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Have you ever felt like your health and fitness regimen was missing something? Ever felt like you’ve been sticking to a good system and putting in the work, but not quite feeling as healthy as you want? Don’t sweat it – you’re not alone.
Fitness trackers weren’t created as some magical solution to make you stronger, faster, and sexier. But where they DO excel is by giving you some crazy data and insights to help get you there. As always though, the rest is on you.
The explosion of modern fitness trackers has helped literal millions stay on track, document their lifestyles, and inevitably improve their health and fitness results. From basic heart rate monitors to feature-loaded wearable devices, several new products promise serious innovation in the wellness sector; some even flexing some style to go with. These devices can accurately track how well your body functions, monitor and improve sleep, and provide a technical edge in your workouts. There has never been an easier time to stay on top of your body and health, but the question remains: which one is right one for you?
Today, we are going to look at two of the top wearable fitness trackers in the industry, Whoop vs Fitbit. Both design amazing products and have their own cult followings, but are more suited for different audiences. Let’s jump in to see which is right for you.
What are fitness trackers?
Fitness trackers, like smart watches, are tech-heavy devices that you wear (usually on your wrist) to track your health metrics, activity levels, and a whole lot more. They continuously collect data and relay that information into an app on your phone via bluetooth. Using sensors and motion detectors, fitness trackers can accurately track your heart rate, physical activity, stress, and if worn at night, sleep patterns. Algorithms then automatically compile this data and give you customized recommendations on how to live better. Think your Apple Watch already does this? Think again. These fitness trackers go way harder.
Will a fitness tracker make me more fit?
There’s no such thing as a stupid question, but that’s getting pretty darn close. No – wearing a fitness tracker won’t magically make you an athlete, but they (the good ones, at least) will help you learn about your body and lifestyle and help you instill new, healthy habits. They really are legit at highlighting your unhealthy behaviors and reinforcing the healthy ones. You’re driving the car; your fitness tracker is sitting shotgun giving you directions.
Who should consider using a fitness tracker?
Before we go too deep, a little bit about myself. I consider myself a pretty active, athletic guy. Love working out, going on adventures, fishing, hiking, etc. But since I work for a tech startup and created this website on the side, I’m also behind my computer for around 12 hours a day. Tack on a couple hours of video games a night and… you get the idea. I’m fit, but I’m no competitive athlete. I just care about my health.
That being said, I do think everyone should consider letting a fitness tracker into his or her life. Sure, most phones can already track your steps and smartwatches have heart rate monitors for basic feedback about your body. If that’s enough for your presumably inactive lifestyle, maybe these aren’t for you.
But anyone serious about their health and body optimization can get a lot of use from Whoop and Fitbit’s products. You don’t need to be a professional athlete or a gym rat to benefit. If you are moderately active, monitor your food intake and sleep, or are serious about your wellness optimization, keep reading. (Oh and if the diet part appeals to you, be sure to check out our review of Lumen – an innovative metabolism tracker that actually works.)
Both Whoop and Fitbit offer in-depth insights via apps that can be easily (for the most part) tailored to your lifestyle. Fitbit has traditionally been marketed to a broad audience, and Whoop started its journey being a perfect fit for serious athletes (given how powerful and data-driven they are). Over time, though, they’ve become popular with people from all walks of life: curious beginners to hardcore fitness freaks, and everyone in between.
Whoop Review: A closer look at the Whoop 4.0 fitness tracker
When you get started with Whoop, you’ll first customize some criteria that you want to track each day. I call them journal entries. Over 40 different behaviors can be tracked, including: whether or not you shared your bed, how much caffeine you consumed the previous day, how long you exercised, amount of drugs you took (like alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco) AND when you last consumed them, etc.
All this data combines into meaningful data points that help Whoop give you useful recommendations and insights. For some people, the idea of manual data input can be frustrating, but in practice, the Whoop really allows you to get whatever you want out of it. You can use it for its most basic features, or you can opt to log your entire day and get better recommendations as a result. Either way, it’s extremely insightful.
If you ever want to tweak your journal entries (say, you just picked up a pair of blue light glasses), no problem. Personally, I was a little too ambitious at first about adding these. After a few days, I removed a couple of ones that I rarely do (like taking Magnesium supplements). One cool thing is that over time, you can zoom out and see how many times you checked a specific one ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ within the past 90 days. Over time, you can get a feel for how each one is trending, and make changes to your life accordingly.
That’s really the only action needed on your part – just your morning entries journalling how yesterday went. For me, it takes about 10 seconds.
