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Listen to Your Heart Rate Monitor

The Importance of this Training Tool

-- By Jen Mueller & Nicole Nichols, Fitness Experts
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Why should I use one?
Here some of the top reasons why you should consider purchasing a heart rate monitor:
  • Measure the intensity of your workout. Exercise intensity is very important. When too low, you’re not burning that many calories or achieving the health benefits of exercise; when too high, you could be risking injury or HURTING your body’s ability to burn fat efficiently. Using a heart rate monitor shows you exactly where you stand at every moment of your workout so you can quickly assess and readjust if necessary—without stopping, counting your pulse, or doing any math calculations.
  • Calculate your target training zone. A proper aerobic training zone varies between 55% and 85% of your maximum heart rate, depending on your health status and fitness level. Most monitors allow you to input information such as your age, weight, gender and resting heart rate to calculate your training zone. Some even test your heart rate during exercise to assess your fitness level before recommending a training zone. By using a heart rate monitor, you'll know when to change up your routine to continue challenging yourself once the same activity becomes easy for you.
  • Calculate how many calories you burn during exercise. Not all models offer this feature, but calculations from a HRM are much more accurate than other methods that tend to overestimate calorie burn (such as the readout from a machine or an online calculator). Knowing the number of calories you're burning is particularly important when trying to lose weight.

In addition, the data from a heart rate monitor can be useful when reporting back to your doctor about your fitness program; the receiver (watch) usually offers other useful tools, such as a timer for your exercise session, data storage, and programmable features, such as a beeping alarm that will sound when your intensity is too low or too high. Most models will allow you to monitor your heart rate in both beats per minute and percentage of max, depending on which method is easiest for you to understand.

How do I choose a heart rate monitor?
There are hundreds of different models and styles to choose from, so think about the features that are most important to you before making a purchase. Do you want a heart rate monitor that is water resistant for swimming; that will save workout information you can upload to your computer; that offers different training programs; or one that counts calories? Continued ›

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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

    I just received a PolarFt1 from Amazon and it's going back. Why? 1. The settings were screwed up. All I cared about was seeing my heart rate. 2. The colon is blinking with no way to turn it off. Naturally, this has already been using up battery. It's made in China and been using battery juice since it left the factory in China?

    No thanks. - 9/4/2013 10:26:57 PM
  • Great article. Need to get one. - 6/28/2013 4:20:51 PM
  • I also had a polar HRM watch but i was not able to understand it , it was alt lease 2 yrs i had it and decide that i had to have somebody try to set it for me
    I had to replace the bateries but the it got replace but he did not understand it either

    Finely i had it set and it was not any good to me i still did not understand it , all i wanted
    was to find out how much calories i was burning while i was doing exercise

    Why do they make those watches so complicated it must be about 5 to 7 yrs ago
    and i had pay 125$ at the time. would somebody would know of a watch that is simple
    to set all i really want is how much calories i burn, while i do exercise - 1/7/2013 2:15:07 AM
    Informative. Excellent read. Thanks for sharing this HRM article - 5/3/2012 6:30:39 AM
  • I also have the Polar ft4 ....I've had mine 4 years and replaced the battery for the first time this year !!! You can do it yourself (or take to jeweler) it takes regular watch battery so don't send it in. I would NEVER exercise without it ever !!! I don't need the laps, or extras tracked. I only need the time and calories burned but this allows me to be so accurate and helped me to lose weight !!

    All my fitness is now tracked manually so I know exactly where I am. I've even worn mine all night to see calories burned throughout day and it was only 20 calories from what my dr. metobolic testing was !! Very accurate !! I have the front plastic and the back half elastic. Very comfy !!! - 3/4/2012 12:18:21 PM
  • I have to jump on the Polar bandwagon as well. I use the Polar ft4. It is a wonderful, mid-priced HRM. I bought it based on ease of use - I really only want a HRM to monitor my heart rate and tell me how many calories I'm burning, so I didn't want to pay for extra bells and whistles that I wouldn't use. It cost about $90, the strap is comfortable and adjustable, and I bought my wrist monitor in a pretty pink color. It is not so bulky that you can't also use it as your regular watch. You can program all your stats in there and change as you lose or gain weight so you always have an accurate read of how many calories you've burned, and it stores that data in there as well in case you move from doing cardio to lifting at the gym and want to record calories separately. You can also change the battery yourself on this model which is so convenient. It also seems to display my heart rate on the cardio machines at the gym too so I can keep the setting on my wrist monitor on calories burned to monitor both simultaneously. I would definitely recommend this monitor to anyone. - 3/2/2012 2:36:57 PM
    I got an Omron HR-100C for Christmas. What can I say, cheap, works well, and has user replaceable batteries. The last HRM I owned was twice as expensive and needed the chest strap back to the company for battery replacement! Only time will tell if the unit is durable though. - 2/2/2012 5:52:12 PM
  • the comment is helpful but i would like to hear more about the actual monitors themselves. i did get a little bit of help from the comments also though! - 12/28/2011 12:15:43 PM
    I can't wear a heartrate monitor. I purchased one after reaching a goal and just loved it. I thought it would be a great motivational tool to keep me exercising in the right direction. But after about 1 month the thing died. I figured it was just the battery since I drain watch batteries on a regular basis. But no I totally fried it, I put in a new battery and still no power. So I just keep doing what I'm doing and push forward without that gauge as a reference. - 9/22/2011 12:17:47 PM
  • RONDUA82
    I just bought m first HRM (SIGMA - I'm not sure if this one is available in the States) and checked it right away at my Zumba class. I was surprised how many calories I burned! Wow! The HRM helped me to monitor my pulse which went way to high at some point. I knew when I needed to slow down. I think I will be using it during all my workouts. - 7/27/2010 3:11:29 PM
  • great article. fyi REI has a spread sheet of features of the models they sell. it helped me purchase mine. - 3/14/2010 2:09:31 PM
  • Hi, like Ladybug-Dr I would very much like to see an article comparing the different models out there from low to high end to help in finding just the right HRM for me. I would like to add this to my "rewards" list to help me benefit more from my workouts.
    I have no knowledge what so ever about HRM and this article gave me an good basic overview.
    Please let me know more about HRM so I can make a great decision without a lot of trial and errors and extra cost. - 3/12/2010 9:25:12 AM
  • Right now, I am trying to decided which one to get. Hopefully, I will find one I would like to use. - 11/6/2009 9:56:12 AM
  • I just bought a Polar FT40 and so far I like it. I was surprised to see that the calories I'm actually burning are much lower than the fitness tracker on this site says. I also found out that most of my workout is spent in the fitness zone rather than in the fat burning zone, which is where I really need to be. I'm excited that I'm going to be able to monitor my efforts and progress much more closely. Thanks to this HRM, I think I've finally discovered why I'm not burning any fat. - 8/18/2009 9:26:36 AM
    Thank you eveyone for all the input. I was seriously considering a Bodybugg and how to save enough to get one. I had a polar several years ago, but I had a hard time getting the strap positioned properly to get a reading. Hopefully they have improved and it will work this time. Coyuld it be tghe operator ?? ^_^ - 8/4/2009 7:44:02 PM
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