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The best fitness tech for college students

Stay healthy even with limited time, space and funds.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Fitness is (thankfully) no longer about attaining some aesthetic ideal. It helps us sleep better, have more energy and avoid burnout — salutary things for all humans, but particularly for college students. Engadget staffers include workout fiends, avid cyclists, a Judo blackbelt and a certified marathon coach, so we’ve reviewed and covered a wide expanse of fitness tech. For this guide, we’re calling out gear that makes the most sense for students who need help with health tracking and overall wellness without gobbling up too much time, space or money.

Fitbit Charge 5

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Fitbit Charge 5 is our favorite fitness tracker because it accurately tracks workouts, has a long battery life and isn't as bulky (or as expensive) as a smartwatch. 

$134 at Amazon
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$75 at Walmart

Smartwatches are basically tiny computers on your wrist, which can be overkill when all you want to do is track your runs and heart rate. Fitness trackers are cheaper, have longer lasting batteries and tend to be lighter on your wrist. Our current favorite is the Fitbit Charge 5 thanks to its thin design that still boasts a full-color OLED display. It has an EDA sensor to keep tabs on your stress levels and on-board GPS tracking for runs, hikes and bike rides without your phone present. Plus, it can last for over two days on a charge with the always-on display enabled and five days with it off, so if you forget to charge it between classes and late-night cram sessions, it’s no big deal.

Apple Watch

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Our "best overall" pick for smartwatches does a good job of tracking health and fitness data. It also pairs well with an iPhone, bringing notifications and app controls to your wrist. 

$335 at Amazon
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If you do want a tiny computer on your wrist, we think the Apple Watch has the best blend of fitness-centered features and smartwatch utility. It’s currently our favorite smartwatch and has sensors to track your heart rate, sleep, ovulation, EKG measurements and even menstrual cycles. The Workout app has countless modes and will soon include more advanced cycling workouts.

Our deputy editor Cherlynn Low tried out the Series 8 for a week when it first came out and called it a “superb watch” with “excellent health and fitness tools.” Plus, it puts all of your iPhone’s alerts on your wrist, so you’ll never miss an important email from a professor or a reminder to finish your paper that’s due tomorrow. At nearly $400, it’s an expensive investment but one that will last. My Apple Watch Series 4 is still going strong and will even be eligible for the upcoming WatchOS 10 update this fall, five years after it was released.

Of course, if you don’t use an iPhone, an Apple Watch doesn’t make a lot of sense. For Android users, we recommend the Galaxy Watch 5 from Samsung because it’s a reliable wearable with comprehensive fitness and smart capabilities that rival Apple’s smartwatch.

Eufy Smart Scale P2 Pro

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At $80, Eufy's scale is relatively affordable and is capable of providing heart rate, BMI, muscle mass and more. 

$80 at Amazon

Getting healthy is not about the number on a scale, but you can use that number as one way to monitor your progress towards your fitness goals. One of our favorite smart scales on the market, the Smart Scale P2 Pro by Eufy tracks not just pounds and kilos, but also your heart rate, BMI, and muscle and bone mass. It can even detect things like your basal metabolic rate and offers a bevy of stats and data in its companion app. Despite being one of the more feature-rich scales we tested, the P2 Pro typically comes in around $80, which should make it affordable for students on a budget.

Theragun Mini

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We think the smaller Theragun works nearly as well as its larger counterparts to ease tight muscles. It's also easier to hold in one hand and quieter than many percussion massagers. 

$199 at Theragun

This gadget shows up in many of our gift guides because it’s such an excellent self care item. After a hard workout, the Theragun Mini can ease some soreness. Our UK bureau chief, Mat Smith, who does five HIIT and/or weight training classes per week, finds that it works nearly as well as Theragun’s much pricier Elite flagship percussive therapy gun. The triangle shape of the Mini is small enough to control with one hand so you can easily direct the massage. While it’s not exactly quiet, Theragun’s latest motors tamp down the noise a bit so you’ll annoy your roommates slightly less when you put it to work.

TriggerPoint Foam Massage Ball

Trigger Point Performance

These lo-fi massage balls can target soreness all over the body and take up less space than foam rollers. 

