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Understanding Heart Rate Monitors


A heart rate monitor is a great tool to use during your workouts to better gauge a proper intensity. A monitor will record your heart rate before, during, and after working out. With these measurements, you can customize your fitness routine to get the most out of your workout and improve your overall fitness. In this guide, you'll learn the fundamentals about heart rate monitors and how to maintain a healthy heart rate during your fitness routine.

Do I need one?

A heart rate monitor is not imperative for exercising. For example, if you work out casually to maintain your health, a heart monitor may not be the right choice for you. Casually working out does not necessarily require exact recordings of your heart rate. However, if you are trying to lose weight or train for a particular sport, a heart rate monitor would be a great way to help tailor your workouts to your needs.

The Importance of your Measurements

There are multiple heart rates you should familiarize yourself with. A heart rate monitor can easily take these measurements. These rates include your resting, target, maximum, and recovery heart rate. Here's how to find each one:

  • Resting Heart Rate:It's best to take your resting heart rate before getting out of bed in the morning. Continue to measure your resting heart rate for five days. The average of these measurements will be your resting heart rate. Your normal resting heart rate will help indicate if you overexerted yourself while working out. If your resting heart rate is higher than usual, you need to recover more. Conversely, a lower resting heart rate typically means you're becoming more fit.
  • Maximum Heart Rate:Finding your maximum heart rate is going to take some work. It's also very difficult to obtain an exact number although the following will give you an estimate. On a treadmill, run as fast as you can for three minutes. After the three minutes, run casually for two minutes. Sprint for three minutes again. Your peak heart rate during these runs will be a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate.
  • Target Heart Rate:Your target heart rate will range from 50%-85% of your maximum heart rate. This range is the optimal zone for exercising. When starting a fitness regimen, it's best to stick to the lower half of your target zone. As you become more fit and acclimated to your regimen, you can slowly increase up to 85%. It's important to listen to your body as well as check your heart monitor so that you don't overexert yourself.
  • Recovery Heart Rate:Observe your heart rate immediately after working out. After two minutes, observe your heart rate again. Subtract the second heart rate from the first one. The result is your recovery heart rate. Here's a handy chart to gauge your recovery. If your number is:
    1. Less than 22: Your biological age is slightly older than your calendar age.
    2. 22-52: Your biological age is about the same as your calendar age.
    3. 53-58: Your biological age is slightly younger than your calendar age.
    4. 59-65: Your biological age is moderately younger than your calendar age.
    5. 66+: Your biological age is a lot younger than your calendar age.

Types of Heart Rate Monitors

There are two main types of heart rate monitors. The first type is a chest strap that typically relays data to either a wristwatch receiver or to your smartphone. The second type is a wristwatch-style heart rate monitor. Wristwatch monitors have sensors that detect your heart rate. These sensors are activated when you press a finger on the touch pad. Here are some additional key differences between each type:

  • Chest Straps:A chest strap monitor features a strap that wraps around the chest. The strap itself is what actually monitors your heart rate. Since the strap is in contact with the area above your heart, it can more accurately obtain a reading through your heart's electrical activity. However, a chest strap may chafe against the skin during strenuous workouts.
  • Wristwatch-style with sensors:Some people prefer this type of monitor for the comfort due to the lack of chest strap. However, the readings may be inaccurate compared to a chest strap model since the wearer must take the time to position a finger over the sensor, possibly disrupting the workout.

Both styles have their positives and negatives. Regardless, a heart rate monitor will work hard to gather your heart rate measurements whenever you need it.

Special Features

Heart rate monitors include a host of different features that will benefit your next workout. Whether you're looking for a basic monitor to begin a fitness routine or you're a seasoned pro, here are some handy features that aren't necessary but will add to your workout experience:

  • Readings that detect your average heart rate plus target heart rate during a workout.
  • Calorie counter.
  • Stopwatch.
  • Speed/Pace tracker.
  • Convenient pre-programmed exercises with target heart rate zones.
  • Data storage to record and store multiple workouts for future analysis.
  • Long battery life.
  • PC/Mac compatible so that you can upload all of your stored data to your computer to track your heart rate and fitness progress.

Get your Heart Pumping

Your heart is a powerful muscle and needs exercise to strengthen it. Depending on your exercise routine, a heart rate monitor will help you see the progress you've made to strengthen your heart and improve your fitness level. However, you should always consult your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen.

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