Side note: I always advise friends to think of the Whoop more as a strap or wristband, and less as a watch or an electronic. Not only is it super comfortable, but in my opinion, it’s important to have that understanding as you learn more about the Whoop’s role in your life. More on that in a sec when we touch on sleep.
What sorts of health data does the Whoop track?
While the Whoop 4.0 itself is sleek and compact, its mobile app and features are SERIOUSLY robust. Personally, I don’t even actively look at all of them. But given the fact that Whoop was initially geared toward hardcore athletes, I think that makes sense.
Whoop’s heart rate monitor is second-to-none in its accuracy and brains. And since the new Whoop 4.0 has 4x as many photodiodes on its sensor than the 3.0 did, this is double-true. It focuses on HRV (heart rate variability), a stat that Whoop teaches is a huge component of cardiac health. HRV is the basis for a TON of the data the Whoop provides.
Also remember that not all fitness trackers measure HRV or sleep stages with the same accuracy. If you wanna read more on that, we covered it in our recent deep dive: Oura Ring vs Whoop vs Garmin.
Whoop 4.0's new Health Monitor dashboard is a one-stop-shop for health data
With the release of Whoop 4.0 comes the new Health Monitor. From here, you can get a live look at how your body is performing – right now. And since Whoop is your partner in crime when it comes to tracking your health, it’s also able to alert you whenever a metric(s) is outside of your normal range.
The Health Monitor gives you easy access to five key health metrics all in one place:
- Respiratory rate
- Blood oxygen (new). Monitors your blood oxygen levels (SpO2) with pulse oximetry.
- Resting Heart Rate RHR
- Heart Rate Variability HRV
- Skin temperature (new). A new skin temperature sensor alerts you whenever your skin temp falls outside of the normal range.
Whoop's Strain Feature
Super cool – Whoop’s brain is advanced enough to relay your total strain into an easy-to-understand rating each day. It gives you goal ratings to stay under in order to optimize performance and recovery. This number really helps you understand strain not only from a physical perspective, but also a mental one.
You may have a day where your workout and activity wasn’t super high, but your strain is still measurably high. In this case, you’ve likely experienced a significant amount of mental stress. The Whoop 4.0 can help give you an idea of the total strain on your body from your ENTIRE daily lifestyle, giving you tips and indicators to relax, or switch up your routine when stress is adding to strain.
Whoop’s app also breaks down your weekly strain, calculates averages of your critical info like HR, calories, and activity.
Whoop's Sleep Tracking Feature
Ever tried one of those mobile apps, like Sleep Cycle, that supposedly tracks how well you sleep at night? Basically, you boot it up, place your phone by (or ideally on) your bed, and you wake up with insights about your sleep patterns. Personally, this was my first breakthrough in how sleep can be tracked and studied to improve our individual health. Initially, I was blown away. I learned about sleep cycles and started to care more about the quality and duration of my sleep. But it was never perfect, and I doubt I used it for more than a few weeks. They also largely rely on audible noises, which means if you sleep with a partner, you’re SOL.
Using a Whoop to improve my sleep has been infinitely more useful than anything else I’ve tried. You wear it while you sleep, but I can 100% genuinely say it’s comfortable enough that I legit forget I’m wearing it sometimes. And that includes while I sleep. While it doesn’t actively improve your sleep like melatonin or Nyquil does, the insights it provides you each day are powerful enough to change your habits.
Everyone knows we need eight hours a night, but very few of us have any sense as to how many of those hours spent lying in bed were actually restorative. That’s where Whoop comes in so clutch.
Not only will the Whoop tell that I only got six hours of actual sleep (out of say, eight spent lying in bed), but it’ll also learn what times I tend to wake up, and then give me a heads up about when I should go to bed that night, based on previous nights’ sleep and how recovered my body is today. It’ll also give me some leniency and let me choose from three time spans to sleep, based on how well I need to perform tomorrow. Honestly, reread this paragraph because this is, by far, my favorite aspect of using my Whoop.
Also note that anyone who purchases a Whoop (or extends their current plan) automatically gets upgraded to the Whoop 4.0.
And one of the COOLEST things about the 4.0 is that it has haptics in it that will emit gentle vibrations to wake you up at the perfect time. On weekdays, I set it to wake me up at the ideal time for recovery, as long as it’s before 8am. Pretty awesome to put the data to work like that.
Whoop's Recovery Analysis
Last but definitely not least, Recovery. Think of Recovery as Whoop’s ultimate barometer of your success. Had a huge strain day, but not enough sleep? Your Recovery analysis the next day might be pretty poor. On the flip side, a less stressing day and quality rest will likely give you a positive Recovery score. But don’t start thinking it’s that simple, because it goes deeper.
