What is a Heart Rate Monitor and How Does it Work?

Heart Rate Monitor - Wristband and Chest StrapA heart rate monitor can be an important tool whether you are a serious athlete, have a regular exercise routine or are simply trying to lose weight and improve your health. No matter your reason for exercising, an HRM can help you to ensure that your heart rate is reaching and maintaining a safe level at all times.

So how do these monitors work? As their name suggests, they are designed to continually monitor your heart rate and provide you with the necessary readings either at a glance or at the push of a button. The process is really rather simple. Your heart beats a certain number of times per minute and that rate can vary depending on your level of physical activity. With each beat, a small electrical signal is sent through the heart muscles and monitors are designed to detect this signal.

In order to do so, a heart rate monitor needs to be in direct contact with your skin so that it can clearly read the electronic signals. The earliest heart monitors did this with a strap that you wrapped around your chest. The signals were picked up by the receiver on this strap and then transmitted to a second receiver worn around the wrist. This worked well but could be cumbersome and uncomfortable, not to mention annoying as it gave off a regular “beep” sound to indicate it was working.

Over time, the technology evolved to improve the ability of the chest strap and wrist monitor to work together. More recently, monitors have been developed that do away with the chest strap entirely, instead using a sensor pad on the underside of the wrist band to make contact with your pulse point and transmit the heart’s electrical signals. This is lighter weight and more convenient but it can also be less accurate than the chest strap models. Still many people, particularly those who are serious about their exercise routine, prefer this style.

The Latest Heart Rate Monitors Take it to the Next Level

Some of the most recent models of heart rate monitor also employ Bluetooth technology to communicate wirelessly with your phone or tablet, sending your heart rate and other information directly to an app, which you can then access at any time. This can not only help you to achieve and maintain a target heart rate but also lets you keep track of your heart rate during various types of exercise and at various times so that you can better tailor your exercise program to your individual needs.

Certain types of workout equipment, including higher end treadmills and elliptical machines now come with HRM’s built-in. This makes it easier for users to track their heart rate and reach a target level. There are various recommended levels that your heart rate should reach when participating in different types of exercise. Before beginning any workout routine, you should understand exactly what these are so that you can ensure you are working out safely.

There are many brands of heart rate monitor, from popular names such as Polar, Fitbit, Garmin and Wahoo. These are generally affordable models that offer the basic features. For more serious athletes, high end models by Suunto and TomTom offer more complex designs, with added features that allow you to sync with various apps and get the most out of your workout. They also offer the best possible wireless technology to avoid interference from other wireless devices which can skew the monitor’s results.

How Much Do the Monitors Cost?

Prices for these monitors can range anywhere from $40 to upwards of $700, but it is not always necessary to spend a fortune to get the best quality device. Remember, the reason for using a monitor is so that you can gauge how hard you need to work out and if you are getting the best possible results for your body. In order to do that you need a monitor that will work for you, provide clear readings and not be hampered by outside interference.

The best heart rate monitor for one person may not work for another, so you need to shop around and find a heart rate monitor that is comfortable, accurate and dependable so it will suit your individual needs. Then you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you are getting the most out of your workout and doing it safely.