Heart rate monitors are among the most recent health and fitness products to hit the market. This is a device that monitors the heart rate while exercising and by doing so reveals to the user if they are working out at the right intensity. A heart rate monitor is easy to use and since it is attached to your body also convenient.
There are many types of heart rate monitors to choose from. All have their unique, distinct features and characteristics. There are two main basic types, however, and they are the watch type and chest band monitor.
The Value of Heart Rate
Heart rate monitors (HRMs) can be immensely useful if you know how to use the information they collect. Exercise has very different effects on the body depending on how high you push your heart rate and for how long. Training intelligently means using heart rate data to guide your workouts. Sometimes you might want to keep your heart rate relatively low to burn fat or pace yourself for a longer workout, whereas other times you want to push it higher for different health benefits, like building stamina. Another reason to own a HRM is to keep an eye on your resting heart rate with a device that will automatically record it for you.
Chest Strap vs. Optical
When it comes to finding the right HRM, the biggest question is whether to choose a classic chest strap, which uses an electrical pulse to read heart rate, or something that uses optical technology instead. Optical technology is what’s used in many Fitbit devices, the Apple Watch, and other wrist-based activity trackers. It’s also typically used for in-ear measurements in the case of sports headphones that read heart rate.
With the wristwatch-style heart rate monitor, you will have something that is very convenient to wear because of its small size. This style is also comfortable to use and is accurate since it measures the pulse rate of the wrist. The majority of heart rate monitor users find this watch style device to be more comfortable and although it is precise, when it comes to accuracy the chest band model is preferred by many.
The chest band style of heart rate monitor uses a band that goes across your chest. It usually has some reading out which may be in a wrist watch style or a clip on style that displays the information about your heart rate. Many people say that chest bands can be uncomfortable or slip during a heavy workout. However, there are many different styles on the market, and some are made to be comfortable and non-slip. The main advantage of this style of heart rate monitor is that it is the most accurate type of heart rate monitor outside a hospital setting.
Heart-rate monitors can make your workouts safer, more efficient
Aerobic exercise is an important part of any fitness routine. It strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and burns body fat. In order to maximize cardiovascular activity, most experts say you should monitor your heart rate to stay in your target zone — high enough to get a reasonable workout, but not so high that your heart is pumping dangerously fast.
The American Heart Association says the ideal target zone for most people is between 50 percent and 85 percent of their maximum heart rate. On average, that’s 220 beats per minute, minus your age. This is only a guideline, however, and the AHA notes that certain medications can lower a person’s maximum heart rate. They suggest talking to a doctor to determine your appropriate target zone, especially if you’re just starting out with an exercise program.
Most heart-rate monitors pair chest straps, wrist units
A traditional heart-rate monitor consists of a chest strap and a wrist unit that resembles a watch. The chest strap includes a monitor that is placed at the solar plexus, just below the breastplate. This monitor wirelessly transmits a pulse reading to the wrist unit.
The simplest heart-rate monitors read and display your heart rate. More advanced monitors can calculate calories expended during your workout and keep records to show a progression. Some heart-rate monitors come packed with additional features, such as pedometers that track daily steps, and some can upload workout results to a website that lets you see long-term workout trends and interact with other users. Advanced monitors may have smart training or “virtual trainer” capabilities, setting your workout for you based on your personal information and goals.
Note that some manufacturers are starting to forgo chest straps in favor of wrist-based monitors that use LED lights to track how fast your blood is flowing. Also called optical heart-rate monitors, these devices have come under fire for being less accurate than chest straps. Expert tests have found they’re fairly accurate when you’re at rest or lightly active, but things can go downhill during high-intensity exercise — especially interval training. Most recommend sticking with a chest strap if accuracy is your primary concern.
It has become increasingly popular to use a heart rate monitor during workouts. This is because it is now more common knowledge that a fitness program will have maximum benefits if a person trains at a certain heart rate level. This can be found manually too, but having a monitor makes things much easier, and the devices are also more accurate. The process is much more straightforward and convenient.
Fitbit proves heart rate monitors can be slim with new Alta HR
Fitbit claims the Alta HR is the slimmest wristband with a pulse tracker, and it’s certainly the thinnest heart rate monitor-equipped wristband I’ve used so far. According to Fitbit, the original $129 Alta and its $150 Charge 2 are its two best-selling trackers, and many customers flocked to the Alta for its design. But Fitbit also explained customers wanted more from the little wristband, and the most requested feature was a heart rate monitor.
According to Fitbit, the device’s heart rate monitor actually does more work now while you’re asleep than when you’re awake so it can estimate how long you’re in the various sleep stages: deep, light, and REM sleep. The information from the device’s heart rate monitor and accelerometer, plus your heart rate variability data, all get analyzed using machine-learning algorithms to give you sleep insights in the app that can help you sleep better. These insights will get better over time as you log more hours awake and asleep while wearing the Alta HR, but from the moment you start using the device, your data informs sleep insights. For example, let’s say you’ve been running about three to four times each week for the past month. During a week you haven’t slept well, a sleep insight card may show you that you generally sleep better on the days that you run, prompting you to try to log a run today in the hope that you’ll sleep better tonight.
Sleep is the reason Fitbit, and particularly the Alta HR, may one-up most of the competition. Most other fitness trackers that monitor sleep only do so using the accelerometer in the device—if you move too much at night, it assumes you didn’t sleep well. Movement is not the best indicator of a good night’s sleep, but analyzing movement with heart rate data taken throughout the night makes that sleep data more useful. The HR still won’t be able to give you a perfect picture of your sleep quality, but it will give you a better picture than one painted with movement alone.
Using a heart rate monitor is simple. Once you find the right style to suit you, simply wear the monitor while exercising. The heart rate monitor will tell you at a glance what your current heart rate is. You can work to your maximum heart rate and learn how hard you have to push yourself. By working out with a heart rate monitor, you can easily surpass plateaus and avoid over-exerting yourself.
Another advantage of training with the help of a heart rate monitor is that it has the same function as a personal trainer since it tells you if you are working out with the right intensity. This way you know which exercises are being trained properly and which are lacking in intensity.
In general, heart rate monitors are excellent resources with regards to staying physically fit. They tell you if your exercise routine is being done properly or if you can train more intensely to get the desired results.
No matter what type of workout regimen you have, there is a heart rate monitor out there for you. You can buy heart rate monitors that can be placed on your wrist, arm or even your fingers. This means that you can wear a heart rate monitor no matter what type of workout you do.