Heart Rate Monitor Comparison
A heart rate monitor is a tool that is used to determine your heart rate and display it on a screen for you to see. While heart rate monitors are especially useful to professional and competitive athletes, it can also be of great help for regular people or casual exercisers, or even those who do not exercise.
Heart rate data can be used for medical reasons as well. When monitoring your heart’s health, it is important to monitor your heart rate in order for you to get familiar with the proper “heart rate zone” to stay in a safe level of intensity for you in any activity. It also helps with fitness enthusiasts to maintain the same intensity of exercise every time, based on their heart rate at a given period.
While most models serve only its most basic purpose of displaying your heart rate, a lot of heart rate monitors nowadays also come with additional features that not only help you with your workouts, but also offers convenience in general. Here are several most common features of heart rate monitors:
- Heart rate zone alert
- Countdown timer, stopwatch, interval timer, clock, alarm
- Number of calories burned
- Fitness test
- computer /app link
- Pre-programmed workout plans
- Smart notifications: call, text, and calendar events
- Option to decline or pick up a call
You can get more or less of these features depending, of course, on how much you are willing to spend on a heart rate monitor.
Different Methods of Heart Rate Tracking
There are different methods for tracking your heart rate, and here are the most common ones.
Chest straps are the most common types of heart rate monitors, and it’s not without reason. They are the easiest, and usually the most inexpensive types.
As the name suggests, a heart rate monitor with a chest strap uses a strap or wrap around your chest, in close proximity to your heart, and emulates a real medical ECG machine to measure electrical pulse. Because they track electrical signals from your chest, they are mostly very accurate and reliable.
A great chest strap tracker is MyZone MZ-3. Not only does it track and record your BPM – you also get points based on it. It tracks your levels and bases your progress based on your effort over time. It also has 16 hours of data, so you don’t always have to carry any other device (like your smartphone) while working out.
Another great one is the Polar H7, which is one of the most reliable and accurate ECG sensors on the market right now. It detects electrical activity from your chest to produce BPM readings.
The chest strap is also extremely light and comfortable, so you don’t have to sacrifice convenience for an accurate reading. It is compatible with a lot of Apple and Android devices and apps, so you can store your data in apps like Runkeeper and Endomondo.
Optical Heart Rate
Optical heart rate sensors, on the other hand, do not use chest straps – they use LED light. They track your heart rate using a measurement technique called pulse oximetry, which takes advantage of oxygenated and de-oxygenated blood having different optical properties.
With every heartbeat, there is a spike in oxygenated blood, and this is detected with the change in the reflectance of infrared light.
A good OHR tracker is the Fitbit Charge 2, which is one of the most popular trackers today. It looks and feels just like a digital watch, so you can even wear it outside of your workouts. Not only does it measure your heart rate, but it also tracks your calorie burn all day. It also has special features like smart notifications for call, text, and calendar notes.
Optomechanical sensors work similarly to optical heart rate trackers, except they detect blood flow from inside your ear. These are usually in the form of headphones. They shine light against the skin inside the ear, and then use the feedback to read the BPM.
If you are interested in this kind of heart rate monitor, a good option is Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless. It works just like regular music player earbuds, but with a heart rate monitor feature and is perfectly compatible with smartphone workout apps like MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Endomondo, and Runtastic.
Out of the three methods/types of trackers, the most accurate one according to tests and user experiences is the chest strap tracker. They have been around the longest because of this reason.
Even though they are not exactly convenient, they are the most reliable because they are held up with a chest strap close to your pulse, compared to OHR and optomechanical sensors that only track your heart rate indirectly through factors that can be influenced by other things aside from your heartbeat.