If you want to step up your physical fitness routine and achieve more effective results, than a heart rate monitor is a tool that you should really consider investing in. These devices can help you find your running sweet spot and they can help you prevent overtraining yourself.
While a heart rate monitor is certainly a handy tool, finding the best one for your needs can be a bit of a challenge. There are so many different options to choose from, which can make it difficult to determine which heart rate monitor will be the best for your specific needs. To help you on your quest for finding the best heart rate monitor, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. In this guide, you will find a wealth of information that you can use to find the ideal heart rate monitor for your specific needs. This guide highlights the different types of heart rate monitors, the factors that you should take into consideration when choosing one, the features that they can offer, and the best heart rate monitor brands.
Types of Heart Rate Monitors
All heart rate monitors are personal monitoring devices that allow you to measure and keep track of your heart rate in real time. Each time your heart beats, it sends a small electrical signal through the muscles of your heart, which causes a contraction – or a heartbeat. Heart rate monitors pick up those electrical signals, keeping track of how many beats per minute your heart puts out. With this information, you can monitor how hard your heart is working while you are working out.
There are three main types of heart rate monitors, which include:
- The chest strap heart rate monitor
- The wrist strap heart rate monitor
- The in-ear optomechanical heart rate monitor
While each of these three types of heart rate monitors essentially do the same thing – keep track of your heart rate – each one offers different benefits and operates in a different manner. In order to determine which type of heart rate monitor will work best for you, it is important to have a firm understanding of three different types.
The Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitor
The chest strap heart rate monitor features a wireless sensor on a chest strap. The heart rate monitor is worn on the chest, and the wireless sensor detects your pulse electronically a sends the data it collects to a wristwatch-style receiver, which displays your heart rate. Once you get used to the routine of putting it on and working out with it on, a strap will provide the most accurate heart-rate results.
The Wrist Strap Heart Rate Monitor
The wrist strap heart rate monitor features an optical sensor that is built into the wrist unit’s watchband or case back. This sensor detects your pulse. Though they’re slightly less accurate than chest strap heart rate monitors, wrist-based models avoid the discomfort and additional pre-workout fuss associated with chest straps.
The In-Ear Optomechanical Heart Rate Monitor
The in-ear optomechanical heart rate monitor acts very much the same as a wrist strap heart rate monitor, except the sensors work by shining light against the skin in your ear. These sensors detect blood flow and oxygen consumption, and they use this feedback to generate a BPM (beats per minute) reading. The ears are packed with tiny blood vessels, which, theoretically means that you should be able to get a more accurate reading with this type of monitor than you would with a wrist strap heart rate monitor.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Heart Rate Monitor
In order to find the best heart rate monitor for your needs, there are a number of factors that you should take into consideration. These factors include ease of use and the price, among other things. By taking these factors into consideration, you will be able to find the best heart rate monitor for your specific needs.
The Types of Heart Rate Monitor You Want
The first factor that you should take into consideration when choosing a heart rate monitor is which type will best suit your needs. Would you prefer to wear one on your chest, on your wrist, or in your ear? To determine which type of heart rate monitor will best, please refer to the ‘types of heart rate monitors’ section above.
How accurate do you want the readings to be?
Accuracy of the readings the heart rate monitor will take is another important factor to take into consideration. The best heart rate monitors provide highly accurate BPM readings. The more accurate these readings are, the more useful the monitor will be, and the more you can modify your exercise program to yield the most effective results.
Another factor that you are going to want to take into consideration when choosing a heart rate monitor is the size of the device. Smaller devices are more lightweight, which makes them more comfortable to wear; however, the smaller they are, the more the accuracy can be impacted. With that said, though, the larger the heart rate monitor is, the more difficult it may be to wear.
The best heart rate monitors offer a variety of settings, which allow you to track more than just your heart rate, but also allow you to keep track of your oxygen levels, and your resting heart rate, too, among other things. To determine what type of heart rate monitor will work best for you, make sure you know exactly what type of data and information you want the device to provide.
The Type of Exercise You Do
What type of exercise will you be doing while you will be wearing the heart rate monitor? Will you be running, swimming, dancing, doing aerobics? The type of exercise that you will be doing is an important factor to take into consideration, as different types of monitors will work better for different workout routines.