Recovery analysis is tied into all of your Whoop’s data collection, as well as your manual input. By combining all your data (including HRV, activity, strain, and sleep), Whoop can accurately estimate your body’s recovery – displayed as a percentage. This figure can be incredibly valuable in helping to adjust your daily patterns to better optimize recovery. By wearing your Whoop every day for a month, the results and recommendations will become increasingly more valuable and insightful. This is because Recovery is a cumulative metric– you can’t just right all the wrongs in your lifestyle by sleeping in on weekends! Whoop’s app is careful to alert you to this, as it continuously calculates your Recovery and compiles it into weekly and monthly bases.
An important thing to remember with Whoop’s Strain, Sleep, and Recovery features is that it takes time to work properly. To get the most out of the Whoop, you gotta wear it day AND night. This is especially important for Sleep and Recovery, because they’re both dependent on your key health metrics being tracked 24/7. Luckily, the Whoop strap really is comfortable.
With their ever increasing line of device and strap combos, like the new Lux collection, there’s no shortage of new looks to try out for all your EDC needs. I’ve never gotten distracted by the Whoop, and after getting used to wearing it nonstop, have honestly been able to forget it’s there.
Each month, Whoop also delivers you Weekly and Monthly Performance Assessments, which provide analysis on how each of your tracked behaviors (journal entries) has impacted your Strain, Recovery, and Sleep metrics. Pretty darn cool – just make sure you fill out your journals often enough for it to have sufficient data to work with.
One random note: If Google acquiring Fitbit leaves a sour taste in your mouth, it’s worth noting that Whoop does not monetize or do shady stuff with your personal information in any way. Even better, all your metrics are anonymized and aggregated into one data set. So in no way can this anonymized data be tracked back to you (although it can be studied with population-level data to find some pretty awesome insights, like how Whoop was able to detect COVID-19 symptoms with 80% accuracy). Read more about that here.
Is Whoop worth it?
Advantages of the Whoop 4.0
- Super powerful data and insights. Doubley true now that they’re launching the Whoop 4.0, which has 4x more sensors. Originally designed for performance athletes, but intuitive enough for average Joes, too.
- Sleep tracking is very accurate and insightful, and the new haptic-based wakeup feature looks to be a home run.
- Strain and Recovery analyses are unparalleled. You may not use them off the bat, but they’re there when you need ‘em.
- Its more in-depth app means more ways to learn and adapt. That’s the whole point of this anyway, right?
- The rapidly growing community of Whoop users helps motivate you to stay on top of your goals. They’re even starting to roll out Teams of people with common interests, like Team Caffeine or people living in San Diego.
- No screen means not worrying about scratches and it pairs well with any watch.
- Tons of unique style combinations for any personality or situation. I picked up an extra strap from their Sunset Series that is very dope.
- On-the-go charging with included waterproof battery pack. Super fast charging so you’ll only have this on for short periods of time. Think Apple Airpods– you charge the case, not the device. Oh, and you can just slide it right over while you’re wearing it.
- New Strava integration lets you automatically upload your Whoop data and GPS tracking to Strava.
Disadvantages of the Whoop 4.0
- No screen. Yeah I know I had this in the Advantages, but if you’re someone who’s looking more for a smart watch, this ain’t it, Chief.
- No built-in GPS means it needs a bluetooth connection with a phone. So if you’re someone who wants to track runs without bringing your phone along, sorry.
- Shorter battery life than Fitbit. (5 days Whoop, 10 days Inspire 2, and 5-7 days for the Charge 5). Personally, I think it’s more than long enough.
- More (optional) manual data input needed. To maximize your insights & recommendations, you’ll want to take a minute to knock out those morning journal entries.
- A minimum 6 month commitment is mandatory with membership. You’ll get the device for free, but this means you’re spending at least $180 (minus $30 if you use our link!). Keep in mind the membership is necessary for the Whoop to function. I’ve started cutting back expenses elsewhere in my life, like by getting my produce from Misfits Market.
Whoop Reviews: What are others saying?
Generally, Whoop 3.0 reviews are pretty positive but there are still some consistent drawbacks. (Note, btw, that the Whoop 4.0 will begin shipping in late September, so there aren’t any customer reviews yet).
- Some people don’t like the considerable amount of manual input (journal entries) necessary to get the most out of the Whoop app.
- Also, some don’t like the lack of a screen and wish Whoop came with a display.
