As we approached the new year, we gave this article a good shakeup in terms of our recommendations and content.
New additions included the swimming-dedicated Garmin Swim 2, as well as the new Apple Watch Series 5. We also added the wallet-friendly FINIS Swimsense Live, before enhancing the content in our guide.
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While in the past you may have needed a reminder to take it off, these days you need to remember to keep it on – providing it is capable of tracking your activity in the pool.
Whether you are looking for a dedicated fitness tracker with advanced swim training features and tracking, or a general-purpose waterproof smartwatch that tracks your SWOLF, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we have highlighted seven of the best fitness trackers, ranging from the higher end of the market to those costing under fifty bucks.
After our recommendations, we offer a complete guide to finding the right fitness tracker for you, whether you are a serious pool swimmer or training for a triathlon in the open water. Our FAQ section then offers a few answers to your most often-asked questions.
Enough chat – let’s dive in!
Battery life: Up to 7 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Features: Two color choices, chemically strengthened glass, always-on Chroma Display, multinetwork satellite reception, multiple activity tracking, stress tracking, smartphone notifications
Garmin’s Swim 2 builds on their original Swim, with upgraded features that place this swim-focused fitness tracker firmly at the top of this list.
This robust five-button device adeptly tracks both pool swims and open-water swims (as well as running, cycling and indoor cardio) with great precision. It’s packed with features to help you train and analyze your sessions, including stroke type detection, pacing alerts, drill logging, and a ton of swim metrics such as lengths, pace, distance, SWOLF score and stroke count.
Impressively, with Garmin’s Elevate technology, it accurately captures your heart rate from your wrist while in the water. Meanwhile, out of the pool, it functions as a solid day-to-day smartwatch, even if it lacks some of the features that you’d usually find on midrange devices.
Battery life: Up to 2 weeks
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Features: Two color choices, multinetwork satellite reception, Pulse Ox sensor, workout and training plans, smartphone notifications, music storage, safety tracking features, NFC payments (Garmin Pay)
While the premium Garmin Forerunner 945 isn’t a dedicated swimming watch, it still excels as a swim tracker. However, it is best suited for those who dabble in multiple disciplines (i.e. triathletes) and activities – it tracks everything from skiing to golf!
In the water, you can take advantage of activity profiles for both pool and open-water swimming, with built-in GPS tracking your route wherever you are. Swim session recording and analysis are also excellent, with similar to what you will find on the Swim 2 – from your SWOLF score to drill logging.
While not as extensive in its swim features as the Swim 2, the other activity tracking and lifestyle functions are incredible. This includes smartphone notifications, music storage and contactless payments, while a two-week battery life offers plenty of juice.
Battery life: Up to 18 hours
Sleep Tracking: No
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, Ion-X strengthened glass, aluminum body, OLED Always-On Retina display, built-in compass, multinetwork satellite reception, barometric altimeter, smartphone notifications, music storage, female health tracking, NFC payments (Apple Pay)
The Apple Watch is a device that needs no introduction, with the Series 5 proving the most advanced smartwatch the tech giants have ever produced. The good news is that it’s also great for swimmers!
It lacks the same dedication to swimming as Garmin’s Swim 2, yet its 5ATM water-resistance rating means you can enjoy using it to track both pool and open-water sessions with good accuracy. In the pool, it will detect your stroke and automatically record splits and sets, while the built-in GPS will map your route in open water.
The vibrant Always-On Retina display certainly helps when in the water. Overall, this is a solid choice if you enjoy tracking multiple activities, while the lifestyle features are second-to-none – make calls, play music and enjoy hundreds of apps.
Battery life: Up to 4 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, 1.3” Super AMOLED screen, Corning Gorilla Glass DX+, multiple workout tracking, smartphone notifications, NFC payments (Samsung Pay)
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch is a popular smartwatch that can track 40 different activities – swimming being one of them! It doesn’t have the same level of swim-dedicated features or analysis as others, yet still proves its worth in the water.
This midrange watch can track your progress in the pool and open water, recording metrics such as length, duration, heart rate and calories burned. With a 5ATM rating and nifty features such as a built-in speaker that ingeniously cleans itself of water after a session, it’s a robust watch that will survive a good swim.
In addition to the solid activity tracking, it functions well as a day-to-day smartwatch, rivalling the higher-end devices in the ability to make calls, play music and make Samsung Pay payments.
