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Fitness

7 unique wearables that do more than count your steps

These devices help you train better, change your heart rate and stop slouching.

athos-core

There's so much more out there than Apple Watches and Fitbits.

Athos

We're sure you're familiar with the Apple Watch, Fitbit's trackers, Garmin's wearables and all of the other activity tracking devices. But what about a smart helmet? Or a posture sensor?  

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There are a lot of "boutique" wearables -- ones that that track metrics that are far more specific than steps taken or distance traveled.

Check out these seven unique wellness devices -- you might find just the one you need.

These products and services are independently chosen by our editors. CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

1. These compression shorts that tell you how hard your muscles are working

athos-leggings

Athos compression shorts and leggings use a tracker called Core that measures muscle activity, engagement and stress to give you a complete picture of how your muscles work during exercise. 

Athos

If bodybuilding, CrossFit-ing, powerlifting or some other strength-based form of exercise is your workout of choice, you don't get as much out of a wrist-based fitness tracker as runners, cyclists and other cardio enthusiasts do.

When you're using strength as a basis for fitness progress, you should be able to track things like muscle engagement, muscle fiber activation and muscle balance.

Enter Athos.

These compression shorts and leggings use built-in sensors that track your muscles' every move using electromyography (EMG) combined with motion-sensing technology. The sensors send that and other data (such as heart rate) to the Athos app on your phone via Bluetooth.

You can see some pretty cool stats with Athos compression gear: 

  • Effort: How hard are your muscles working?
  • Balance: Is one leg stronger than the other?
  • Form: Are you engaging the right muscles for the right movement?
  • Active time versus rest time: How long were you actually working out for the 90 minutes you spent at the gym?
  • Stress: How much stress did your muscles accumulate over this one workout, and over time?  

If you're really serious about lifting, or just trying to avoid injury, you can even measure things like your quad-to-hamstring power ratio to make sure your muscles are firing with enough power when they're supposed to.

For example, during a deadlift, you want to pull the barbell from the floor with mostly your hamstrings and glutes. If the Athos system reads that your quads did most of the work, that's a sign you might need to work on your hamstring strength. Athos also offers shirts, which measure the muscles in your upper body for all of those rows and bicep curls.

2. This helmet for safe (and data-obsessed) cyclers

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The Coros smart bicycle helmet uses bone conduction technology to transmit sound without blocking outside noise. 

Angela Lang/CNET

What do safety, great audio and in-depth stats have in common?

They're all part of the Coros Omni smart bicycle helmet and its accompanying app. This Bluetooth-enabled helmet allows cyclers to listen to music, take calls and navigate with GPS through bone conduction audio.

Bone conduction technology turns sounds into vibrations and sends them through your cheekbones, rather than your eardrums -- effectively allowing you to listen to high-quality audio without drowning out important outside sounds, like car horns or rumbling railroad tracks.

The Coros smart remote lets you skip and pause tracks, change the volume, input GPS locations and answer calls without taking your hands off the handlebars. The helmet also has a light sensor that activates an LED safety light when it's dark outside.

As for metrics, the Coros Omni helmet tracks your route, speed and pacing, distance, calories burned, active energy, activity time and other data.

3. This in-depth recovery tracker that athletes love

whoop

The Whoop measures important performance statistics, like how recovered your muscles are, and tells you whether you should work out or take a rest day. 

Whoop

Even with constant innovations and added features, most wrist-worn fitness trackers are limited in terms of insights and actionability. Sure, they can tell you how hard you worked out, but they can't tell you how hard you should exercise the next day based on that data.

The Whoop can, because it's about improving your athletic performance, not just tracking it. Those who work out intensely and regularly are probably familiar with this scenario: You feel fine and rested, but when you get to the gym, you can't lift anything near your usual numbers.

The Whoop uses a variety of body metrics to tell you how recovered you really are, even if you feel "fine." It'll tell you whether you should work out, take it easy or take the day off completely, essentially allowing you to make informed training decisions rather than blindly pushing through workouts when your body needs rest. And -- bonus -- you can charge it without ever taking it off because the charging unit slides on top of it.

The Whoop's affiliations prove its effectiveness: It's the only wrist wearable that Major League Baseball players can wear during games; it's the official recovery device of the NFL, and many professional CrossFit athletes use Whoops to optimize training sessions and competitions.

