Serious About Your Workouts? Get a Heart Rate Monitor

Tips for choosing the best heart monitor for you
heart rate monitor on man's wrist

Contributor: Chris Travers, MS, Exercise Physiologist

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Developing the best cardiovascular exercise routine not only includes the amount of time you exercise, but also the intensity of the workout. Monitoring your intensity will allow you to get the optimal caloric expenditure and burning of fats and carbohydrates. A good heart rate monitor can help you monitor the intensity of your workouts.

Heart rate monitors work by measuring electrical signals from your heart. They are transmitted to a wristwatch or data center. Many models let you analyze data via a computer.

Chest Strap Models

The most common styles consist of two components, a chest strap and a wristwatch receiver. Basic models give time and heart rate and are an open signal. Advanced models use a coded signal and can be used with foot pod for cadence, distance and speed. Some are equipped with GPS to mark and find locations, store previous courses as well as workouts.


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  • They offer continuous heart rate information without needing to stop to measure or view it
  • Accuracy tends to be better than the strapless models
  • More models from which to choose


  • Usually more expensive
  • Basic models have open signal so interference with other monitors is possible
  • Chest straps can be uncomfortable for some individuals

Strapless Models

These consist of just a wristwatch. You touch the pad to activate it and it is estimated to be 95 percent accurate.


  • No strap, which people may find more comfortable
  • Typically less expensive


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  • You have to stop exercising to measure
  • May be slightly less accurate than a chest strap model

Additional features to look for:

  • Stopwatch and lap/split times
  • Calorie counter
  • Speed and Distance Monitor (GPS receiver)
  • Computer interface
  • Coded transmitter

A heart rate monitor is a more scientific way to know how well you are doing, and it can help you keep track of your progress. Choose one that is the most comfortable and has the features that you desire.

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