CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or office chairs — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
This year, we tested dozens of workout-related products — from fitness trackers to smart exercise bikes — to find the best products you need to make the most of your workouts.
Best fitness tracker: Fitbit Inspire 2 ($69.96, originally $99.95; amazon.com)
Though both Fitbit models we tried excelled during our testing, the Inspire 2 was slimmer and less complicated to both set up and understand than the Fitbit Charge 4. Its sleek build ensured it didn’t catch on clothing (or anything else) while working out, and the thin screen seemed less prone to bumps and scratches, so in a way it felt less shatterproof than others. You can also set up step goals (we aimed for 10,000, for instance) as well as weight loss, water intake, wellness, sleep and more. When you log in to your Fitbit app, your home page automatically displays a semicompleted circle of how many steps you’ve taken for the day. A quick scroll will show you active minutes (when your heart rate was raised), your average resting heart rate and additional data. You can also set and log your water goals.
Best smartwatch overall: Apple Watch Series 7 ($379.99, originally $399.99; amazon.com or $399; apple.com)
The Apple Watch Series 7 is the best smartwatch for Apple users — and the best smartwatch that we’ve tested. With a larger display that makes it easy to view and interact with information — from activity to heart rate and blood oxygen levels to texts — on your wrist.
You can track many workouts like cycling, dance, meditation, running, hiking, elliptical and even boxing. On your wrist, in real time, are the calories burned, length of workout and heart rate. The watch tracks this data and syncs with your connected iPhone to safely store the data.
The Apple Watch can also alert you of an increased heart rate, along with the ability to take an electrocardiogram (ECG), using both the optical heart rate monitor and an electrical sensor built into the backside of the watch and the Digital Crown. The Series 7 can also monitor blood oxygen levels and noise levels for hearing health, detect a fall and track your sleep.
Best Android smartwatch: Galaxy Watch 4 (starting at $129.99, originally $249.99; samsung.com)
The watch’s new 4-in-1 BioActive Sensor gives you more complete health and fitness monitoring, with heart rate, AFib monitoring, Vo2 levels (blood oxygen), electrocardiogram (ECG) and measure body composition. These more complex measurements are alongside steps taken, calories burned and active minutes. The Watch 4 can still automatically identify a workout and track hundreds of them. As always, though, the Watch 4 (like any smartwatch) should not be used for medical diagnoses.
Is the experience on par with an Apple Watch? Not quite yet, but it is more intuitive to use than any previous Wear OS watch, and unlike previous Galaxy Watches integrates smoothly with any Android phone. In side-by-side tests the health and fitness data derived was on par with that of the Apple Watch Series 6 and SE.
Best budget smartwatch: Apple Watch SE (starting at $279; amazon.com)
The fitness aspects on the SE are essentially the same experience you’ve had on every other Apple Watch with move and exercise goals you can track. You can also use the Workout app to pick from a plethora of exercises — indoor or outdoor cycling, functional strength training, barre, dance, running, jogging, surfing and countless others — that the Apple Watch SE will accurately track through an array of sensors. We didn’t notice any slowdowns or tracking differences between the SE and Series 6. Both were able to get an accurate number when it came to calories burned, minutes exercised and heart rate tracked throughout.
The Watch SE features heart rate tracking, noise level monitoring, fitness tracking and fall detection. What’s sacrificed here, compared to the Watch 6, is a faster processor, quick charging capability, a brighter display, ECG readings, blood oxygen monitoring and the always-on display.
Best yoga mat overall: Lululemon Reversible Mat 5MM ($88; lululemon.com)
Hands down our favorite feature of the mat is the fact that it’s dual-sided, with a smooth and sticky polyurethane-coated top side and a textured natural rubber bottom side that provides loads of traction. Beyond that, though, we also loved that the mat is slightly oversized and provides ample cushion given its 5-millimeter thickness.
Best nonslip yoga mat: Manduka eKO Superlite Yoga and Pilates Travel Mat ($45; amazon.com)
While the ultra-slim, extremely foldable nature of the Manduka Eko Superlite Travel Yoga Mat is appealing in and of itself (especially for frequent travelers), it’s also our favorite zero-slip option, with great grip and complete floor stability. And as if that news weren’t good enough, the mat is also totally eco-friendly, made from biodegradable natural tree rubber.
Best thick yoga mat: Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat 6MM ($29.98; amazon.com)
The Gaiam’s Premium Yoga Mat was the best thick yoga mat, as the PVC (aka a synthetic rubber called polyvinyl chloride) mat boasts 6 millimeters of cushion and features a deep texture that ensures a non-slip surface. As one of the cheapest mats we tested, it also earned bonus points for being the best affordable yoga mat.
Best hot yoga mat: Manduka Pro Yoga Mat 6MM ($120; amazon.com and manduka.com)
Regular hot yoga practitioners can definitely rely on the Manduka Pro Yoga Mat 6MM to withstand the sheer amount of sweat produced in one sweltering class. Ultra dense, the PVC mat’s weight works to cement it into your flooring, while it’s ultra-tacky top side features a state-of-the-art texture that results in a no-slip grip — yes, even when you’re dripping in sweat.
Best yoga mat for beginners: Liforme Original Yoga Mat ($149.95; amazon.com)
Beginners will set themselves up for success with the Liforme Original Yoga Mat thanks to its 12 alignment markers that show users exactly where they should be placing their hands and feet. Working as a navigational tool of sorts, the markers are especially helpful for beginners practicing at home without a live instructor present to correct their form.
Smart exercise bikes
Best smart exercise bike overall: Peloton Bike+ (starting at $2,495, plus $39/month subscription; onepeloton.com)
The Peloton Bike+ came out on top (but honestly, just barely) in our testing due to its sturdy construction, variety of knowledgeable, inspiring instructors and many high-quality off-the-bike classes. It’s a great something-for-everyone buy.
Best smart exercise bike for music lovers: SoulCycle At-Home Bike ($2,500, plus $40/month Equinox+ subscription; equinoxplus.com)
If you love to spin to the beat of the music, you’ll love SoulCycle the most. It’s better for out-of-the-saddle riding, and the instructors are incredibly magnetic, motivating, cultlike leaders in the best way possible.
Best smart exercise bike for scenic rides: NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle ($1,999, plus $39/month iFit subscription; nordictrack.com)
The NordicTrack S22i bike’s workouts are addictive and efficient, and we were truly transported by the travel rides. Want to bike (with a trainer) up the slopes of Mount Fuji? Or through Patagonia with a life coach? This is your bike.
Best smart scale: Wyze Smart Scale ($33.99; amazon.com)
We love how the numbers on the Wyze were displayed: simple-to-see white numbers that shone sharply and brightly. Even in a steamy bathroom and on a dark January morning, we didn’t so much as have to squint to read ‘em. It was the easiest-to-read scale we tested, as other scales had tiny readings or ones that were positioned underfoot.
Of course, if those glowing white numbers are wrong, the rest doesn’t matter. The Wyze scale, however, proved to be one of the most accurate scales we tested in terms of weight. Comparing it to readings on an analog scale, the Wyze was never more than 0.2 pounds off. In comparison, some of the other scales, like the Fitbit Aria Air, varied by up to a pound. Additionally, when we stepped onto the scale holding a 10-pound hand weight, the readings jumped exactly 10 pounds.
Best workout leggings: Lululemon Align Pant (starting at $98; lululemon.com)
If you’re looking for a sweat-wicking, breathable legging that’ll move with you no matter how brutal your workout is, and a pair that’s so comfortable you’ll nearly forget you’re wearing it at all, the Lululemon Align Pant is an investment we can get behind.