (=atmospheric pressure) describes the amount of water pressure that a fitness tracker can withstand. 1 ATM is roughly equivalent to 1 bar, which means that the device would withstand a water pressure of 1 bar for a limited time. This in turn corresponds to the pressure a tracker is exposed to at a water depth of 10 meters.
To illustrate this, I have put together a small table for you:
|1 ATM||withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 10 meters||splashes, rain or snow, showering|
|5 ATM||withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 50 meters||splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkeling|
|10 ATM||withstands pressures equivalent to a depth of 100 meters||splashes, rain or snow, showering, swimming, diving into water, snorkeling, high-speed water sports|
So from now on, you can quickly identify the waterproofness of fitness trackers and debunk models that are advertised as waterproof even though they are not really suitable for swimming. Other than that, though, I’m going to introduce you to the best swimming trackers now as well. ?
These are the Best Waterproof Fitness Trackers for Swimming
Let’s summarize again: What are the features of a good fitness tracker for swimming?
- Swimming features
- Comfortable design
- Water lock mode
- (Built-in GPS)
So much for the theory. By now, you have become an expert when it comes to waterproof fitness trackers for swimmers ? Now it’s high time to take a look at the best models in order to put this theory into practice. So here they are, the best waterproof fitness trackers for swimmers.
The Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
There’s hardly any fitness tracker that’s absolutely perfect, but if there’s one model that comes close for swimming, it’s the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro.
Samsung isn’t actually famous for their fitness trackers, but they are still doing a fantastic job when it comes to designing them.
But first things first: The Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro is waterproof up to 5 ATM. Thus, it reaches its limits when it comes to deep diving at water depths of around 50 meters, but it is undoubtedly suitable for swimmers.
In turn, it is even more suitable for swimmers if you take a look at its swimming features.
Since the tracker has a built-in GPS, the Gear Fit 2 Pro can track distance, pace, laps, the SWOLF value and your swimming stroke style. Thus, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro really is an excellent fitness tracker for swimmers.
With a built-in altimeter, a powerful AMOLED display and smart notifications, this model is even more of a smartwatch in terms of functionality, but still provides all the advantages of a fitness tracker: The Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro is slim, lightweight and looks great. But above all, it is currently the best fitness tracker for swimming in my eyes.
But of course, that’s just my personal view on things. I would recommend you to take a look at this tracker for yourself in order to find out whether it meets your expectations. You can find it here.
The Fitbit Charge 4
The Fitbit Charge 3 was one of the most popular fitness trackers for years and has built an excellent reputation among its customers. The only drawback to this model was the lack of a built-in GPS feature.
With the successor, the Charge 4, Fitbit managed to fill this gap and finally provided an in-built GPS feature as well. This news made thousands of fitness enthusiast very excited.
The Charge 3 already convinced with its comfortable design, its very good suitability for everyday use, its high functionality and many other advantages and the GPS feature complements this amazing total package.
When swimming, the Charge 4 tracks your swimming time, the swum laps, the arm strokes, the swimming style and the SWOLF value. A particularly nice feature of all Fitbit models is the corresponding app, which allows you to analyze your swim sessions in great detail afterwards.
The bottom line is that Fitbit is always a good choice, and that the Charge 4 is a very, very good fitness tracker for swimmers. Again, I would advise you to take a look at it for yourself. Check it out here.
Final Thoughts on Fitness Trackers for Swimming
Fitness trackers are not only very useful for everyday life but are also becoming increasingly popular among swimmers. Even though many trackers are advertised as being waterproof, not all models are suitable for swimming. A good fitness tracker for swimmers can track the most important swimming data such as your pace, strokes and laps and can bring your training to the next level.
I hope that I was able to help you with this article. If you still have further questions or would like to share your own experiences on this topic, feel free to contact me.
Otherwise, I wish you a lot of fun while swimming with your new waterproof fitness tracker! ?