A Whoop may not be the best for the everyday exerciser, but it's great for people who do activities that require a great deal of attention to performance and recovery, such as ultrarunners, obstacle racers, triathletes amd Strongman competitors.

4. This wearable that changes your heart rate for you

apollo-sleep-product-shot

The Apollo works by signaling safety to the brain via gentle vibrations, and it's been clinically proven to improve heart rate variability (HRV), a key metric of health and recovery.

Apollo

Do you ever notice your heart rate skyrocket, but you can't seem to do anything about it?

The Apollo, the first wellness wearable to actually change a body metric for you, works with your nervous system to optimize your heart rate variability, or the variation in time between each heartbeat.

When you measure your heart rate, you do so in beats per minute. But if your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, that doesn't mean your heart beats once every second. For example: Your heart may beat at 0.85 second, again at 1.25 seconds, and then again at 2.1 seconds. The difference between those beats is your HRV. If the intervals between your heartbeats are pretty consistent, your HRV is low; if the intervals vary widely, your HRV is high.

A high HRV is generally a good thing: It means your body can switch between fight and flight at a moment's notice, which is how our paleolithic ancestors survived. Research suggests that a higher HRV means a lower risk of disease, while a lower HRV is associated with heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Scientists also think HRV could be an indicator of how well your body can handle stress. If you have a higher HRV, you may be able to bounce back quickly after stressful situations and handle stress with more ease than someone with a lower HRV.

Apollo took that information and developed a wrist wearable that delivers vibration patterns that, according to its clinical research, alter your heart rate variability to help you to relax, sleep better and focus more. As you wear the device, the company says, the Apollo becomes more familiar with your body's nuances and customizes the vibrations to best meet your needs.

The Apollo is still in beta, but it's slated to launch to the general public this fall.

5. This anxiety-reducing pregnancy tracker

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The Bloomlife pregnancy tracker can help mothers detect false contractions and provide peace of mind leading up to childbirth.

Bloomlife

Moms-to-be experience all sorts of sensations throughout pregnancy, from intense food cravings to Braxton Hicks contractions -- or contractions that occur before real labor (as early as the second trimester).

The Bloomlife pregnancy tracker is designed, the company says, to save pregnant women time, energy, money and anxiety by making it easy to track muscle contractions in the uterus. In essence, this wearable device can stop any false "It must be time" thoughts by helping pregnant women interpret the frequency, duration and patterns of their contractions, and giving them a history of contractions.

To use it, women wear a small pod that contains sensors, attached to the abdomen with a disposable patch. Women can wear the Bloomlife tracker all day and night or just for a few hours at a time, depending on their needs. The device is most useful as moms approach their due date in the third trimester, when false contractions can make it seem like you're going into labor even when you aren't.

6. This patch that tells you to stop slouching

uprightgo-posture-trainer

The Upright Go posture trainer rests in between your shoulder blades and vibrates when you slouch to help you correct your posture. 

Upright

When you think "posture corrector," you probably imagine unsightly slings, shoulder straps and braces. The Upright Go posture trainer changes that.

A slim patchlike wearable no longer than your index finger, the Upright Go sticks to the center of your upper back, between the tops of your shoulder blades. When you start to slouch or otherwise deviate from good posture, your Upright Go vibrates to remind you to straighten your back.

Unlike traditional posture trainers, the Upright Go is concealable under most clothes. You can also turn it to tracking-only mode with the connected app if you're in a small or quiet space and don't want anyone to hear the vibrations.

The app tracks your daily progress and progress over time so you can see trends in your posture. The app also generates daily training goals so you can correct your posture at a pace that works for you.

7. This activity tracker that looks great with a gown

bellabeat-leaf-tracker

The Bellabeat tracks basic metrics, such as steps and calories burned, and its elegant design makes it perfect for those who don't like the appearance of other fitness trackers. 

Bellabeat

While the Bellabeat Leaf fitness tracker may not be the most thorough of all the fitness trackers on the market, it does a pretty good job for being so elegant.

With no screens or buttons, you might wonder how this necklace, bracelet or shirt clip (you can wear it any of those ways) actually tracks any metrics or does anything, for that matter. But it uses similar sensors you'll find in a Fitbit or Apple Watch to track activity, sleep, stress and menstrual cycles -- and it all shows up in the paired Bellabeat app.

Bellabeat offers a whole suite of smart jewelry, including watches and other bracelets in case you want to keep track of your activity without compromising your style. 

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