$18 at Amazon
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$18 at Walmart

Mat is also a fan of TriggerPoint’s Foam Massage Ball and recommends it in his fitness recovery guide. The rigid balls can be used nearly anywhere you feel tight or sore. You can stick them on a yoga mat and roll over them to target places on your shoulders and glutes, or roll them between your back and the wall to ease tightness. They come in different sizes and firmness levels as well: the smaller ones are better for the muscles like your calves, and the larger versions are best used for bigger areas like your hips. Since they’re more compact than foam rollers, they should be easy to stash in cramped apartment closets or dorm room storage spaces.

Hatch Restore 2

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This sleep machine and sunrise alarm clock employs a deep library of original sounds and content to help you fall asleep and drown out noisy roommates. 

$200 at Hatch

With sleep and health being so intertwined, I’d be remiss not to mention the Hatch Restore 2 here. I tested it for many weeks and found it helped me get to sleep faster and woke me up more gently than any alarm I’ve used. It’s a sleep machine and sunrise alarm in one, relying on a vast library of original content to help you get better rest. The sleep stories are relaxing and the ambient music is perfect for nodding off to. A variety of white, pink and brown noises can play all night if you want them to, and there’s even motivational morning stretches and talks to get you going. The caveat is the price: it’s $200 for the unit and $5 each month for the membership — but if a new living situation, noisy roommates or the stress of coursework has you struggling to get a good night’s sleep, it could be worth it.

Beats Fit Pro

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Our favorite earbuds for workouts stay put with a comfortable wing and deliver balanced sound that has plenty of bass. Plus they work with iPhone and Android phones. 

$160 at Amazon
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$160 at Walmart

If you like your AirPods for studying and daily listening but want something designed to handle movement and sweat, check out the Beats Fit Pro. They’re our top recommendation for workout earbuds in our guide thanks to their balanced sound that delivers plenty of hard-hitting, butt-motivating beats. The wing helps them stay in place and they’re surprisingly comfortable, according to our audio expert and senior news editor Billy Steele. Despite being made by Apple, there’s a good amount of support for Android devices as well, but they are a little pricey at $200. For something more budget-friendly, check out the Jabra Elite 4 Active; we recommend them in our workout headphones guide and they usually sell for around $100.

Alo Moves

Alo Moves

Alo Moves has a huge roster of yoga, pilates and barre classes that are filterable by duration and intensity so you can easily slip in a workout between classes. 

$20 at Alo Moves

Being in school can make it tough to fit in a trip to the gym, even if you have one on campus. Fitness apps make it easy to squeeze in a workout wherever it makes sense — most don’t require much beyond a small square of space and maybe a mat. One app we prefer for workouts like yoga, pilates and barre is Alo Moves. It’s a little pricier than others at $20 per month, but offers a huge and ever-updating cache of workouts, with options to choose sessions based on duration, difficulty and intensity. For consistency (and to eliminate decision fatigue), you can try different "series" made up of similar workouts to do over a few days or weeks. Alo Moves also includes meditation classes, which could come in handy when class, or life in general, gets overwhelming.

Apple Fitness+

Apple's fitness app has hundreds of HIIT, yoga, kickboxing, dance, pilates and strength training classes for $10 per month, but it only makes sense for iPhone users.

$10 at Apple

For those with an iPhone, Apple Fitness+ is a little cheaper than Alo Moves at $10 per month. It also has a wider variety of classes to choose from, with yoga, HIIT, dance, kickboxing and at least eight more categories available. I like to stick with a particular instructor for a while before moving on to someone else. There’s great interplay between the classes and the playlist, no doubt thanks to Apple’s expanding music rights. Class durations range from 5 to 45 minutes, so you can get in a quick workout in between classes or carve out time for longer sessions. You don’t have to have an Apple Watch to use Fitness+ either, but the on-screen, real-time stats like heart rate and burn zones can be pretty motivating.



The running and cycling app can help you track your improvement over time. Social features may help motivate you as well. 

$0 at Strava

Running, hiking and cycling are perfect low-cost, high-return workouts that can actually help you get to know the areas outside your campus. Strava’s app not only tracks your stats, but there’s also a robust social feature that can help keep you motivated, particularly when you challenge others. Our weekend editor, Igor Bonifacic, said using the app helped him realize he was steadily improving as a cyclist — even when it sometimes felt like he wasn’t. Recording your rides and runs is free, as is access to the social network and use of the Beacon safety feature that lets you share your location with another person during your activities. Other features, like goal setting and route planning, require a subscription that’s currently $12 per month or $80 annually.