How to choose the right fitness watch for the gym

First published: 20-06-2017

How to choose the right fitness watch for the gym

Woman at Gym looking at Watch

The vast array of fitness watches has brought numerous benefits to gym goers, but choosing the watch best suited to your own needs can be tricky.

While many fitness watches and activity trackers claim to be an all-in-one gym watch solution, it is worth taking the time to explore the features available on various models before making a purchase.

Some fitness watches are better suited to outdoor training than gym work, and there is plenty of variety among the apps that sync with fitness trackers, as well as the peripherals that enable features like heart rate monitoring and cycling metrics.

Here are some of the most popular features to have made their way onto athletes' wrists, and the best gym watches on which to find them.

Lap memory
Casio G-Shock Alarm Chronograph Watch
If you're a runner, a swimmer, a cyclist, a rower, or a CrossFit enthusiast, lap timing is likely important to you. Lap memory has been around in gym watches for a while, but it has advanced in line with the demands of serious athletes in recent years.

The Casio G-Shock Alarm Chronograph watch offers a great example of what is possible, giving users the ability to store 999 lap time records. Each record includes the date, lap time and split time, all to an accuracy of a thousandth of a second.

The G-Shock also includes an auto-start feature, allowing you to set a five-second countdown prior to your lap beginning, as well as separate countdown timers for up to 100 hours. If you're a swimmer looking to track your lap times, the G-Shock is water resistant up to 200 metres - ideal for everyday use in the pool.

Heart rate monitors

The ability to monitor your heart rate is a huge advantage when seeking to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Without heart rate monitoring, we can only guess at how hard the heart is working, and at times we might misinterpret our body's response to a workout.

Gym watches with heart rate monitoring functionality give you access to fundamental information about your fitness. Being able to see how hard your heart is working during a gym session, how quickly it recovers after a workout, and being able to measure your resting heart rate puts you in a much better position to strengthen the most important muscle in your body.

Garmin Forerunner 25 Watch
The Garmin Forerunner 25 is an easy-to-use GPS watch with smart notifications that can be paired with a heart monitor to give you a comprehensive view of how hard your heart is working. When you're working out, the Forerunner will provide you with real-time heart rate information and let you know when to increase or decrease your activity to meet your goals.

Fitness watches with heart rate monitoring functionality can be used to simply keep an eye on your heart rate while you work out, but they are most effective when you input your personal fitness records via an app, such as the Garmin Connect.

That allows your watch to provide you with tailored information and smart notifications that will help give your gym sessions - and your cardiovascular fitness - a boost.

Feedback on performance

As well as handling heart rate information, fitness watches utilise GPS technology to track the route, speed and distance of your workout (if you're moving somewhere), and some can even provide you with altitude information.

Polar RC3 GPS Multisport Watch

Polar's 'Sport Zones' feature helps you to set the intensity of your training according to the percentage of your maximum heart rate that you wish to work at, and you can access advanced training analysis by entering data captured by the RC3 at

Such is the breadth and depth of training information available with fitness watches like the RC3, you can find yourself carrying your very own personal trainer around with you on your wrist.


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