Whether it’s a lifetime obsession or a New Year’s resolution, fitness is on everyone’s minds during the holidays. The latest wearables sparkle like freshly fallen snow with promises of sleep, activity and heart rate monitoring for healthier days ahead. Big ticket items like the latest Apple Watch or the newest Fitbit fitness tracker are sure to help anyone who wants to get a head start on New Year fitness goals, but also keep an eye out for screenless wearables like the Nowatch, which encourages self-awareness and moments of intentionality throughout the day.
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A smart ring for the discreet fitness devotee
The titanium Oura Ring holds up under external stress — and it makes sure that you do, too. The smart ring not only tracks heart rate variability, activity levels, sleep and blood oxygen levels, but it’s also constantly updating to include useful features, like stress tracking. It is water resistant up to 328 feet and has up to a week-long battery life. I was still afraid to wash my hands with it on for the first month, but since then I’ve gotten used to it and can confirm that it is waster resistant.
The monthly subscription is a cost to account for, at around $6 per month, but the recurring charge ensures that subscribers get new capabilities without a hardware upgrade. The ring offers limited insights without a subscription.
Regardless of the external coating of the ring, the internal sensors remain the same as prior versions. The difference between a gold heritage Oura and a silver one, for example, is pure aesthetics (and an additional $150 for the higher-end gold finish).
I’ve been using the Oura for close to a year now, and I can’t imagine life without it. My ring has tiny scratches from weight lifting that are visible when I hold it up to the light, but it still shines and gives me the insights I need. I like that the stress tracking feature covers bodily stress, so I can see when I might be physically on edge or more subconsciously excited. I also appreciate that it’s discreet, and distraction-free with its lack of an on-device screen or vibrations.
The Oura is now my go-to birthday and Christmas gift — I’ve given it to four people I love. Everyone gets different use cases out of it, with one person relying on it more for sleep and another looking to it more for activity levels. At around $300, the Oura Ring is worth it. It comes with a free sizing kit that ships out beforehand if you need it. It’s smaller than other wearables but still packs a punch.
A no-screen smartwatch for the stressed-out style icon
The Nowatch (pronounced Now-watch) could stand on its own as a stunning accessory, dominated by semi-precious stone for a watch face and flanked by a thick recycled ocean plastic band. It’s more than it appears to be, though; you can swap out the stone and the band to create an entirely new look. The band above is recycled ocean plastic and the stone is lapis lazuli; the look below uses the same silver watch hardware but pairs it with a white agate stone and a genuine leather band.
The secret of the Nowatch rests in the button you can press on the side of the watch. This button takes the Nowatch from surface level to deep: Pressing it sends a signal to the app that registers a moment of awareness of emotion. The Nowatch tracks, and may even anticipate, stress, sleep and activity so that users can better regulate their health.
I found that the Nowatch isn’t always reliable when it comes to sleep, especially when compared to Oura sleep tracking, but it does accurately follow steps walked and moments of high and low stress. I like how the Nowatch unites physical indicators of stress, like elevated heart rate, with subjective measures of it. Every time I pressed the button on the side of the Nowatch, I could check in on the app to record how I was feeling, what I was doing and who I was with. Over time, these data points could string together deeper insights about stress triggers and bodily responses.
The Nowatch is expensive, perhaps the priciest gift on this list. Two bands, two stones and one watch case cost about $850 before shipping and tax.
For a best of both worlds, a gym-to-work gift
The Withings ScanWatch 2 is the newest hybrid watch from Withings, packing continuous body temperature variation tracking, activity tracking, sleep monitoring, blood oxygen measurements and more into a sleek interface. The smartwatch has a remarkable 30-day battery life and works with Apple Health and Google Fit.
This watch is comfortable to wear, and it was extremely useful to have on the go during my time with it. The extra-long battery life lasted well, and the watch itself was intuitive to understand. The strength of the Withings ScanWatch 2 rests in its accompanying free app, which processes insights collected from the watch’s scanners and helped me meet my activity goals. The watch is water-resistant to a depth of 164 feet.
I liked the temperature tracking that the ScanWatch 2 provided while I was exercising. The watch itself had just enough of a screen to be useful if I needed it, but on the whole, it was classy enough to wear with any outfit.
The hybrid watch costs about $350 and comes in six different colors. I have the sand color combination.
The Meta Quest 3 is perfect for the gym-shy warrior
Gyms can be intimidating. There’s even a word for the feeling of self-consciousness and anxiety that gyms can evoke: gymtimidation. If someone is new to fitness and reluctant to commit to the gym, or if they prefer group classes, which can get expensive, the new Meta Quest 3 VR headset could be the perfect gift.
I tried out the FitXR app on the Quest 3 headset, and it was a blast. It was so easy to pick up the headset and squeeze in a quick workout, even if I didn’t feel up to going to the gym.
Zumba, a Latin dance workout, was the newest offering on the FitXR app, and the 10-minute dance workouts were energizing. I could choose between beginner, intermediate and advanced modes, and choose to have more of a community class vibe or a 1:1-focused class. Warm-ups and cool-downs can be added to the classes to prevent injuries.
I also tried boxing through the same app, which was an even more intense workout, even in beginner mode.
The VR headset doesn’t track calories burned or heart rate, but pairing it with a fitness tracker helped me get a better idea of how effective the workouts were. The Oura Ring showed that my heart rate was highly elevated each time I worked out with the headset.
The headset made it easy to develop a fitness routine, one I looked forward to every morning. I felt tough and strong, even from the comfort of my living room. The FitXR app gives me hope that VR will one day replace the gym, at least for folks who primarily go to the gym for group classes.
A Meta Quest 3 headset costs $500, or about $42 per month over a year, and a FitXR membership costs $13 per month for unlimited classes. That’s $55 per month, which is a bargain compared to the average monthly cost of a gym membership in NYC, which is $106.06.
Fitbit, for the always-on athlete
The Fitbit Charge 6 is Google’s latest offering through its acquired Fitbit line. The activity tracker is the ideal fitness tech gift on a budget, at a $160 price point, and it is priced at less than $100 for Black Friday.
My initial impression of the newest Fitbit was far from ideal, but after over a month with the tracker, I grew to love it. The Fitbit is extremely good at monitoring heart rate, steps walked, and overall activity and even the free version performs better than expected when it comes to sleep tracking. A side-by-side comparison of the free sleep tracking on the Fitbit compared to the paid tracking through the Oura shows that the Fitbit provides comparable metrics.
I didn’t like the default band that the Fitbit Charge 6 came with, but for about $30, I could buy a more comfortable woven band or sports band. The tracker lasts about a week and charges up quickly.
The haptic feedback side button on the Charge 6 is an improvement over the Charge 5, and the option to add Google Maps directions or YouTube Music controls to the newest Fitbit tracker also gives it a step up over previous generations.
For the life of the party workout buddy
Every workout needs some good music, and these stylish retro speakers from JBL do the job well. I’ve played music for everything from a group yoga workout to a fun dance party with friends, and the JBL Authentics 300 never disappoint with their audio quality. They’re also light enough to pick up by the handle and carry from room to room with little effort.
One standout feature, groundbreaking in a sense, is the ability for these speakers to draw from two competing voice assistants: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The two answer questions interchangeably and switching between them is seamless.