Best smartwatches, bands and trackers for wheelchair fitness tracking

With the launch of watchOS 3, the Apple Watch will become capable of tracking the activity and fitness of wheelchair users. But while Apple is leading the way, other fitness tracking companies currently offer smartwatches, wristbands and activity trackers which also work for wheelchair users. Here are the best options

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Best alternatives to the Apple Watch for wheelchair fitness tracking

Apple had lots to say about each of its four operating systems at WWDC 2016, but one new element of watchOS that most of us weren't expecting was the new focus on wheelchair fitness. watchOS 3 will turn the Apple Watch into a wheelchair activity tracker.

The feature will provide two wheelchair-specific workouts, making it the first tech giant to commit itself so fully to creating a fitness feature for people with disabilities. But while it feels like Apple is leading the way, it's not alone. Wheelchair athletes and fitness buffs have other options; some other companies, for example, currently offer a wristband which also works for wheelchair users.

Here are a few ways wheelchair activity can be tracked, including the Apple Watch itself - which may be the best option for wheelchair fitness enthusiasts - and the best alternatives currently available.

Read next: Apple Watch Series 2 review | Apple Watch & watchOS 3 tips

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Next Prev Best features watchos 2 time travel

Apple had lots to say about each of its four operating systems at WWDC 2016, but one new element of watchOS that most of us weren't expecting was the new focus on wheelchair fitness. watchOS 3 will turn the Apple Watch into a wheelchair activity tracker.

The feature will provide two wheelchair-specific workouts, making it the first tech giant to commit itself so fully to creating a fitness feature for people with disabilities. But while it feels like Apple is leading the way, it's not alone. Wheelchair athletes and fitness buffs have other options; some other companies, for example, currently offer a wristband which also works for wheelchair users.

Here are a few ways wheelchair activity can be tracked, including the Apple Watch itself - which may be the best option for wheelchair fitness enthusiasts - and the best alternatives currently available.

Read next: Apple Watch Series 2 review | Apple Watch & watchOS 3 tips

 

Best alternatives to the Apple Watch for wheelchair fitness tracking: The Apple Watch (with watchOS 3)

Buy from: Apple

Price: From £259 (38mm Sport model) to £13,500 (select Edition models)

As part of its watchOS 3 update - which will be a free update available to all Apple Watches; no new hardware is required - Apple has researched and designed the Activity app so it can track distance, speed and calories burned when wheeling, instead of just walking or running.

It will determine calories burned in a wheelchair according to how hard the surface is, such as carpet or asphalt, and its gradient - whether the person is pushing uphill or rolling downhill. Different seats and wheel heights are also considered, and varying formulas for different disabilities. The watch already has a "time to stand" fitness notification, but watchOS 3 will include the option of a "time to roll" warning instead.

To test the feature, Apple worked alongside two US-based disability foundations with around 300 wheelchair users participating in more than 3,000 hours of activity research.

Read more: Apple Watch buying guide

 

Best alternatives to the Apple Watch for wheelchair fitness tracking: Fitbit Flex

Buy from: Fitbit

Price: £79.99

The Fitbit Flex wristband counts any movement as steps, including manual wheelchair propelling. It tracks distance, calories burned, active minutes and sleep patterns.

Fitbit trackers use a 3-axis accelerometer to turn acceleration of the body into digital measurements, such as information about frequency, duration, intensity and patterns of movement.

The Fitbit tracker uses an algorithm to track motion. If motion is large enough to meet the set threshold, it's counted as a step.

The tracker can be synced with the Fitbit app, available for iOS, Android and Windows. The app allows you to track pace, time and distance, to see exercise statistics, how your performance is improving and interaction with others to share your progress.

To find out more on how to sync the Fitbit Flex to your smartphone, click here.

Read next: Best weight loss and diet apps for iPhone | Best running & sport headphones

 

Best alternatives to the Apple Watch for wheelchair fitness tracking: Nike Fuelband SE

Buy from: ebay

Price: From £15

The release of Nike's Fuelband SE in 2014 met with a mixed response: it proved underwhelming in features but still reliable and simple in motion tracking.

Read our review here.

But one of its plus points is the fact that the Nike Fuelband SE measures distance, movement and activity even if you're not walking: it tracks arm and wrist motion, including the motion created when powering a wheelchair.

Nike has moved towards the focus of fitness apps and no longer manufactures the Fuelband, but you can still find them second-hand, refurbished or as-new fairly easily.

The Nike+ Connect app is available for Apple and Android, and syncs with the Fuelband SE using Bluetooth.

To find out more on how to sync the Nike Fuelband SE to a smartphone, click here.

 

Best alternatives to the Apple Watch for wheelchair fitness tracking: Freewheel

Price: TBC (prototype)

Prototypes more specific to the wheelchair community are also in development, such as Chaotic Moon Studios' Freewheel - a small device attached to the wheelchair that collects data and uses Bluetooth to sync information to a smartphone.

The prototype was introduced by content strategist Tyler Hively, a wheelchair user, at the Austin-based design and development studio.

Freewheel detects incline and decline, acceleration, speed and distance using a gyroscope, barometer, accelerometer, Hall Effect sensors and Bluetooth to translate this information to the user's phone or smartwatch.

There's no sign of a release date as yet, but you can read more about the Freewheel here.

 

Best alternatives to the Apple Watch for wheelchair fitness tracking: SmartHub

Price: N/A (academic project) but costs approximately $140 to produce

SmartHub is also specifically designed for manual wheelchair users by Ohio State University students. It collects data such as average velocity, distance travelled, strokes per day and average pushing force.

The device has more of a focus toward healthcare professionals, helping to reduce the risk of injury for wheelchair users, such as shoulder pain.

SmartHub includes a main control board and a magnet. The device attaches between the frame of the wheelchair and the wheel, and uses a micro-SD card to download data on to a computer.

It has battery life lasting around 20 hours, and can be produced for $140.

The accuracy of the technology is currently being tested. It is being described as a tool for wheelchair manufacturers to design more efficient wheelchairs and for individuals to easily track personal health goals.

Read more about it here.

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