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  • 111 Models Considered
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  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 152 Consumers Consulted
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Heart Rate Monitors

    The old days of fitness training involved a stopwatch and a coach or trainer, blowing a whistle at you, perhaps with a bit of yelling for “encouragement.” You’d know your body was getting a workout when your muscles ached and you were out of breath. Today’s fitness training takes full advantage of technological advancements, including wrist heart rate monitors.

    Today’s HR monitors track all kinds of fitness information, helping you determine the intensity of your workout. These monitors track and store data, allowing you to look back at your progress over time. Different heart rate monitors provide a variety of features. This means you need to study the market to find the perfect product for your workout program.

    At BestReviews, we’ve done the heart rate monitor research for you. Our research provides readers with the trustworthy information they need to make a wise purchase. Because we never accept free samples from manufacturers, our selections and product reviews remain free of bias.

    Read our shopping guide to understand the key factors that differentiate heart rate monitors. When you’re ready to purchase, check out the product matrix above to see our top recommendations.

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    Some monitors include an alarm to indicate you’ve exceeded your target heart rate and should slow down.

    Basic Heart Rate Monitor Function

    A heart rate monitor tracks your heart rate and other information related to how hard your body works during exercise.

    Such data enables you to determine whether you’re working out in an heart rate zone safe for your body, while also reaching an effort level that boosts your fitness.

    When exercising, your heart rate determines whether you’ve reached the optimal effort level.

    As the HR monitor provides feedback regarding your heart rate, you understand whether you’re working too fast, too slow, or just right.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch

    Features

    Customers report that the Fitbit Blaze 2 feels so natural to wear, they often forget they have it on their wrist. It offers multiple wrist band options and bevels, allowing them to find the right mix between style and functionality. A strong battery life of 3-5 days makes the Blaze 2 easy to use. You don’t have to worry about charging this wrist HR monitor every day. The large display screen gives it a chunky feel. However, the screen shows a lot of information during your workouts, allowing you to track your performance carefully. The Blaze 2 also offers a variety of alerts for things like text messages, clock alarms, and phone calls, when connected with your smartphone. However, you also have the option of turning off these alerts.

    Basic Heart Rate Monitor Design

    Two primary types of heart rate monitor designs exist: chest straps and wrist units. Some models use only one device, while others require pairing of the two designs.

    Design

    Wrist Unit Alone

    Nearly all modern HR monitors use a wrist unit that fits like a wristwatch. With some designs, this wrist unit measures pulse, steps, and other fitness data.

    Most people prefer a wrist unit alone because of its simple design. You just put on the wristwatch-like device and begin exercising. However, some people find inaccurate readings with wrist units alone.

    Most newer wrist units include a display screen to provide constant and immediate feedback. Some older models have no screen, however.

    EXPERT TIP

    If your heart rate monitor’s wrist sensor or chest sensor don’t measure your pulse properly, dampen the skin slightly before applying the sensor.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    Design

    Chest Strap Alone

    Some HR monitors use a simple chest strap with sensors that connect wirelessly to a smartphone app or a computer. Chest strap HR monitors have existed for several years.

    However, you won’t have immediate feedback while working out with a chest strap alone, as the unit has no display screen.

    Additionally, some people dislike the chest strap because it’s uncomfortable to wear.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Timex Personal Trainer

    Ease of Wearing

    When seeking a heart rate monitor you can wear all of the time, the Timex Personal Trainer provides all the style you need. It definitely provides the high level of product quality expected from a well known brand such as Timex. The HR monitor includes a very clear screen and easy-to-use buttons. Additionally, the Timex is comfortable ⸺ it weighs less than most wrist monitors. To ensure the Timex Personal Trainer heart rate monitor works properly, you have to wear a chest strap. The strap is a simple, elasticated band, with no clip nor fastening latch. You slip the band over your head or step into it. Some users dislike wearing the chest strap, mentioning that it simply isn’t comfortable.

    Design

    Chest Strap with Wrist Unit

    Some heart rate monitor designs use a combination of two sensors that communicate with each other.

    The wrist unit makes a wireless connection with the chest strap. The chest strap’s sensors fit just over the person’s heart, allowing for an accurate heart rate measurement.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If the wrist sensor and chest sensor sit more than 24-30 inches apart, the wireless signal may weaken.

    Design

    Paired with Smartphone Apps or Software

    Most HR monitors send the data they collect to a smartphone app.

    Inside the app, you’ll find the stored information helps you keep track of your fitness levels. Studying the app’s data keeps you moving toward your fitness goals over time.

