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What is a Heart Rate Monitor?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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A heart rate monitor is an electronic device used to monitor heart rate during exercise. It consists of a chest strap that fits just below the breast and a wrist unit. The strap has a series of electrodes that detect ECG, the electric signal produced by the heart. This signal is sent to the wrist unit, where the wearer can see it.

A heart rate monitor can also be bought without a chest strap, but this makes it trickier to use. To get a reading, you need to place your fingers on a sensor. Factors such as cold hands or humidity can affect the reading, making strapless monitors less reliable.

Because cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important factors in achieving a healthy body, maintaining an optimal heart rate during your workout is vital. To determine your aerobic training pulse or ATP — the pace at which you should work out — start by establishing your maximum heart rate, which is basically the number 220 minus your age. Your ATP is 60 percent of that number. Using a heart rate monitor will help you stay within your cardio training zone and improve stamina and resistance.

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A heart rate monitor can come with a number of features. The basic models display only heart rate and cost around 75 US Dollars (USD). More expensive models may come with an alarm to indicate if you go outside your heart rate zone, timers, clock, training calendars, and more. Some even come with pre-programmed workouts for weight loss or aerobic fitness. The most sophisticated type of heart rate monitor can store your workout information and transmit it to a computer to help you chart your progress. Polar, Reebok and Lifesource are the three top producers of heart rate monitors.

The best heart rate monitor is one that is user-friendly. If the monitor has so many buttons that you need to read the manual every time you use it, you will get tired of it pretty quickly. If you can't stand the idea of playing with microscopic buttons, get the HEARTalker, a heart rate monitor that comes with headphones instead of a wrist device. Instead of having to read the numbers on the screen, you can listen to them at set intervals.

Invented by Australian physicist Robert Treffene, the heart rate monitor was originally designed with swimmers in mind, but has become standard for runners and aerobic instructors. Even the occasional exerciser can benefit from owning one.

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WJune
Post 5

I was searching for something very simple and rather accurate and found Beets Blu. I have been using it for 10 months by now, and it is the best companion for my running routine. Although it is a chest strap heart rate monitor, it is hardly noticeable under my t-shirt and I really forget about wearing it while running or jogging.

I started to use it with the iPhone 4S and RunKeeper app and got the same result in syncing with my new Samsung smartphone. I had to change the application as it turned out that RunKeeper hadn't yet offered support for Bluetooth Smart - be attentive while choosing.

It's easy to pair from the very start, it's convenient to wear and I get my heart rate beats, pace, calories burned number and other metrics directly to the app on my phone. The price was also very reasonable, under $50 online. Love it!

OhDeDoh
Post 4

@oopart28- I have a Timex heart rate monitor watch. It works great for me and has all the features I need. With it, I can set my target heart rate zone. The watch shows me how long I am in my target zone, and it lets me know what percentage of my maximum heart rate I am at. It also shows how many calories I burn, which is an important feature for me.

I can replace the batteries and watch strap, too, without having to send it in to the manufacturer. I hear that is a problem with some other brands. I got it at a really reasonable price, too.

Charmagne
Post 3

@oopart28- Last Christmas, my husband bought me the Garmin heart rate monitor I have had my eye on. They are not on the low end as far as price point goes, but I just love mine. The model I got comes with great features.

It continuously records not only my heart rate, but the number of calories I have burned, my pace, distance, and amount of time I have been going. It even has advanced training features where you can race against a virtual partner!

If you want, you can share your locations and other information with other users of the same model. I especially like how my Garmin watch monitor automatically sends my information to my PC when it is in range. This one is worth the cost, and I like the brand in general.

oopart28
Post 2

I like to jog during the months when the ground here is not snowy or icy. OK, so sometimes it is more of a brisk walk, but I try to get out there and break a sweat. I bought myself a heart rate monitor watch to help me be aware of my aerobic training pulse and maximum heart rate.

I probably should have done more research first. I based my purchase mostly on the price point. That being said, I am not overly thrilled with what I ended up with. Now I am looking to buy a better one. Does anyone have a heart rate monitor watch they recommend?

SalmonRiver
Post 1

I have only ever used the type of heart rate monitor built in to exercise equipment like treadmills and elliptical. I suppose those would fall under the category of strapless heart rate monitors.

I love how convenient they are, but I have occasionally had an error reading when trying to monitor my heart rate. Must be sweaty hands, because they sure as heck aren’t cold when I’m on the machines!

Sometimes, if I have a clock in view, I will check the monitor reading against my own pulse count. So long as I’m not causing any interference, they seem to be pretty spot-on. I find them to be quite a useful tool for getting to and maintaining my desired heart rate during a work out.

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