How to choose a watch for outdoor exercise

First published: 20-06-2017

How to choose a watch for outdoor exercise


Forget the gym; fitness enthusiasts are increasingly taking to the great outdoors, whether that's pounding the pavement or hiking in the countryside.

To improve your fitness, a sports watch can provide accurate feedback that enhances your routine, no matter where you are in the world. The difficulty comes in choosing between sports watches, heart rate monitors, smartwatches, and more.

The key is to decide on the type of watch you need, based on your favourite activities, so you can settle on the right model.

Which watch is best suited to outdoor exercise?

Buying a watch for outdoor exercise depends on the use you want to get out of it. If you're the type of person who loves to jog, then a running or sports watch can help to track your progress. If you want to take it up a notch, opt for one with a heart rate monitor, or something swimproof if you plan to take it for a few laps in the pool as well.

You may want to opt for a GPS tracker watch if you're a keen walker or hiker. And above that level, you have the smartwatch, adding features such as social media and text alerts to fitness tracking capabilities. They're pricier, but are great if you want a wristwatch that's more of a personal life aid.

Watches ideal for outdoor running

At the budget-friendly end of the scale, watches will suit time measuring for outdoor running, but don't have additional features like a step counter or a heart rate monitor. So, if you're the kind of casual jogger who simply wants to track the time they've been running for, then this Adidas Performance watch can do exactly that.


Despite being fashionably oversized, the model is lightweight thanks to its resin casing, and has a bold digital face, which you can easily glance at between strides. By spending more, you're treated to additional features. The Polar A300 Activity Tracker is sleek and minimalist in design, lightweight to wear, and filled with the features you need to track your progress.


In addition to a stopwatch, it has a heart rate monitor, and allows you to track the number of calories you've burned, giving you information designed to help you achieve your goals.

Watches for the water

If you're into outdoor swimming, water sports or get involved in muddy and wet obstacle races, it's important to know your watch can stand up to being dunked under water.

Swimproof watches are cheapest, though diving standard watches are also available at a higher price if you happen to have a passion for deep sea diving. But for general lengths, a swimproof watch will be just fine.

With a water resistance of 100 metres, the Timex Ironman Sleek 150 chronograph watch is more than capable of accompanying you swimming, surfing and more.


Massively popular with triathletes, thanks to things like just needing to touch the screen to record a lap time, and alarms that alert you if you're off pace and when you should eat and drink. It's also reasonably priced.

Looking upwards along the price scale, Suunto's Spartan Chronograph watch can track your various activities, even beyond swimming.


Designed for people who love running, swimming, and cycling, this watch is a triathlete's dream. And as Suunto watches are built in freezing Finland, you can be sure it can handle just about any conditions you throw at it - including outdoor swimming.

Watches for walkers

If you're keen on a weekend walk or hike, then your needs will likely differ to those of the average runner.

While you will benefit from the same lightweight properties a sports watch can offer, a GPS watch will give you a greater benefit when you're trekking through the countryside or walking a mountain. Why? A GPS watch connects with a satellite to tell you the distance you've covered and your pace per mile.

The Garmin Forerunner is a great option for walkers and runners, tracking your pace and steps, and recording your route.


Fastening with a resin strap, it's comfortable to wear when out for most of the day, while it also has a breathable strap to help with perspiration.

Watches to integrate with your lifestyle

If you're looking for a watch that you can take out on the track and continue to wear through the week, then a smart watch could be the way to go.

Giving you all the sporty features of a fitness watch, with the added benefits of looking smart and integrating with your social media, texts, calls, and emails, smart watches are just as at home in the office as the outdoors.

Made by Pebble, this red and gold Bluetooth-enabled chronograph watch looks great even when you're not pairing it with trainers, and contains all the features you need to stay on top of your busy life, from calendar notifications to meeting reminders.


The Pebble Time Steel watch works with both Android and iPhone, leaving no user left behind. It also gives you the luxury of 10 days' worth of battery power, and things like a music player, news feeds and more.

The world of watches designed for sport is vast, and navigating between the nuances of each overlapping genre can be a tough line to tread. With our recommendations, you should be able to find the timepiece that suits your budget, style, and exercising needs.


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