Battery life: Up to 6 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Features: Aluminum frame, color AMOLED screen, tracks 15 activities, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, SmartTrack exercise recognition, smartphone notifications, built-in microphone, breathing training, female health tracking, music control, NFC payments (Fitbit Pay) Alexa
The Versa 2 is one of Fitbit’s newest offerings and proves to be a reliable partner in the pool for casual swimmers, especially if you don’t want to spend much more than one hundred bucks.
With a sleek design that looks as suave outside the water as it does in, this affordable watch boasts everything you need for pool swimming. This includes a clear AMOLED screen, 5ATM water-resistance rating, and the tracking of plenty of swim data, including distance, time and automatic lap recognition.
It doesn’t feature GPS, so it’s less adept at tracking open-water swimming, but some compromises have to be made for the price. The fact it features sleep tracking, smartphone notifications and NFC payments help boost the value even further.
Battery life: Up to 7 hours
Sleep Tracking: No
Waterproof: Yes (IPX8)
Heart Rate Monitor: No
Features: Rubber strap, high-contrast OLED display, stores up to 14 workouts, Bluetooth compatible with multiple apps
It’s easy to get carried away and spend a few hundred dollars on a fitness tracker for swimming, only to realize you don’t need all the extra features that come along for the ride. This is why the budget Swimsense Live from FINIS may be a great choice.
No nonsense is the name of the game here, with a tough black rubber build and high-contrast OLED display. Tracking is pretty streamlined, detecting your stroke style and offering you everything you need in the way of analysis – including total laps, time intervals, pace, distance-per-stroke and SWOLF score.
The IPX8 water-resistance rating isn’t as heavy-duty as the others, yet it will survive prolonged swimming with no issues. You can also store up to 14 workouts, as well as uploading your workout data directly to services such as Swim.com.
The SportCount LapCounter is probably about as far away from an Apple Watch as you can get, although – for very basic lap tracking – it does its job very well indeed. Instead of anything automatic, the LapCounter is worn around the index finger like a ring.
As you finish a lap, you simply click the single button to register a completed lap, which the tracker stores (up to 9,999). At the end of your session, a check of the LED screen gives you the total number of laps you completed. It really is as simple as that.
Of course, it won’t track anything else such as time, distance or SWOLF, yet this simplicity is a refreshing change, and perfect if you don’t want any fuss. Did we mention it’s waterproof?!
While the majority of fitness trackers will track swimming in one way or another, some do it better than others. Our chart above will have given you a bit of indication as to what’s hot among swimmers – now you need to decide exactly what you need.
Are you using the device only for swimming or for other activities too? Will you be wearing it to work and play as well as your workout? Are you only swimming in a pool, or in open water as well? It all makes a difference to the fitness tracker you need.
It doesn’t have to be that confusing, providing you make a few considerations. In the following sections, we dive into everything you need to know to find the right swimming tracker for your needs.
In our opinion, there are two kinds of fitness tracker: those you will put on specifically to wear in the pool, and those you will also wear everywhere else.
If you are only using the device for swimming, then the aesthetics probably won’t matter too much. You could wear a neon orange fitness band and it wouldn’t draw any attention from other swimmers. However, if you are wearing the tracker throughout the day, to the office or the grocery store, a watch with a more traditional design may be preferred.
You can find all kinds of designs on offer. Some – like the Apple Watch and many Fitbit models – may feature a square face (which tend to offer the most detail), while others sport a circular design, more akin to a traditional wristwatch (these feel more refined and elegant). What you choose will be down to your tastes, although neither will perform any better or worse in the pool.
The strap is another important element to consider. Many midrange to high-end watches will offer the ability to remove and replace the strap. This is ideal if you want to wear, say, a leather or metal strap while at work, then a water-resistant silicone strap while in the pool.
Aesthetics aside, having something with a clear screen is crucial. Swimming is an activity that is already demanding on your vision – combine the fact that you are almost always moving, with the addition of water, chlorine, salt and possibly mud (depending on where you swim), and you can see what we mean.
Having a watch that you have to squint at through goggles isn’t much good. Thankfully, most watches aimed at swimmers are tailored to offer bright and easily-read OLED or AMOLED screens. If the watch offers an always-on display (usually seen with Apple, Garmin and Fitbit products), then all the better – you don’t have to tap the screen or press a button to see what’s happening. Just a glance at your wrist is all you need.
On the subject of tapping and swiping, be aware that some devices will disable the touchscreen when you start a swimming workout. This prevents water and flapping hands doing something unwanted, such as resetting a lap or cancelling a workout.
The battery life is as important on a swimming smartwatch as it is on a fitness tracker for cycling, running or CrossFit.
