Heart rate monitors are helpful accessories during aerobic exercise for everyone from beginners to professional athletes. Additionally, heart rate monitors are potentially life-saving devices for those with health conditions that put them at high risk of heart attack. Typical modern heart rate monitors have two pieces: a transmitter strapped to the chest that registers the heart rate and a watch-like receiver device that displays the information.
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Accuracy and Convenience
Effective aerobic exercise includes a five-to-10-minute warm-up, 20 minutes of activity at your target heart rate, and then a five-to-10-minute cool-down, according to the Texas Heart Institute. Heart rate monitors accurately let you know when you've reached your target heart rate and whether you're maintaining it. Not only are the devices more accurate than manual pulse checks, they don't require you to stop and start your routine as a manual check does. Breaking pace disrupts the exercise, making it less effective.
Gauging Effective Exercise
The American Heart Association explains that close monitoring of your heart rate during exercise is the key not only to knowing that you're working out strenuously enough, but whether you're improving your fitness over time. While there are other means of judging the efficacy of your routines (like how hard you're breathing, how tired you are, whether you can walk or sing, etc.), heart rate monitoring is the single most reliable method. It provides objective data, unlike those more subjective gauges.
Gauging Safe Exercise
Your target heart rate, as defined by the American Heart Association, should fall within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. The exact number varies for individuals, as many factors must be taken into account for a safe personal target rate. Exceeding your target heart rate is dangerous, and also indicates that you're probably over-working other muscles as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic, exercise performed above your target heart rate puts you at risk for both cardiovascular and orthopedic injury while providing no additional fitness benefits. An accurate heart rate monitor is a useful tool for ensuring you aren't endangering yourself by over-exercising. This is especially important for people with or recovering from heart conditions.