    Other heart rate monitors make a wired connection to a computer or tablet to share the data.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Garmin Vivofit

    Characteristics

    The Garmin Vivofit also comes with a chest strap, but it’s optional. You can use the Vivofit without the heart rate monitor function by not wearing the chest strap. In this mode, the Vivofit becomes a fitness monitor that works independently of the strap. For those seeking water resistance in a heart rate monitor, the Garmin Vivofit fits the bill. Feel free to wear this monitor while swimming or while in the shower. The chest strap is flexible plastic in front and adjustable fabric in the back; some customers have reported problems with chafing of the skin. The Vivofit’s wrist unit is slender, attractive, and available in six color options. The wrist unit snaps closed. However, some owners dislike the snapping function, reporting difficulty in attaching it quickly.

    Heart Rate Monitor Data Tracking

    When shopping for heart rate monitors, think about the type of exercise you want to track. Different HR monitors offer strengths in different areas. Some of the types of fitness data the HR monitors measure include the following. (Most of these features only appear with wrist units.)

    Data tracking

    Calorie burning

    The HR monitor may estimate how many calories you’ve burned during exercise. It uses data such as your current weight, the length of your workout, and the intensity of your workout to calculate this number.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    If you have health concerns, check with a doctor to determine the best way to use the heart rate monitor.

    Data tracking

    Recovery time

    Some HR monitors will measure the amount of time your heart needs to go from the target rate to a resting rate after exercising. This measurement indicates your fitness level.

    Data tracking

    Lap or split times

    Wrist HR monitors provide the ability to measure your split times, helpful for maintaining a steady pace during aerobic workouts. Additionally, some HR monitors provide audible lap counting to aid your workout.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Mio Alpha Sports Watch

    Appearance

    The Mio Alpha Sports Watch provides heart rate measurement with the watch alone. This unit requires no chest strap to achieve a heart rate measurement. Because the Mio sports watch contains no chest strap, you need to find a model that fits your wrist tightly enough for accurate measurements. It includes an extremely large digital display, which gives this HR monitor a chunky look. You choose from two wrist band sizes with the Mio Alpha sports watch. Three different color options appear in this model through accents for the bezel. Customers report the soft silicone in the Mio Alpha sports watch that contacts the skin provides a comfortable feel. However, some of the watch’s buttons may be tough to operate.

    Data tracking

    Distance measurement

    Some heart rate monitors measure distance based on the number of steps you take. Others include a GPS unit that precisely measures distance traveled in a workout. For swimmers, look for an HR monitor that specifically provides distance measurements in the water.

    Data tracking

    Speed monitor

    Although most heart rate monitors measure the strength of your workout based on your heart rate, others measure your actual speed. Such monitors work best for runners or cyclists.

    EXPERT TIP

    Make sure the chest strap sensors sit directly over your heart and the band tightness holds the sensor in place.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    Data tracking

    Stopwatch

    Like a digital watch, an HR monitor often includes a stopwatch. This allows you to measure your aerobic exercise time.

    Data tracking

    Target heart rate

    You may set the monitor to sound alarms when you exceed or fall below your target heart rate. Some HR monitors only store one target heart rate at a time; others may store several. This allows you to select the target to match your current workout.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Polar FT7

    Usage

    The Polar FT7 requires users to wear a chest strap for monitoring the heart rate. Most customers report liking the feel of the chest strap that ships with this device. Because the chest strap offers a soft, flexible material, it yields a comfortable fit in all types of exercise. Should the FT7’s chest strap become soiled from sweat, you can wash it. The display screen on the FT7 provides plenty of information. Some users report that the display’s information actually confuses them, as too much appears on the screen at one time. It provides plenty of data,  making numerous calculations about your fitness level based on your age. Such data helps you maximize the efficiency of your workouts.

    Tips

    • Most heart rate monitors use rechargeable batteries. However, some use watch size batteries that need replacement occasionally.

    • Most HR monitors aren’t waterproof. If you want to swim with a heart rate monitor, select one rated to work in water.

    • To clean a heart rate monitor’s screen and sensors, gently wipe them with a soft cloth. For stubborn stains, slightly dampen the cloth first.

    • To clean the wrist strap or chest band of an HR monitor, use warm, soapy water. Air dry the straps away from sunlight.

    Those who are already fit and healthy should use a maximum target heart rate higher than those just starting an exercise program.

    FAQ

    Q. How do I know when I’m in my target heart rate zone?

    A. As a general rule, the target heart rate works as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. When just starting an exercise program, try to stay at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. With a standard aerobic workout, look to work at about 80% of the maximum heart rate. For specific speed and power workouts, aim for about 90% of maximum heart rate. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns over your health or fitness level, and it’s always good to consult a personal trainer when designing your exercise regimen and goals.

    Q. Do heart rate monitors work better for a particular type of exercise?

    A. Some models of HR monitors offer data tracking aimed at certain types of exercise. For example, you need a water resistant or waterproof monitor for use during swimming. Some HR monitors work better for cycling than running. Other HR monitors offer a full range of measurements, allowing them to have success in multiple exercise arenas.

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