If 2020 was the year everyone had to exercise at home, 2021 is evolving to test whether runners, weightlifters, and wellness enthusiasts actually prefer it that way.
Most of the latest fitness technologies available in 2021 hit the market in 2020. It makes sense: At home, never before have people been so dependent on technology for their exercise and wellness needs. Companies needed to get these products out as soon as possible, and many of them debuted around the holidays because no one knew how long the pandemic would last. And as companies like Peloton have shown, capitalization worked in the home fitness market. Before the pandemic, people didn’t have high hopes for Peloton, and its stock fell below $ 20 a share. However, at the height of the pandemic, it hit over $ 160 per share.
The 2020 boom means people looking for the top health and fitness products in 2021 will have plenty to choose from. From smartwatches to VR, the possibilities have never been so impressive. But 2021 – and a return to normal after the pandemic – will test our loyalty to this technology. Will the machines we use to exercise and track our fitness from home remain indispensable or gather dust now that people have a choice of going back to the gym or taking group fitness classes?
Here is the most important health and fitness technology of 2021 (so far).
The giant in the smartwatch arena is still Apple, and the Apple Watch Series 6 from September 2020 is its crown jewel. It’s easy to use, has accurate and useful fitness metrics, comes with a variety of health features (like the ability to take an EKG), and looks pretty darn cool.
However, Apple reliably releases a new smartwatch every year, and the Apple Watch Series 7 is likely to be out in the fall. While Mashable’s review rated the Series 6 as a perfectly solid smartwatch (especially its fitness tracking capabilities), it’s not that big of an upgrade from the Apple Watch Series 5. So you should be in for the essential smartwatch of the future by September.
If you’re not interested in Apple, the Fitbit Versa 3 ships as a smartwatch and excels as a fitness tracker, especially by providing detailed metrics and trends over time in the companion app. Plus, at $ 229.95, it’s cheaper than the Apple Watch’s $ 399 startup cost.
Fitness and health tracker without a smartwatch
What if you want to track your steps and heart rate but don’t want the pressure to reply to your emails and texts from your wrist? You are looking for a fitness and health tracker that is not part of a smartwatch.
There are a couple of new, high quality options. The Whoop Strap 3.0 provides detailed readings for people who take their training seriously. It can automatically detect the activity you are doing, and by constantly monitoring your heart rate, you can get detailed insights into how much more or less time you spent on your peak HR than in previous workouts. The Oura ring creates three simple ratings that indicate your level of activity, the quality of your sleep, and your “readiness” for activity based on a variety of data it picks up – all by wearing a ring around your finger.
Mashable’s all-round choice is the Fitbit Charge 4. At $ 149, it’s cheaper than the previous two options, which are both over $ 300. It has GPS, measures both steps and distance, tracks “Active Zone Minutes” and is compatible with a wide range of smartwatches.
Google entered the world of sleep tracking with Nest Hub in March 2021. For the first time, the smart home product with display includes a function that provides measured values about the duration and quality of your sleep.
It doesn’t rely on a sensor like a smartwatch. Instead, it uses high-precision motion sensors to keep an eye on you while you sleep. There are plenty of other excellent sleep trackers out there, like the sleep tracking feature on the Fitbit Versa 3. Plus, Mashable found the Google product a bit … creepy. Since it uses radar motion tracking to detect movement (even such subtle movements as raising and lowering your chest with your breath), it was literally always observable. But that’s the aggressive sleep technology 2021 has to offer, so we will probably adopt it.
Calming / meditation aid
Muse is a mashable favorite for meditation wearables (yes, that’s a category). The 2020 model, Muse S, fabric headband is specially designed to be worn before and even during sleep. Muse plays guided meditations and can measure whether you are in a meditative state. It now also has meditations to help wearers get into dreamland and detailed metrics to help track your sleep.
Exercise bikes (and apps)
There has been no shortage of companies making smart exercise machines that vied for gym space during the pandemic. There’s The Mirror for guided classes, Tonal for an all-in-one gym, smart rowing machines like Hydrow, and treadmills like NordicTrack, all of which hope to become indispensable.
But thanks to community features, magnetic instructors, and just one hell of a good product, the Cult of Peloton seems to have surpassed them all. It’s the Mashable choice because, as our reviewer wrote, “The workouts are tough, but the addicting experience and (practically) endless list of exercise classes are enough to make me stick to the seat and in the magical peloton universe to stay forever. “
Peloton will probably stick to bicycles. In 2021, the company recalled its Tread + and Tread treadmills for safety reasons: one child died and dozens more were injured in accidents with the machine’s rear caster.
If stories like this get you off the physical plane, then training in VR has actually become much more workable over the past year. The Oculus Quest 2 is a wireless VR headset that is easy to use and, quite frankly, incredibly cool. It now has a robust library of games to make your heart beat faster (like Beat Saber or The Climb 2), as well as some activities specifically designed for exercise, like Supernatural and VZFit.
Percussive massagers have a moment, but whether or not you will actually have to spend hundreds of dollars on something to aid your recovery is a personal decision. However, if the answer is yes, then two winners have emerged: Therabodys Theragun and Hyperices Hypervolt.
They have extremely similar technical specifications in terms of print, performance, and customizability. And both have educational content to guide you through the routines. This is incredibly important when you consider that the correct use of these powerful machines is the difference between breakthrough relief and accidental injury.