Once upon a time, heart rate monitors and fitness trackers were reserved for elite athletes. But today, these gadgets are more accessible than ever and anyone can benefit from measuring their health with a heart tracker.
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But because they're now so popular, there are seemingly endless device options in all different forms, like watches, chest straps and rings (yep, you read that right). Take a look through some of our favorite picks and learn how to find the best heart rate monitor for your needs.
1. Best Chest Strap: Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor
For an accurate read, chest straps are the way to go. And the Polar H10 is worth your consideration, according to personal trainer Mohamed Elzomor, CPT. All you have to do is fasten the chest strap around your torso, attach the monitor and connect the device to your phone using Bluetooth.
A chest strap gives a pretty accurate read and the inside of the strap is rubberized, so it won't shift around during any type of workout. You can even sync this heart rate tracker to different fitness apps (like Apple Health) or you can download the company's own Polar Beat app to track your stats.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $88.02
2. Best Waterproof: Polar Ignite Waterproof Fitness Watch
The Polar Ignite watch is available in six styles and the waterproof feature makes this one a top pick for tracking and viewing heart rate metrics while swimming.
The watch is super lightweight and also includes GPS, sleep-tracking capabilities and more. Polar Ignite includes the Continuous Heart Rate feature, too, which activates to pinpoint and record your absolute lowest reading of the day, as well as your highest.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $174.80
3. Best for Daily Wear: Fitbit Charge 5
With its slim, understated design, the Fitbit Charge is the best Fitbit for daily wear. It monitors your heart rate 24/7 and can even track 20 different activities — like running, biking and even sleeping.
You'll also get instant feedback: This Fitbit alerts you if you're in the fat-burning, cardio or peak heart rate zones, which can help you better optimize your workouts for your own personal goals in the moment.
Buy it: Fitbit.com; Price: $129.95
4. Best for Endurance Athletes: G-SHOCK 1 A7
The G-SHOCK 1 A7 features heart rate tracking and a built-in GPS, which is ideal for athletes that like to take their workouts off the beaten path. This watch even has temperature and altitude sensors, so you can get an accurate measure of how high (or low) your workout climbs.
The monitor on the G-SHOCK is particularly interesting because the watch uses heart rate and speed to calculate your VO2 max, a measure of your cardio capacity. Using that number, you can train to improve your stamina over time.
Buy it: Gshock.com; Price: $399.99
5. Best Headphones: Jabra Elite Sport
These sleek headphones blast your favorite workout music, let you take (important) calls during a run and, yes, even track your heart rate. The built-in sensor connects to the Jabra app, available for iOS and Google Play, so you can see your beats per minute in real time and know when to level up your exercise routine.
Buy it: REI.com; Price: $199.96
6. Best Small Size: Oura Ring
The Oura ring may just be one of the smallest, most convenient HR monitors out there. This lightweight, water-resistant ring monitors your heart rate, heart rate variability, body temperature and calorie burn, all by tracking your pulse in your finger.
This ring has about four to seven days of battery life and connects to your Apple Health or Google Fit apps to monitor and track your progress.
Buy it: OuraRing.com; Price: $299
7. Best for Stat Tracking: Whoop 3.0
For those who want an in-depth look at their overall health, recovery and workout performance, the Whoop strap is the best heart rate monitor. This strap stores data like your heart rate, heart rate variability and sleep, which you can then access using the Whoop app.
The band itself has no display, so all your workouts stay distraction-free. Then after you finish training (or while you exercise), you can check your phone to see how your heart reacted to different parts of your workout.
Buy it: Join.WHOOP.com; Price: $30/month, $288/year or $324/18 months (band included with purchase)
3 Factors to Consider While Shopping
1. Device Type
HR monitors come in all shapes and sizes, so you want to find the device style that's best for your purposes.
Watches: These are among the most common daily monitors and are especially convenient for everyday wear. Most fitness watches are also Bluetooth compatible, enabling you to view and track your data from your phone throughout the day.
Chest straps: These are the most accurate heart rate monitors for during exercise, according to Elzomor. Worn around your torso, chest straps are best for athletes who want to use their monitors specifically during a workout, as opposed to day-to-day wear.
Headphones: Now-a-days, you can also find heart-rate-tracking headphones, like the Jabra pick above. (Which, FYI, are pretty accurate!) Like the chest strap, these are best for workout-related tracking, as they can't really be worn throughout the entire day.
Different devices can range pretty drastically in price, from $80 up to several hundred dollars. With that said, your budget is going to dictate a lot of the options at your disposal.
Generally, the pricier devices offer a little more functionality, as they tend to connect to an app that allows you to track other health statistics. So, if you're someone who wants a more in-depth look at your health, the investment may be worthwhile.
With that being said, simpler, lower-tech monitors get the job done without the extra frills. These are an ideal choice for those who want a straightforward, distraction-free measure of their heart health.
3. Special Features
In addition to tracking your BPM, many of the best heart rate monitors also have special features like heartbeat notifications and comprehensive reporting. As mentioned above, these are generally a little pricier but can provide some beneficial data, especially if you're trying to meet a new fitness goal or prepare for a race.
Before you buy a new monitor, read the product info closely to get an idea of what exactly the device measures.
Additional reporting by Bojana Galic.