How to choose the best heart rate monitor

Heart Rate Montiors
By Robert J Nelson on 29 Jun 2014 03:04 pm
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MobileFitTechnology is making it easier and easier for us to monitor what we are doing. And as we are still in #MobileFit month, the what we are doing bit will be in regards to our body. We've already talked about the best fitness trackers, and those seem to be a good entry-level step into fitness. Moving up from that point there are some add-on type items, and for now we are going to take a look at heart rate monitors.

Training with a heart rate monitor can offer some solid benefits, and proper use will generally allow you to train smarter, as opposed to harder. But unlike the fitness trackers, there is more involved than simply strapping a heart rate monitor on and going out for some exercise. You'll need to pay a bit closer attention to the directions that come with your specific monitor and learn about things such as finding your max and resting heart rates. Not to mention, putting those together to find the correct training zones based on what you are looking to get from the workouts. We can offer that piece of advise for those looking to get started with heart rate monitor training. But that isn't where the prep work will stop.

Choosing the best heart monitor includes knowing how you plan to use it.

Thanks to technology, the ability to check your current heart rate is fairly simple, but you will need to decide which type of monitor you want to purchase. Once upon a time training with a heart rate monitor meant wearing a (not always super comfortable) strap around your chest. That option is still worth considering, especially if you plan to train based on your current heart rate, but there are now simpler, quick check options on phones and wearables.

That said, flat out choosing the best heart rate monitor is more of a personal decision. For example, you'll need to decide whether you want this for active training or for the quick morning and evening style checks. Those looking for the former will probably benefit most from the chest straps, and those looking for the latter will likely be better served by an existing device that also checks your heart rate. Naturally, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the recently announced Gear Live smartwatch would be options to consider for occasional use checks.

Galaxy S5

The Gear Live, with Android Wear, will tie in with Google Fit. Samsung has already said the Gear Live will be able to track your step count as well as your heart rate, but without having seen very much on Google Fit, it is hard to suggest that route just yet. Google Fit does show some promise, and on the positive side, Google announced this as an open platform that will have available SDKs.

This brings another point -- regardless of which option you choose, you'll likely want to consider where the data will live. In many cases existing software/apps will be able to connect and integrate. This could also mean you will have to make sure the heart rate monitor you choose will work with your device. So…while heart rate monitors may seem simple, there is plenty to consider before making a purchase. To recap, here are some questions to ask yourself before shelling out any money;

  • Will you be using the heart rate monitor for active/regular training, or the occasional check?
  • Where do you want the data to live?
  • Will the heart rate monitor work with your current device?

In some cases questions two and three can be rolled into one. For example, RunKeeper users have a few options including the Polar Wearlink+ and the TICKR Heart Rate Monitor which sell for $79.95 and $59.99 respectively. Those monitors both work with select iPhone and Android handsets. Similar to RunKeeper, there are heart rate monitors (the chest strap style) that integrate with other apps such as Endomondo and MapMyFitness. Basically, if you are already using an existing fitness app and looking to start actively training with a heart rate monitor -- your first step before a purchase should be to check the compatibility list of the app you are using.

Connecting this back to the fitness trackers and we look towards Garmin. We mentioned the Gamin vivofit in our Best Fitness Tracker post, and that particular tracker could also be included in this post as well. The vivofit makes a solid fitness tracker for day-to-day use, and one of the perks is support for a chest strap heart rate monitor. In fact, Garmin offers a bundle that includes the tracker and heart rate monitor in one package. The vivofit with bundled heart rate monitor currently sells for $169.99.

Final Thoughts

As you've likely seen, choosing a heart rate monitor is a bit different than choosing a fitness tracker. A 'best of' list doesn't work quite as well in this case as there are different styles, and perhaps more important -- different reasons for use. The person who wants to use a heart rate monitor to train for a marathon will have a totally different set of needs as compared to someone that wants to monitor their heart rate with occasional checks during the day. We've offers some suggestions in terms of models, and while that may not have given the definitive answer to what you should buy, we did pose some key question that will get you headed towards making a purchase decision that will be right for you.

Do you train with, or use a heart rate monitor? If so, we would love to hear how you are using it, and which model are you using? Sound off in the comments!

3 comments

salscott

Digifit with polar h7 ble strap, best combo hands down.

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Teso Dos Bichos

Scosche RHYTHM+ for me. The flexibility of dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart and the armband form factor suits my varied usage.

Christian Jerimiassen

I'll need to use endomondo with heart rate. Right now, until wellograph are coming, I will use my Garmin forrunner 610 HR and Lumia 920 with Endomondo together. :-(