The best heart-rate monitor has:
readings. It's impossible to maintain your target
heart rate if your heart-rate monitor's reading is inaccurate. The best way to
test it is to have a certified personal trainer or a licensed medical
practitioner manually read your heart rate while you wear your monitor. If
you're serious about accuracy, stick with a monitor that uses a chest strap.
Experts say chest-strap monitors are more accurate during high-intensity
exercise than optical wrist-based monitors.
sensor. After no more than a few minutes you
shouldn't even notice that you're wearing a heart-rate monitor. Look for chest
straps made of cloth rather than plastic, which tends to be stiffer. Wrist units should have soft rubber wristbands that are flexible
enough to be worn in a spot that offers maximum accuracy and comfort.
battery. The monitor's battery should be replaceable
by the user, or at least a jeweler. Some heart-rate monitors still require the
device to be sent back to the manufacturer when the battery peters out, which
can leave you without your monitor for a while. It also means you'll be paying
target zones with alarms. At least
one target heart-rate zone should be adjustable, and all should have audible
alarms to alert you when your heart rate leaves a certain zone.
heart-rate reading. The monitor should
display a constant reading of your heart rate so you can see whether you're
training at the right intensity.
- Web-based data
storage. The ability to upload saved data from the heart-rate monitor to your
phone or computer allows easier viewing and tracking, as well as more memory
for recording workouts.
with other devices. Wireless heart-rate monitors should connect to the
devices and apps you plan to use. Most exercise equipment that can accept data
from a heart-rate monitor communicates on the 5 kHz band. For use with a
smartphone or tablet, look for a Bluetooth heart-rate monitor. Some wireless
heart-rate monitors also support ANT+, another wireless technology used by
Garmin devices and some exercise equipment. Most wireless heart-rate monitors
support a wide range of fitness apps on Android and Apple smartphones and
Know before you go
Do you want data on calories burned, steps taken, and sleep
quality? If you're more concerned about your
overall fitness level and want to monitor your habits all day, you may be
better served by a fitness tracker than a heart-rate monitor. Many fitness trackers, which we cover in a separate report, include heart-rate monitors,
though they tend to be wrist-based monitors that aren't as accurate as chest
straps. If your focus is on staying in a certain intensity zone during
exercise, stick with a heart-rate monitor that has a chest strap.
a workout do you want or need? Training at different intensities
and heart rates can help produce different fitness results. For instance, runners can benefit by increasing their endurance during training that stays
between 70 and 80 percent of their maximum heart rate; going beyond that number
for shorter periods of time can help them develop a bit more speed.
skeptical of the so-called "fat burning zone." You may
have seen a chart on cardio gym equipment indicating that lower-intensity
exercise burns a greater percentage of calories from fat versus the
carbohydrates used as fuel during higher-intensity exercise. If your goal is to
burn fat, it might be tempting to use a heart-rate monitor to ensure you're in
this zone. However, experts warn that sticking solely to this zone can simply result in a lower calorie burn, making it harder to obtain the calorie deficit you
need to lose weight.
Can you swim with a heart-rate monitor? Typically, yes. However, most manufacturers warn that touching any button while
underwater can harm the display's water integrity, and while we see lots of
feedback from users saying that they have had great success swimming with their
heart-rate monitors, others complain of damage, fogging, and other
complications after swimming. Using a wireless heart-rate monitor and sending
data to a poolside device is another alternative, but keep in mind that
Bluetooth does not work well under water. Instead, opt for a sensor that uses
ANT+ such as the Wahoo Tickr (Est. $50).