Not ready to splurge on fancy wearable tech? Science says there's another solution for tracking your fitness activity

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
Corbis Images

The latest wearable devices have a lot of bells and whistles-they track sleep, log workouts, and even display incoming texts. But for pure activity tracking, you can save your cash and rely on a step-counting smartphone app, say researchers at Penn Medicine. In their study, they had healthy adults wear fitness trackers, pedometers, and accelerometers, and carry a smartphone running different apps in each pants pocket, all while walking on the treadmill.

When they compared the data from each measuring tool, they found that the smartphone apps were just as accurate as fitness trackers in counting steps. And since most apps and devices base many of their measurements (including calories burned) on steps, that makes them a pretty efficient way to gauge your movement. It's also an inexpensive way to chart your fitness, since your phone likely has a step counter built in, and many tracking apps are free. (If you're an Apple user, read up on how to take advantage of the New iPhone 6 Health App.)

If you do have a wearable, learn about The Right Way to Use Your Fitness Tracker to get the most out of its features. Still want to buy one? Find the Best Fitness Tracker For Your Workout Style.

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