A heart rate monitor is an effective tool for managing your workouts and maximizing your health benefits. These devices use electrodes to capture heart rate data and transmit the information to a wristwatch-like display. Using one will ensure that you are working out hard enough to increase your fitness and burn calories. The affordability of your device will depend upon the features you want beyond heart rate monitoring and calorie counting.
A heart rate monitor will allow you to gauge the intensity of your workouts based on your heart rate. Higher heart rates reflect the response your body is taking to keep up with your energy and oxygen needs. You can use a monitor that comes with a chest strap transmitter. This type gives you real-time feedback throughout your workout. You also can use a standalone wrist model that has a finger sensor.
Heart rate monitors come with a variety of features, which will affect cost. On the high end, you will find devices with a GPS interface for more accurate distance calculations. Other models include a computer interface for uploading your data for tracking purposes. If you're looking to stay within a budget, stick with a device that includes the basic features you need rather than splurging on a model with lots of extras.
While some features may be more than you need, the extras can make using your monitor more convenient. Cheaper models may not calculate your target heart rate zone, so you will need to manually enter it. Your goal for working out is to exercise within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate or 220 minus your age. Cheaper monitors typically don't include an interface to upload data such as your age, weight and height. Less expensive monitors also may not be water resistant, offering no benefit if swimming is your primary form of exercise. Another consideration is accuracy. More expensive models include the latest in technology which can minimize interference from external sources such as power lines. While this won’t interfere with recording calorie burn, it defeats one of the primary benefits of using a heart rate monitor.
Several companies specialize in heart rate monitors. A few of these companies allow you to compare models based on features to help you find the best monitor for your needs. There is an incredible selection of devices, including affordable monitors that track both heart rate and calories; even entry level models. The primary differences in these devices lie in their accuracy and ability to sync with gym machines. If the latter feature is important to you, you may need to reconsider how much you want to pay for a monitor.
- Recreational Equipment Inc: How to Choose a Heart Rate Monitor
- The Heart Rate Monitor Guidebook to Heart Zone Training; S. Edwards
- American Heart Association: Target Heart Rates
- Polar USA: Exercise Zones