- Lastly, some reviewers question the accuracy of the data analysis, and the mental dilemma that can come from a device telling you that you’re not rested or recovered, and then feeling it… Does this become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Here's a comprehensive, critical Whoop review by Reddit user u/littlefitcat, with my thoughts on the left (click to enlarge):
Next up: Trustpilot. I dug through dozens of pages of reviews on Trustpilot to narrow things down into the findings I bucketed above. Here are a few standouts. Feel free to go check the rest out yourself, but keep the publishing dates in mind. Whoop has made serious strides even within the past year, so a ton of the complaints I read are no longer applicable to my Whoop 3.0 – and definitely won’t be for the 4.0.
Fitbit Review: Digging into the Inspire 2 and Charge 5 fitness trackers
Fitbit’s approach in the fitness tracker market is much more diverse. Rather than specializing in any one thing, they instead offer a large variety of devices that seem to appeal to the broader market. While every device includes some sort of interface, some are larger and more equipped, like their smart watches (Versa / Sense) while others are sleeker and simpler trackers (Inspire 2, Charge 5, Ace 2).
The Charge 5 and Inspire 2, which we are looking at today, are the most similar to the Whoop 4.0 – even though unlike the Whoop, they both have displays. Both the Charge 5 and Inspire 2 come with a variety of different straps (materials/designs/colors) to suit different styles, and can be switched out (similar to Whoop or an Apple Watch).
The key difference between Fitbit’s Charge 5 and Inspire 2 is that for an extra $50, the Charge 5 comes with built-in GPS, Tap-to-Pay, and Spotify connectivity. The Inspire 2 lacks these features. The Charge 5 is the first fitness tracker to support Tap-to-Pay, and its GPS tracking makes it a great choice for runners and cyclists who don’t wanna lug around their phone while exercising.
What sorts of health data does Fitbit track?
If you want to learn more about the Charge 5 and Inspire 2’s individual features and specs, here and here are a couple good links. Otherwise, I’m not gonna bother you with too much marketing fluff. Instead we’ll look closer at a few that are most competitive with the Whoop 4.0.
- 24/7 heart-rate monitoring (HRV and resting heart rate)
- All day activity tracking: calorie burn, steps, floors climbed, etc.
- 20+ goal based exercise modes
- Sleep tracking with Light, Deep, REM. This is your sleep score.
- Real-time pace and distance using built in GPS. (Charge 5 only)
Next is the workout tracking, which is standard on all Fitbit devices. It offers over 20 modes including running, biking, hiking, swimming, etc. This is really where the screen interface comes in handy. It allows you to quickly select your workout type and begin tracking. This is optional, however, since the all-day activity tracking will know when you’re working out and automatically log the data. Still, it is handy to not need a phone when you’re logging a workout. After a long day of activity, you’re going to need some good rest – and that’s when Fitbit kicks into high gear.
Fitbit’s automatic sleep tracking seamlessly tracks your light, deep, and REM sleep, then gives you insight and recommendations to improve your sleep patterns. Then it assigns you a Sleep Score based on your heart rate, time asleep, and restlessness. There are also bedtime reminder notifications and silent alarms to wake you from your slumber. All of these features combine into a meaningful assessment of your sleep quality and consistency, and can help you improve your daily life– that is if you can bear sleeping with it on your wrist. Fitbit’s devices are admittedly a bit clunkier than the Whoop, and the inclusion of a screen just feels strange.
As mentioned previously, if you want the ability to use GPS tracking without your phone nearby, you’ll need the Charge 5. This can be huge for runners, swimmers, or anyone who wants to exercise as naked as possible. The Inspire 2 has nearly all the functionality and will satisfy those who already workout with their phone nearby. If you want some of the basic features of a smart watch and have no intention of upgrading in the near future, pick up the Charge 5. If you’re uncertain about Fitbit’s utility, or you’re comfortable working out with your phone, you may be good with the Inspire 2.
What does Fitbit’s membership include?
Fitbit’s premium membership program grants you access to several different guided programs, like special classes and community challenges. Similar to the Whoop, it gives you personalized health recommendations, albeit not quite as advanced.
Fitbit also offers a more premium health coaching membership for another $55/month. This gives you a personal action plan and a fitness to-do list for the week. In addition, you get unlimited in-app messaging with your personal coach, who will give you specialized guidance driven by your data. I’ve never personally used this.
In essence, the health coaching membership is basically a more personalized version of Whoop’s standard membership (for an extra $55/mo), but you’re getting a real person instead of the Whoop’s brains + app. Rather than answering a few questions each day, you have access to a certified expert that will help you reach your fitness goals. To learn more about the differences between the memberships and what the Fitbit experience looks like without one, click here.
Is Fitbit worth it?
Advantages of Fitbit
- Longer battery life than Whoop.
