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Giving someone a fitness tracker as a gift: Rude or not?

Helpful tool for healthier habits or a passive-aggressive nudge to get off the couch? We weigh in.

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Wondering if you should gift a fitness tracker for the holidays? Consider a few factors before you do.

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This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 2019, featuring tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Even if 10,000 steps isn't a magic number, fitness trackers and smartwatches continue to be among the hottest gifts for the holidays. Given that smart watches like Fitbits and the Apple Watch are on sale this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you may be interested in buying one. But do they make the best gifts for everyone on your list?

The rules of gift-giving aren't always black and white. In fact, they can be stress-inducing for some people. You know what I mean if you've ever given (or received) an inappropriate gift. No one ever wants to send the wrong message -- or saddle someone with a device that doesn't work with their phone -- no matter their intentions.

So, does giving someone a fitness tracker send the wrong message? Before writing this article, I took an unofficial poll on my Instagram stories to gauge my friends and followers' opinions on the matter. The verdict? A unanimous 100% of people said it's not a rude gift to give -- but to be fair, lots of my friends on Instagram are in the fitness and wellness industry. 

We also asked CNET editors to weigh in -- 19% said it was rude and 81% said it's not. Most people who responded "yes" said that if you don't already know that someone wants one as a gift, a fitness tracker sends a passive-aggressive message of, "you need to get healthy." Most people praised fitness trackers as a fun and thoughtful gift, however, especially if you know the recipient is an active person.  

If you're still on the fence, consider these questions below before you buy one for someone special in your life. And be sure to catch our complete guide to surviving the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving.

Read more: Exercising too hard or not enough? Why both are bad for you

Is the person you're buying the gift for active and currently involved in a fitness routine?

Does the recipient of this gift already like to exercise? Do they run races or hit up the gym a few times every week? Chances are they'll appreciate a fitness tracker or smart watch and won't think twice about whether the gift sends the wrong message.

Check out our recommendations on which fitness trackers to buy below.

Read more: 3 smart gyms tested and rated: Peloton, ClassPass and Mirror

Do they want to exercise more?

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If someone wants to be more active, chances are a fitness tracker can make a great gift.

César Salza/CNET

Maybe the person you're shopping for isn't already a fitness buff, but they want to be one. In that case, a fitness tracker can be a good tool to get started, especially because most of them do way more than just count your steps.

They can track workouts, activity, sleep, act as a watch and display notifications from their phone. So someone who isn't that into fitness may still appreciate receiving one as a gift and enjoy using the other features. 

Read more: 6 things you shouldn't buy until Black Friday

How well do you know them?

Chances are, if you're about to spend over $100 on a gift for someone, then you probably know them well. A fitness tracker isn't exactly a casual gift due to the cost, and it's pretty personal. 

If you think the person you're buying for will love it -- chances are you're right. If this person is close to you and you know they'll use and appreciate it, then go for it. And you can always include a gift receipt, just in case. 

Read more: 8 ways to measure your fitness that aren't heart rate

If you aren't sure they'll like it, skip it

So what if you want to get a fitness tracker for someone and you're not sure if they currently work out? Gifting a fitness tracker may send the wrong message (for example, it may make them think you're suggesting they need to hit the gym more). Using a gift as a subtle hint to get someone to change their behavior rarely goes over well.

Fitness trackers that anyone will like


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Fitbit Versa 2 is a great everyday fitness tracker. It tracks steps, heart rate and sleep. It also has the Fitbit Coach feature that shows the steps for short workouts (such as a 5-minute ab routine) directly on the watch screen. Even though the Fitbit Versa 2 is a great fitness tracker in general, it lacks a built-in GPS which some runners may miss. Read our Fitbit Versa 2 review.

Polar

The new Polar Ignite is a great pick for runners since it has a built-in GPS and impressive sleep and recovery features any serious runner would love. It also tracks steps and heart rate, making it good for people interested in a variety of types of fitness, or may want a smartwatch to help them keep general tabs on their health (i.e. sleep and steps). 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Fitness enthusiasts and Apple fans alike will appreciate the Apple Watch as a gift. The Apple Watch Series 5 is a good gift option since it does have health and fitness functions, but plenty of other features including a compass, clock faces (so it can function like a normal watch) and can alert you when you receive calls, texts and more on your iPhone. Read our Apple Watch Series 5 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is another fitness tracker with plenty of features similar to an Apple Watch, but for less cash. This Galaxy Watch is sleek and slim, and it has the circular clock face like a normal watch. If you know someone who likes the features of an Apple Watch but prefers Samsung or Android, then this is a good choice. Read our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review.

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Originally published earlier this month.