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Heart rate monitors vary in size and function, but most are easy to use
and provide valuable insights that support your exercise goals. For
example, a heart rate monitor may help you stay in your target heart
rate zone while exercising so you can safely focus on burning fat or
improving your cardiovascular fitness. People with certain health
conditions may use heart rate monitors to track their heart rate
throughout the day and catch issues early. Heart rate monitors may also
help keep exercise safe for people who, due to health conditions, should
not exceed specific levels.
Remember to always consult a doctor before starting any exercise
routine, particularly if you are overweight or managing health
What they are: Many heart rate monitors
look and function similarly to a wristwatch. Simple heart rate monitors
measure your pulse in beats per minute while advanced models keep a
history of readings and track data like irregular heartbeats and average
and maximum heart rates. Some monitors even offer display text in
multiple languages including English, German, French, and Spanish.
Why to buy: Measuring your heart rate is
important for getting the most out of your workouts, and can be
especially important if you have heart health concerns. Most monitors
save results by date and time, some for more than one user, and many
have averaging functions so you get a feel for how your heart is doing
Things to consider: Many heart rate monitors
include a chest strap that sends a wireless signal to the monitor on
your wrist. Other heart rate monitors attach to your wrist or finger
where your pulse rate may be counted through the skin. While comfort is
one consideration, keep in mind that some experts believe chest straps
are most accurate. Check which types of batteries the monitor takes and
make sure you can replace them yourself. Look for features such as
power-saving modes and low-battery indicators.
What they are: Usually worn on your wrist
or arm, all-in-one digital devices may measure heart rate, calories
burned, number of steps taken, and more. Look for those that combine a
heart rate monitor with other interesting tools, like GPS sports watches
and mp3 players. Some monitors even interface with exercise equipment
or computer software to give you more detail and allow the sharing of
results with your doctor or personal trainer.
Why to buy: Multipurpose monitors provide a
better overall picture of your health by tracking multiple factors in
one place and cutting down on the number of different gadgets you need.
Combining music with your workout makes it a lot more fun.
Things to consider: Make sure the monitor is
easy for you to use—pay attention to the size of the screen and buttons,
how easy it is to switch between operating modes, how long the battery
lasts, and so forth. When using a device for multiple purposes, you may
use power more quickly and have to replace or recharge batteries more
often. Online user reviews can be helpful when choosing a device
combined with a heart rate monitor.
What they are: Heart rate monitors are
sometimes designed to meet other needs, such as water-resistant and
waterproof models. There are even heart rate monitors for cyclists to
attach to their bikes, which can record data such as bike speed, pedal
rpms, and elevation as well.
Why to buy: If you’re going to wear your heart
rate monitor outdoors in rain, snow, or other wet weather, look for ones
rated as water resistant. If there’s a possibility your heart rate
monitor will get submerged in water, even for a short time period,
you’ll need one that’s waterproof.
Things to consider: There are varying degrees of
“water resistant” depending on how much moisture exposure the device
can handle, so read labels carefully and err on the side of caution.
What they are: Fingertip heart rate
monitors—which measure your heart rate through the skin in a few short
seconds—are rapidly growing in popularity.
Why to buy: They’re a portable, easy-to-use version of a heart rate monitor that you can carry in your pocket or purse and use on the go.
Things to consider: Some experts believe
fingertip heart rate monitors are not as accurate as the chest strap
versions. Many fingertip monitors are small, so make sure you can easily
read the display screen and operate any buttons.
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