The amount of juice each watch offers varies greatly depending on the watch’s capability and the price you spend – this could be from up to a day to anywhere up to two years! Perhaps surprisingly, the more expensive the watch, the worse the battery life tends to be.
This is because expensive watches with vibrant always-on screens, built-in GPS and hundreds of features are obviously more demanding on a battery than a simple tracker with minimal functions.
While you may still want the high-end watch, you should certainly consider how the battery life affects things. For example, will you remember to charge the watch often? It’s so frustrating arriving at the pool, only to realize you only have 3% battery remaining!
Are you looking for sleep tracking (see section below)? If so, a longer battery life is desirable, otherwise you will have to charge the watch during the day to give it enough juice for the night.
When you think you have found the watch with the right battery life for you, be sure to read a little deeper into what that number actually means. Sure, some may advertise a battery as ‘lasting up to seven days’, but start using the device in GPS mode and that may only grant you 14 hours of power.
Luckily, this won’t be too much of an issue for swimmers, as most sessions won’t last more than a couple of hours. However, it’s worth considering if you are taking on a big event, such as an Ironman, as many watches won’t finish the race alive in GPS mode – especially if they weren’t fully charged to begin with.
Having GPS built into your fitness tracker allows the device to record your route, allowing you to more accurately determine your pace and distance, while reliably mapping your swim.
Of course, GPS will be more essential if you incorporate open-water swimming into your activities, as it is much more difficult to determine how far you swam and your pace when in the sea or a lake instead of an Olympic pool.
Having built-in GPS means you can look back on your swim and analyze the data, to help you understand your session and training more deeply.
A word of warning – if you are buying the device primarily to track your swimming (as opposed to running or daily activity), ensure that you are buying a watch with ‘built-in GPS’ and not ‘connected GPS’. There is a difference.
Connected GPS means that the device does not contain a GPS receiver of its own – instead, it relies on the GPS signal of your smartphone. While this may not matter as much on a fitness tracker designed for running, the difference is more important in the water. You would need to bring your smartphone along with you on the swim, which is both inconvenient and risky.
When buying a fitness tracker for swimming, you will tend to find either devices built specifically for swimming (the Garmin Swim 2, for example) or more general activity trackers (such as the Garmin Forerunner 945).
A tracker designed specifically for swimming will usually offer the most in-depth tracking and analysis features for both in the pool and in open water.
For example, you will find tracking for your distance, pace, stroke rate, stroke distance, stroke count and SWOLF score, as well as advanced swim features that can help you in the pool. This can include pace alerts, drill logging and multiple rest timers. They also tend to feature swim training plans and plenty of analysis tools.
The tradeoff is that swim-specific trackers are less adept at tracking other activities. Some – like the Garmin Swim 2 – do track cycling and running in addition to swimming, but this is usually the extent.
If you enjoy other activities besides swimming and want to track things like weightlifting, yoga, golf and even skiing, then a dedicated swim tracker probably won’t satisfy. This is where you can turn to other more general trackers.
While Apple Watches and high-end Garmins may cost more, you will still find awesome swim tracking on these devices, but with the bonus of multiple activity tracking (not to mention the other features these watches come with).
If you don’t want to spend as much, lower-end general activity trackers will also track swimming activity pretty well – usually data such as distance, pace and times are captured – although you won’t be able to enjoy the advanced analysis.
What you choose will be down to your passion for swimming. If it’s the only activity you do or you are a serious swimmer, then go for a dedicated swim tracker. If you dabble in multiple activities, a general fitness tracker may work better.
Diving into a pool onto to realize your smartwatch isn’t waterproof can be a costly error. Therefore, one of the most important – if not the most important – feature of a fitness tracker for swimming is its ability to withstand water. In other words, its water-resistance rating.
While there are several ratings out there, the main ratings we are focusing on are IPX8, IP68 and 5ATM.
Without going into too much detail about what each letter and number means (you can check out the FAQ section below for more on this), these ratings signify how much water each device can withstand and for how long.
If you are swimming often and for prolonged periods (i.e. more than 30 minutes at a time), we advise going for a watch with a rating of 5ATM. This means that the device will be able to withstand water up to 50 meters deep for however long the manufacturer specifies.
Considering how forcefully your arms move through the water when swimming, you will be subjecting the watch to increased pressure even at a few meters deep, so a watch with a 5ATM rating means you should be well-protected for the majority of pool swimming.
Truth be told, you can probably also get away with swimming with an IP68 rating (which guarantees protection in water up to 1.5m deep).
In practice, all watches differ and all manufacturers claim something different. Some will be very cautious about how much their device can withstand, despite offering a 5ATM rating. Others will boast confidently that you can swim to your heart’s content with an IPX8 rating.
