In our tech- and health-obsessed times, when you can get an EKG from your Apple Watch and your mattress can report on the time you’ve spent in REM sleep, it makes sense that the old-school bathroom scale has evolved into a piece of smart technology. The new digital scales can send electrical currents through your body to measure your body-fat percentage or lean muscle mass, and then, of course, transmit the data to an app on your smartphone so you can keep tabs on your measurements and progress.
Smart-scale functions can seem overwhelming (do you really need to know your body’s water percentage or visceral fat levels?), so we asked an endocrinologist, two dietitians, and a health and wellness coach which options are actually useful if you’re trying to lose weight or get in shape. Regardless of what scale you choose, make sure you’re using it correctly for consistent results. “Definitely always use the same scale at the same time of day, preferably in the morning before eating, drinking, or exercising,” says Anna Kaiser, celebrity trainer and founder of AKT fitness studio. “Even exercising will affect the water levels in your body and can give you incorrect information if you use a more advanced scale post-workout.” Below, we’ve rounded up the eight best digital bathroom scales of the bunch, according to our experts’ recommendations.
Best digital smart-scales for data junkies
For the true quantified-self fanatic who believes there’s no such thing as too much information, this Wi-Fi–enabled scale tracks 11 metrics including body-fat percentage, muscle mass, bone mass, total body-water percentage, and metabolic age. Endocrinologist Dr. Ana Maria Kausel, who calls Tanita scales “very consistent” and “super reliable,” says that while some functions aren’t that helpful (like bone-mass measurement), others allow her patients to get a better sense of their overall wellness than they would from knowing their weight alone. “If someone’s on a weight-loss regimen and they’re working out a lot, they may see that their weight is the same, so it’s important to look for muscle content going up and fat content going down.” For menstruating women, seeing an increase in weight and in water percentage shows that they aren’t necessarily gaining fat but are instead retaining more water. Kausel uses the metabolic age function to assess patients’ overall health, as it’s a measure of total body composition. “You want to make sure not only that your weight is in a healthy range but that your metabolic age is similar to your actual age,” she says.
Like the Tanita scale, the QardioBase analyzes body fat, muscle mass, water percentage, and BMI — and lets you track all the data in an accompanying app — but it also offers friendly feedback. “What I like about this scale is it uses emojis [to] track your progress instead of just showing you numbers. Even if you’re just down 0.2 [pounds], it’ll still show you a smiley face, because any progress is progress in the right direction,” says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and founder of Real Nutrition NYC. “Everybody wants to see a jump of two, three, or four pounds, but sometimes, as long as you’re moving in the right direction, that really is progress.” Plus, a pregnancy mode allows women to track their weight gain and see if they’re in a healthy range based on their due date.
Best digital smart-scale for Fitbit users
If you’re already tracking your steps, exercise, and sleep with a Fitbit, this scale allows you to seamlessly view your weight and body-fat percentage alongside data from your wristband in the app. “Being able to look at your progress over time can be a great incentive to stay on track for the long term,” says Brooke Alpert, registered dietitian and founder of B Nutritious. “Apps can also help you define goals beyond weight loss, such as cardiovascular health, improving endurance, building muscle, and healthy eating targets.” Shapiro says it’s a favorite among her Fitbit–using clients as well.
Best digital smart-scale under $100
With the ability to measure full body composition (including weight, BMI, body fat, and muscle percentages), this Wi-Fi-enabled scale, one of Shapiro’s recommendations, is a bargain at under $100. She likes that you can track nutrition on the accompanying smartphone app and see your daily calorie budget based on your weight goal. Up to eight people can use the scale and it’ll automatically recognize who’s stepping on it each time.
Best digital scale for travel
Dieting often goes off the rails when you’re away from home and knocked out of your usual routine. If you’re on the road frequently and want to maintain your progress, Shapiro recommends this tiny, narrow scale that’s easy to travel with. “I have a ton of clients that, when they go on vacation, have no idea how much they’re gaining or losing, and some of them spiral completely without having that number to keep them on track,” she says. Even though it’s small, Shapiro says it’s very accurate and can weigh up to 400 pounds.
Best digital scale for overall health
When Irina Popa-Erwin, a health and wellness coach and owner of NYC Health & Nutrition, puts together a diet and exercise plan for her clients, she first has them step on the Tanita Ironman scale, which calculates the usual metrics along with basal metabolic rate (BMR) and visceral fat (the fat that collects around your abdomen). Popa-Erwin uses BMR — or the number of calories the body burns each day at rest — and muscle-mass calculations to determine how much protein, carbohydrates, and fat her clients should eat per day. Visceral fat is correlated with health issues, like high cholesterol, and a high reading could be a tip-off to visit the doctor. “Cholesterol goes down with healthy habits,” says Popa-Erwin. “But it’s very important to go and take care of that as well.”
Best basic digital scales
As with most fitness gear, the best scale is the one you’re going to keep using. If you just want to know your weight, there’s no need to invest in an expensive model packed with functions you won’t continually use. “A scale that is easy to read, easy to use, and easy to set up is going to be the best bet for anyone trying to track their weight over time,” says Alpert. She calls this no-frills, under-$20 one with a clear, back-lit display “a great go-to scale that is inexpensive, accurate, and easy to use for someone who may be starting their wellness program.”
When clients weigh in at her office, Shapiro uses this similar simple scale with a large display and no confusing features. “It’s always very accurate for whoever gets on it,” she says. “It’s easy, it’s clean, it’s neat.” Shapiro also likes that it comes with a tape measure to help give her clients another way to gauge their progress. “I always tell people that the scale is only one form of measure [and] to do measurements to check your inches. I love that it pairs both.”
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