- Both the Inspire 2 and Charge 5 have a display, so they can function as a watch as well as receive some notifications from your phone.
- Spotify connectivity is available with the Charge 5.
- The Charge 5 has built-in GPS. As mentioned earlier, this could be a make-or-break feature for some people, like long distance runners.
- There’s no necessary commitment with a Fitbit membership. You don’t have to commit to 6 months, and if you decide to stop, the device will still function (albeit with limited features and capabilities).
- Fitbit has a bigger, more established brand. Heck – it’s pretty much a household name. And with its acquisition by Google, it’s safe to say Fitbit is long for the course.
- Fitbit allows for an easy integration with Paceline, an app that rewards you for working out. (You can read our Paceline app review here.)
Disadvantages of Fitbit
- The display isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a more complete watch, Fitbit’s smart watch series will work better for you overall. And if you specifically DON’T want a watch/screen, go Whoop.
- No on-the go-charging: your device has to be taken off and plugged in to charge up.
- Fitbit’s basic membership has far fewer features than Whoop’s. And upgrading to their 1:1 membership costs a big ol’ $55/month.
- Fitbit doesn’t currently offer any upgrade or trade-in program. When a new model arrives and catches your eye, you’ll have to buy it outright.
- Less aesthetically pleasing than the Whoop 4.0. Subjective, for sure, but this is my website so I can say whatever I want. 😉
Fitbit Reviews: What are others saying about their Inspire 2 and Charge 5?
In general, Fitbit reviews are pretty positive. But of course, I had no issue finding common complaints:
- One consistent complaint with the Charge 4/5 is the battery life and how the GPS tracking absolutely drains it.
- Also, the display can be a nuisance for some, and using it too much also drains the battery.
- Third is a subpar customer service and seemingly poor quality control on Fitbit’s new trackers. A lot of people get dud devices and struggle to get them replaced.
Tldr; Which activity tracker is better? Whoop vs Fitbit
Again, subjective. Both Whoop and Fitbit have their pros and cons and at the end of the day, both make quality products. But there are some key differences that can turn the tides of Whoop vs Fitbit. Certain features cater to different audiences, so take a look and think about which you vibe with.
Both the Whoop 3.0 and Whoop 4.0 are sleeker, more rugged, and offer more powerful insights than either the Fitbit Charge 5 or Inspire 2. The app can be a little intimidating at first, given how there are a seemingly infinite number of data points and graphs to look at, but it doesn’t take long to hone in on the bits and pieces you want to focus on. It’s also a very comfortable and stylish product, which should non-negotiables for a product you wear 24/7.
The Whoop 4.0’s higher premium subscription price is justified by a much more in-depth experience. The new Health Dashboard has it all: Strain tracking and Recovery analysis for whenever I need them, and advanced Sleep insights and haptic-based alarm to start every day off right. They may not all seem important to those who don’t aren’t training for an athletic competition or whatever, but in practice, they help you learn more about your body and lifestyle. The Sleep tracking, alone, is enough to justify the $30/mo, for me.
Personally, it was a bit scary buying a 12 month membership for a product I’d never used before. It’s not cheap, especially as an annual subscription. But I’m glad I did – and the couple times I’ve gifted Whoops to friends/family, I set them up with the full 18 months. If you’re willing to roll the dice with Whoop, you can at least rest easy knowing they’ve got a 30 day return period. You’ll know if you like it within a week.
If you’re really into fitness and health, and don’t mind the price, get a Whoop 4.0. It’ll make you into a fitness nerd like me and help you feel more in control of your body than you ever have.
The Charge 5 and the rest of Fitbit’s lineup of wearables are a bit cheaper in the long run (assuming you don’t opt for the $55/month health coach membership). Their product line offers more diversity in the way of structure (full-on smart watch vs slim fitness tracker, etc.), screen size, and connectivity with other phone apps (like Spotify).
Price-wise, Whoop’s membership is a nice middle ground between the Fitbit Premium membership and their Premium + Health Coaching $55/month membership. That being said, if the Fitbit’s slightly cheaper price point is a top priority for you, you won’t be disappointed in the advantages the Charge 5 or Inspire 2 will provide you in your daily life. Since most Fitbit devices have screens on them, they’ll also act more as a replacement for a watch, if you don’t already have one. (I personally wear an Apple Watch on my left wrist every day, and adding a Fitbit with a time display is a bit overkill – I don’t want it to look like I’m wearing a watch on each wrist.)
If you’re interested in something that’s more of a watch replacement, PLUS some quality fitness tracking (and you wanna save a bit of cash!) try the Fitbit Inspire 2. And if GPS tracking is a necessity for you, give the Charge 5 a shot.