This is why it is important to read the notes from the manufacturer before making the purchase. For example, the Apple Watch Series 5 offers the desired 5ATM rating, yet Apple state that the watch should ‘not be used for scuba diving, water-skiing or other activities involving high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth.’
This is also the case for different water styles, as many manufacturers should advise whether their devices are usable in seawater as well as fresh water or pool water. For example, Samsung say that their Galaxy Watch should be ‘rinsed in fresh water/dried after use in sea water or chlorinated water’.
Be aware of temperatures too. Wearing your 5ATM watch in the pool is one thing, but keeping it on as you relax in a hot tub, sauna or steam room could damage it, as heat impacts the device in different ways.
From budget fitness trackers right up to high-end smartwatches, many devices offer wrist-based heart rate monitoring as standard.
However, despite an optical heart rate monitor being built into the device, the majority of wrist-based heart rate monitors will not capture your pulse under water. Instead you will need to buy a waterproof chest strap heart rate monitor that is compatible with your device (such as Garmin’s HRM-Swim).
While you still may not be able to monitor your heart rate in real time – as these Bluetooth straps cannot usually communicate with the device underwater – you can view your data when you have surfaced.
Luckily for serious swimmers, some swim trackers do offer heart rate monitoring from the wrist while underwater. Keep an eye out for these if you are particularly keen on swimming within certain heart rate zones, or don’t want to wear a chest strap while you swim.
After a good session in the pool, nobody can be blamed for wanting a good night’s sleep. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. This is where a good sleep tracker built into your device can help.
By monitoring subtle movements, sleep trackers will detect when you fall asleep and how restful you are during the night – whether you sleep like a log, or toss, turn and fidget the night away.
The results are then viewable via the watch or accompanying fitness app, giving you some insight into what exactly you are doing through the night. In turn, you can experiment with different things to improve your sleep quality – from going to bed at different times to drinking less alcohol.
As we have mentioned, some higher-end fitness trackers won’t offer built-in sleep tracking as their battery lives mean that they require charging at the end of every day, rendering a sleep tracking feature a little pointless.
So, if you are keen on sleep tracking, be sure the watch offers it – or at least the means to download a third-party app.
While swimming may be your life, chances are you don’t live in the pool! Therefore, a few extras – what we refer to as lifestyle features – can enhance the value of a good fitness tracker and help make your life more convenient.
Smartphone notifications are very popular and found on watches across the price spectrum. It’s convenient to be able to see who is calling and messaging you without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. In some cases (usually on more expensive devices), you can answer calls, make calls and reply to messages directly from your phone.
Another feature that interests many users is music storage. While not much use when swimming, devices that offer music storage (including offline use of services like Spotify and Deezer) can be awesome for when you go for a run or simply want to listen to music when you don’t have your phone nearby.
It is also becoming common for midrange and higher-end watches to offer NFC payments, allowing you to make contactless payments directly from your watch. This is usually reliant on you having an account with a service such as Garmin Pay, Apple Pay or Fitbit Pay.
Many watches also allow you to expand the use of the device to suit your needs. Apple Watches in particular have access to an excellent app store, allowing you to do everything from check the weather to order takeout food directly from your wrist.
This also means you can download swimming apps that offer advanced tracking and analysis of your time in the water, such as MySwimPro, Swim.com and Speedo On.
The amount and quality of these smartwatch features will be largely determined by the price you spend. If you are buying a sub-$40 watch, it’s unlikely that anything other than your activity will be tracked. However, a fitness tracker costing around $200 will usually be much better stocked in terms of extra features.
Fitness trackers for swimming fall into two categories – those designed specifically for swimming, and those that can track swimming in addition to many other activities.
Of course, if you are a serious swimmer, a dedicated swim tracker will usually be the best choice. With the emphasis on swimming, these will usually offer the most in-depth options for training programs, alerts and live updates, as well as detailed analysis of your session. These watches are excellent, providing you don’t mind them lacking some of the features offered by standard smartwatches.
The problem is that – at the time of writing – there aren’t many of these dedicated swim trackers around.
If you are a passionate swimmer, but also enjoy running, cycling, yoga and weightlifting (i.e. a fitness enthusiast!), and want some extra smartwatch features (such as NFC payments and music storage), then a general-purpose fitness tracker may be a better option. These may lack as much in-depth swimming features, but make up for it in different ways.
Either way, check out our top seven chart above to get a feel for what kind of fitness tracker will help you get the most from your time in the pool.
