Most people who exercise will tell you they want to lose weight or simply get fitter. Not many people, however, know what their heart rate is, or where it really should be.
This means that often, they are not training in the most efficient way to achieve their goals. The only way to actually know how many calories you’re burning while you’re exercising is to have a heart rate monitor that is consistently hooked up and tracking your heartbeats. All top athlete’s heart rate train, as they know this will help them to reach their top potential in the shortest amount of time possible.
Heart rate sensors typically come in one of two forms. The chest strap style and the wrist band style. There are pros and cons to each type of sensor.
A wireless sensor on a chest strap detects your pulse electronically and sends that data to a receiver, such as a smartphone or a wrist-worn tracker. This is similar to what you can see in hospitals with patients who have sensors strapped to their chest. These type of monitors tend to be highly accurate.
Essential reading: Heart rate zone training with wearables
Fitness trackers, such as those made by Fitbit, Apple or Garmin, claim to be able to monitor your heart rate without a chest strap. They operate by shining a light into your wrist, which is then reflected by blood vessels passing through your veins. When your heart pumps, the blood moves through your veins at a quicker rate, causing less light to be reflected back. The wrist worn device will then calculate your heart rate using an algorithm.
The current trend may be to move heart-rate monitoring away from the chest and over to the wrist but accuracy at these new locations is still questionable. Particularly for high intensity workouts. If you are very serious about heart rate training, a chest rate heart rate monitor is still the way to go.
Tickr X is the most advanced of Wahoo’s three heart rate training chest straps. In addition to heart rate, the device measures calorie burn, running form metrics, indoor run, spin cadence and counts reps during strength training.
Its internal memory can store up to 16 hours of heart rate data, allowing you to leave your smartphone behind and sync later. The tracker is compatible with over 50 smartphone apps including Nike+ Running, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, Strava, Apple Health, and Cyclemeter/Runmeter.
Both ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities allow the Tickr X to connect to GPS watches, iPhones and Android devices. You can also link the strap directly to the Apple Watch to get heart rate data in the Workout app.
All things considered, you won’t find a better value in a heart rate monitor than the Wahoo Fitness Tickr X. Amazon customers seem to agree with us having rated the tracker with 4.1 out of 5 stars.
Originally announced at CES 2017, the H10 is an updated version of Polar’s best selling H7 heart rate monitor. Just like its predecessor, the H10 includes a soft fabric chest strap that seamlessly adapts to your body shape. There is now a new buckle mechanism and silicone dots that help keep it in place during training, and interference-preventing electrodes that help ensure heart rate is captured accurately.
The H10 now provides internal memory. This can be handy in situations where you want to leave your phone behind. The tracker can only store one heart rate training session at a time so you need to sync right after the session.
You can use your H10 strap with a number of Polar products as well as other compatible gym equipment. The device is waterproof so you can wear it for swimming although the Bluetooth connectivity will not work.
If you want a reliable heart-rate monitor and can live with strapping onto your chest, the H10 is one of the best options out there.
MyZone has been in the chest strap heart rate monitoring business for a while now, mainly dealing with gyms and health clubs. The company’s latest device, the MZ3, aims to add a level of competition to regular heart rate training.
As the name suggests, everyone has different fitness zones that change over time. The MZ3 identifies, rewards and adapts those zones and displays that information in five tiles based on the intensity. It then uses a points based system to turn fitness into a fun exciting game.
The company claims that its chest straps deliver readings with 99.4% EKG accuracy.
We spoke to president of MyZone who told us “Wrist based monitors can accurately track resting heart rate, but when it comes to vigorous activity, wrist based monitors have a more difficult time keeping up.
Moderate and especially vigorous and non-rhythmical activity throws off readings in wrist based monitors. Some wrist monitors need time to catch up; wearers must wait 10 seconds for the wearable to recover and continue to track movement.”
This is a heart rate strap specifically designed for triathletes.
The HRM-Tri stores heart rate data when underwater, then forwards it to your wearable at the end of your swim. It also sends real-time heart rate to the watch when the monitor is out of the water.
When running, the built in accelerometer will report six running dynamics metrics including: cadence, stride length, ground contact time, ground contact time balance, vertical oscillation and vertical ratio.
This is Garmin’s smallest and lightest heart rate monitoring module and it fits within the width of the strap. The strap’s soft, rounded edges and covered seams it super-comfortable in or out of the water. The battery lasts an impressive 10 months (assuming 1 hour/day use) with user-replaceable CR2032 battery.
If you like to cycle, swim and run, this is one of the best tools for the job.
Size really matters. At least it does if you ask Suunto. The company says their product is the smallest Bluetooth Smart compatible heart rate sensor on the market right now. They might be right. The sensor module is tiny and weights only 40 grams, while the strap width is only 30 millimetres.
When running, the tracker provides real-time heart rate data and calories burned. You can use it while swimming as well as it is water resistant up to 30 metres.
While you are in the pool the sensor stores up to 3 hours of heart rate data. When you are back on dry ground, sync the device to your Ambit 3 watch or the Suunto smartphone app on your Android or iOS phone for post workout analysis.
Moov is a company which has consistently taken an innovative approach to activity tracking. The outfit has recently come out with HR Burn, its first heart rate monitoring chest strap. It joins the EKG-accurate HR Sweat, which was announced last year.
Both trackers will guide you to get the most out of your workouts and keeping burning those calories hours after your workouts. Simply follow the voice coaching which will keep you in the correct heart rate zone. Workouts are adjusted with variety and intelligence to get you the right intensity.
While HR Burn functions like a regular chest strap, HR Sweat sits on your high temple to get what Moov says is a more accurate pulse reading than from your wrist or chest. The device shines a LED light to illuminate the skin and measures changes in light absorption. The amount of light absorbed by the tissue is affected by the perfusion of blood that occurs as blood pulses through your body. HR Sweat uses these changes to determine your heart rate.
In terms of design, the sensor slips into a sweat-absorbant headband. It also comes as Moov HR Swim, the exact same technology in the form of a swim cap. This means you can get reliable heart rate data during those pool sessions.
Scosche Rhythm+ is not a heart rate chest strap. It is, however, so good we felt the list would not be complete without it.
The device is a forearm or upper-arm worn heart rate monitor belt that reads your heart rate through your skin with an optical sensor on the back. It is generally claimed that along with the Mio range, this is one of the most accurate optical devices currently on the market.
The tracker consists of a square core and two velcro straps. One big strap for your upper arm, and a smaller one for for your forearm. Rhythm+ contains two green and one yellow optical sensors, which the company claims provide superior measurements with all skin tones. Typically, monitors and watches only employ green sensors. The sensors bombard your skin using a very high rate, hence the accuracy.
If you are in the market for a new heart rate monitor, or are planning to ditch the chest strap, you will not go wrong with the Rhythm+.
And if you don’t believe us – check out Amazon. Out of 989 reviews (at the time of writing), the tracker is sporting an impressive 4.3 out of 5 stars rating.
We really don’t have anything bad to say about this device. The heart rate monitor is bang for the buck – super accurate, simple to use and well-priced.
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