You also want to determine your budget before you start shopping. Heart rate monitors can vary widely in price. Generally, the more features that this device offers, the more expensive it will be. Make sure you know how much you want to spend before you choose a heart rate monitor so that you don’t spend more than you are comfortable with.
Features Heart Rate Monitors can Offer
The most basic heart rate monitors will time your workout and provide you with continuous, average and low heart rate data, in addition to the high, low and target heart rate that you achieve while you are working out. More advanced heart rate monitors can offer a wide range of features, which allows them to do so much more than the basic heart rate monitor. As mentioned above, the more features the heart rate monitor offers, the more expensive it will be. With that said, it is important to understand the different features so that you can determine whether or not you want or need certain features.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular extra features that heart rate monitors can offer.
A Foot Pod
Some heart rate monitors feature a foot pod. This pod attaches to your shoelaces and keeps track of your running speed, your distance and your cadence. This is a very handy feature to have, as it can help to improve the accuracy and efficiency of your workout.
GPS Receiver Capabilities
Some heart rate monitors also come equipped with GPS receiver capabilities. With this feature, you can keep track of your distance and the locations that you travel while you are running. You can also find easy to follow directions to wherever it is that you want to go.
Increased Target Zones
Basic heart rate monitors offer up to three target zones, while more advanced models feature up to six target zones. With the ability to target more zones, you can preprogram your heart rate monitor for a series of different workouts, such as endurance, aerobic and anaerobic variations.
A Sport Watch
A heart rate monitor that features a sport watch will boast a clock, an alarm, a countdown timer and a calendar so you can keep track of your routines and your schedule right from the device.
Stop Watch and Lap / Split Times
With this feature, you will be able to keep track of your pace while you are running. After each lap on a racetrack or for every mile you run on a distance course, press the ‘lap’ button to see how your pace has changed throughout your workout or race; aka, your ‘split.’
Recovery Heart Rate Mode
With this feature, you will be able to keep track of the time that it takes your heart to return to its normal resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is a good indicator of your cardiovascular fitness and it is especially important if your workouts include sprints or interval training.
Time In Target Zones
With this feature, you will be able to track the time you spend actually exercising within your target zone.
A Calorie Counter
With a heart rate monitor that features a calorie counter, you can estimate the amount of calories that you burn while you exercise. This feature is particularly handy if one of your workout goals is to lose weight.
Speed and Distance Monitor
This feature calculated the speed at which you travel and measures the distance that you covered in a particular workout. The speed and distance re usually monitored via a GPS receiver for outdoor use and with a foot pod for indoor use. A foot pod utilizes an accelerator to determine the length of each stride you take.
With this feature, your heart rate monitor can be connected to your home computer or smartphone, which will allow you to download training statistics that you can use for analysis, sharing and storage. A digital interface may be wireless, or it may require a separate computer connection.
A tethering feature wirelessly pairs with your smartphone, which provides you with wrist top control of your phone functions, including text messages, music and push notifications, as well as fitness apps and social media. This means that you won’t have to take your phone out of your pocket or your armband, but you will still be able to use it.
The best heart rate monitors come with a warranty. Should anything happen to the heart rate monitor during the span of the warranty, you could have it repaired or replaced, or you could have your money reimbursed. Do make sure that you read the fine print of a warranty so that you fully understand what it covers and what it does not.
The Best Heart Rate Monitor Brands
There are countless manufacturers that produce heart rate monitors. While it’s great to have a lot of options, having too many can make it difficult to determine which brand is the best. To help you weed through all of the different manufacturers, we have read countless user reviews and we have tested out several brands ourselves. Our findings indicate that the following heart rate monitors are the best of the best.
This company produces an extensive line of heart rate monitors, all of which boast the most advanced technologies and offer a range of features. Wahoo heart rate monitors are very easy to use and they offer highly detailed and accurate information.
Polar is another manufacturer that produces high quality heart rate monitors. They use cutting edge materials and advanced technologies to produce exceptional heart rate monitors that are easy to use and that provide very detailed data.
Another producer of high quality heart rate monitors is Scosche. This company produces various types of heart rate monitors that offer a variety of features. They are made of very durable materials and provide outstanding readings and measurements.
We also really liked the heart rate monitors that are produced by Garmin. This company is highly regarded in the GPS technology industry, and their heart rate monitors offer outstanding features and are very easy to use.