In years gone by, jumping into the pool with your smartwatch would have been a big mistake. Thankfully, nowadays the majority of fitness trackers and smartwatches are ultra-resistant to water and suitable for most swimming activities.
However, you can’t assume that every watch is. The easiest way to determine whether or not the device is water resistant is to look at the rating.
You will usually find either an IP (Ingress Protection) code or an ATM mark.
In the case of IP ratings, two numerals determine the protection on offer. The first specifies the device’s protection against solids (such as dust) while the second signifies protection against water. The higher the numbers, the better the protection. For solids, 6 is the highest number, while 8 is the highest for water (ignoring the rarely-used ‘9K’).
While there are many different IP ratings, smartwatches tend to come with either IP67 or IP68 codes.
In short, IP67 will protect the device from dust and water up to one meter deep for 30 minutes, while IP68 will protect the device from dust and water over a meter deep. In this case, the exact depth and time will be specified by the manufacturer.
If the code features an ‘X’ – such as IPX8 – it simply means the solids aspect hasn’t been tested. So, in the case of IPX8, the device would be able to withstand being submerged in water deeper than one meter, but perhaps not dust.
IPs aside, a device with a 5ATM rating is what you should look out for if you are a keen swimmer. This rating is found on the majority of devices we feature in our chart and simply means the watch is capable of withstanding water up to 50 meters deep.
However, there is much disagreement in the tech world over what all these ratings actually guarantee and whether or not they are actually suitable for swimming.
Our advice? Go with what the manufacturer specifies. If they confidently insist that their device is swim-proof with an IP68 rating, then assume they have thoroughly tested this device so the statement is accurate. Ultimately, if the watch breaks after a swimming session, you would be within your right to demand a refund!
There are more considerations on water resistance in the dedicated section in our guide above.
These days in fitness environments, it’s more common to see somebody wearing a fitness tracker than not – whether that’s at the gym, the park or the swimming pool. But do fitness trackers actually make a difference?
It may sound obvious, but the only thing that can really make a difference to your fitness is… you!
That’s right, a fitness tracker can certainly help you in some instances, yet unless you are putting the effort and consistency into your sessions, you won’t see the results you want.
However, fitness trackers can help in some senses.
Firstly, they can monitor data that would otherwise be complicated to keep track of. For example, in the swimming pool, some trackers will be able to keep an eye on your overall time, distance and average pace, as well as your stroke rate, stroke distance and SWOLF score. Try doing that all manually and you will soon have a headache!
With all this information you can gain a deeper understanding of how your session and wider training is actually going. Are you hitting your targets? Where can you improve?
In addition to tracking, fitness trackers can aid you while working out. Sticking with swimming, while midway through a session, you may want to stick to a certain pace. Your device may offer pace alerts, which will poke you if you are going too fast or too slow at any given moment. Call it a coach on your wrist!
Finally, fitness trackers can offer a little motivation. By viewing your data, you can see how you are improving and take inspiration from your progress. Or you can see how little you are improving and use this as the kick up the butt you may need!
Combine the words SWim and gOLF, and you have SWOLF! This is a common metric on swimming-focused fitness trackers… but what does it actually mean?
Thankfully, it has nothing to do with golf clubs, balls or badly-sliced drives! SWOLF is simply a way to measure the efficiency of your swim. To calculate your SWOLF score, you add together the number of strokes per length and the time it took to complete that length. The lower the score, the more efficiently you swim.
So, in a 25-meter pool, if you swam the length in 30 seconds and took 20 strokes, your SWOLF score would be 50. If your friend, swam the length in 30 seconds but only took 18 strokes, his score would be 48 and he would win.
SWOLF is a fun metric and a great way to challenge yourself to better your previous SWOLF scores. The lower you can get your score, the more effective you are at swimming – simple as that.
What is a good SWOLF score? Swimming in a 25-meter pool, anything in the low 40s and under would be considered a very good score for an amateur swimmer.
If you have a good stopwatch and can remember how many strokes you took, you can work out your SWOLF score at the end of each length. Of course, if you have a decent fitness tracker for swimming, you will have this data automatically recorded.
Compared to fitness trackers for running, cycling and general activity, devices built specifically for swimming are much harder to find. However, as time passes, more manufacturers are tailoring their fitness trackers towards swimming – and that can only be a good thing for us swimmers!
In the meantime, there are still plenty of fitness trackers with excellent swim features on the market. Our top seven chart will have offered a good snapshot of what’s hot at the moment. However, by using the information in our guide, you may find a different watch with features that suit you better.
So, you have the information and you know your needs… now is the fun part – time to go shopping!