10 best fitness gadgets: top tech for training

10 best fitness gadgets
Don't go hiking up mountains without your essential gadgets... and a jacket.

Google Glass and Apple's rumoured iWatch are destined to make wearable gadgets all the rage, but for runners, hikers, gym bunnies and weight watchers it's a revolution already in full swing.

It's a sea-change hung on the power and low price of sensors and Wi-Fi modules, whose presence in everything from watches and wristbands to scales and smartphones is fast making the act of going for a run something that demands more than will power alone.

Fitness apparel comes in many guises, including 'old' tech such as headphones and MP3 players, but behind all of it is the power of gadgets. By recording your own fitness levels, setting achievable goals and tracking progress you can make exercise more fun. Here are some of the best gadgets around that help you do that.

1. Sony NWZ-W273 Walkman - £60/US$100/AU$100

10 best fitness gadgets

If you detest running but want to get fit, swimming is a powerful option, but plumbing the depths of the local swimming pool can be a lonely experience. Step forward this ingenious all-in-one Walkman, which puts all electronics and earphones in a totally waterproof design. Just 29g (1oz) and with 4GB of storage, it lasts for about eight hours. It feels like wearing a Bluetooth headset, except there's no need for a separate smartphone or MP3 player.

There are two sizes of earbuds in the box, though the default one worked well for us. Hooking each earpiece over each ear takes a little getting used to, but once donned this Walkman impresses in the water, with bold audio that's got just enough bass. It felt secure, too, while swimming and running, with the skip track and volume controls on each earpiece easily controlled. Our only complaint is that skipping back to the start of a track is all too easily done, which is fine for music, but irritating if you're listening to a 30-minute podcast.

2. Philips ActionFit SHQ5200 - £65/US$100/AU$100

10 best fitness gadgets

Most gyms invariably play pumping beats, but what if you'd rather jog along to some Leonard Cohen tunes or row at full pelt while listening to Book At Bedtime? Whatever your choice, Philips has come up with a lightweight gym-centric pair of headband headphones that's designed to stay in place while you bob around the gym. A bright orange secondary headband ensures that, by sitting a little lower to stop the SHQ5200s flying forwards or backwards - the usual problem with headband models.

The actual cup is covered in a moisture-wicking fabric to stop sweat dripping in - though more from your head in general than from sweaty ears, as we first thought. Weighing a paltry 99g (3.5oz), the Philips ActionFit SHQ5200s produce a dynamic sound across the board, with bass definitely pushed up a notch, though our tests with all kinds of music and voice-based material proved all-round skill. Just as important is the hard-wearing Kevlar-covered cable that splits in two for quick severance of the link to a smartphone or MP3 player.

3. nPower PEG - US$130 (around £85/140)

10 best fitness gadgets

Hike the Inca Trail or walk coast-to-coast and you're producing a helluva lot of kinetic energy - but your gadgets are simultaneously running down in your backpack. Step forward the PEG (personal energy generator), which tries to square the circle by using your forward momentum to refuel a phone.

A small device weighing 400g (14oz) and boasting a USB 2.0 output, which should cater for almost all gadgets, the PEG must be placed vertically in a backpack or even handbag. It's slow progress; a minute of talk-time on a 3G network requires 26 minutes of walking, though it's a one-to-one relationship with listening to music. The PEG can also be charged up via mains electricity, which is the best way to start out, using kinetic energy only to top it up.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),