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What Does a Heart Rate Monitor Measure?

by
author image Brian Spickler
Based in Denver, Brian Spickler has been a writer since 1993. He brings experience in the topics of health and fitness to his writing. He holds a Bachelor of Science in health and physical education and a Master of Science in sport science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
What Does a Heart Rate Monitor Measure?
A woman is running with a fitness tracker on her wrist. Photo Credit DeanDrobot/iStock/Getty Images

According to Polar, one of the leading manufacturers of heart rate monitoring technology, heart rate monitors show you in detail the effect of exercise on your body by measuring your heart rate. Heart rate is expressed as the number of beats per minute. Heart rate monitors will measure and provide data to you in multiple categories to aid you in reaching your workout goals.

Basic Heart Rate Monitor Components

A basic heart rate monitor consists of the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter is usually a waterproof strap that is worn across your lower chest. Polarusa.com states that most models will typically last for a couple of thousand hours of use with the original battery. Today's newer models also use technology that prevents cross-talk from other users and electrical devices to give you an accurate reading. The receiver is typically worn like a wrist watch and stores all of your data.

Functions of Heart Rate Monitors

A typical heart rate monitor consists of several useful functions. The average heart rate function lets you know your total average heart rate from the moment you first turn the receiver on until you turn the receiver off. The high and low functions inform you of the highest recorded heart rate during your training session and also your lowest recorded heart rate. By inputing data about yourself, a heart rate monitor can also measure total calories burned during your workout. Newer heart rate monitors incorporate the speed of your stationary cycle and use GPS technology to tell you speed and distance covered when jogging or bicycling, as well as your heart rate. According to Garmin.com, today's higher-end models also give you the capability to store, analyze and share your information by downloading all of your user data onto a computer.

Benefits of a Heart Rate Monitor

According to "Marathonguide.com", there are numerous benefits to using a heart rate monitor. Two of the most important are the accuracy and ease of using and measuring your heart rate during exercise. There is no longer the need to stop your workout to try to find your pulse. The heart rate monitor is capable of hands-free operation and therefore is more accurate.

Considerations When Purchasing a Monitor

If you are considering purchase of a heart rate monitor, you have a few things to consider. How many functions would you like your heart rate monitor to posses? Is the size of your transmitter and receiver of any concern to you? Is the heart rate monitor going to be very easy to use or will you have to read the entire user manual to operate it? One of the most important considerations, of course, is your budget. How much you are willing to invest in your heart rate monitor will play a big part in answering those other questions. In 2013, prices range from $31 to $199 or more.

History

"Polarusa.com" states that the first idea for a portable heart rate monitor arose in 1975 on a cross country skiing course. It was invented as a training aid for the Finnish national cross country ski team. In 1979 near Oulu, Finland, the Polar company filed its first patent for the wireless heart rate monitor. The year 1982 produced the first ever wireless heart rate monitor and forever changed the way individuals and athletes trained.

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