Time to get fit: five of the best watches for running, cycling, swimming and hiking

Rod Chester

IT is time to take your fitness to a new level with five watches that will track every stride and stroke.

Whether you’re a hiker wanting to see your route in the great outdoors, or a runner wanting to hear music as you pound the pavement, these watches have something for you.

For some people, a good exercise watch means you get to be lazy while the device on your wrist counts your laps in the pool. For others, it’s about making sure you’re in the best heart rate zone.

Find the watch to suits your needs and then take the time to get more active.

Forerunner 25

Garmin’s new entry-level running watch, the successor to the Forerunner 15, is also an activity tracker and can be connected to a smartphone with Bluetooth for syncing with the Garmin app and receiving notifications. Unlike other Garmin watches higher up the range, its display is limited to two selectable fields on two displays. The new features are impressive, but this sits just $30 below the older Forerunner 220 that offers some more features for serious runners including personalised workouts and a three-field display.


Waterproof to 30m, this GPS watch measures heart rate (with a chest strap), speed, distance and altitude and, unlike some dedicated running watches, you can create sports profiles beyond the typical swimming, running, cycling mix. It charges with a standard Micro USB cord, you can personalise up to four fields of data in the display, and runners who hate wrestling with mental arithmetic will appreciate the estimated completion time that predicts your finishing time based on your race distance and pace. It lacks some advanced features such as cycling sensor support but its strengths will make this a popular watch with people whose fitness program extends beyond running.


This watch is robust and fashionable, and has the features to match any hiking navigation device. It is waterproof to 100m, supports both GPS and, through a software update, the GLONASS satellite systems, and displays your distance and pace and lets you navigate your return route. It also offers altitude and barometric information, pairs to your smartphone for notifications, and counts your daily steps.

erunner 630

Garmin’s most advanced running watch comes with smart notifications, water-resistance of up to 50m, and up to four weeks’ battery life in watch mode. The catch is if you want to see its full range of running-stride analytics, you will need to wear the new Garmin heart-rate chest strap. While the data the watch provides will make this a must-buy for data-driven athletes, its touchscreen navigation is fiddly at first, and the lack of a wrist-based heart-rate sensor that is on some cheaper Garmin running watches, such as the Forerunner 235, is disappointing.

Spark Cardio + Music GPS

TomTom has relaunched its multi-sport GPS watch for indoor and outdoor running, cycling and swimming with two new key features: a built-in heart-rate monitor, and 3GB of music storage so you can listen to tunes without help from your phone. With clever features including a “race” mode that visually shows your position against a goal distance and time, it is a good all-round sports watch that falls just short of great due to software quirks. While the ability to store up to 500 songs on the watch is the flashy feature, the versatility of this multi-sport watch is its true strength.