Heart Rate Monitors
Maximize the impact of your workout with a heart rate monitor
If you want to maximize your workout, know your target heart rate range and exercise within it. Different ranges are ideal for different results, such as burning fat, increasing endurance and improving cardio performance. The best way to track your heart rate is through a heart rate monitor. Fortunately, these workout accessories are cheaper and easier to use than ever.
What to Look For in a Heart Rate Monitor
Through a band worn around your chest, heart rate monitors track the beating of your heart and transmit that information to a translator, sometimes worn on your wrist like a watch, which modifies that rate into a numeric value of beats per minute.
Basic heart rate monitors simply tell you how fast your heart is beating and leave the rest up to you. More intricate models can sound alarms when you reach a certain rate zone, which is helpful when you're trying to stay within certain boundaries. Some also record your workout data, which can then be downloaded onto a computer to help you track your progress and plan future workouts.
Other optional features include an exercise reminder alarm (helpful for motivation), an audible metronome to keep you at a steady pace and stopwatch capability. If you're really serious about exercise, purchase a monitor that also tracks your laps, altitude and/or speed. If you're big into outdoor sports, pay more for a compatible GPS monitor.
Heart rate monitor watches are worn around the wrist for convenience, but there are other fun products on the market, as well, such as a heart rate monitor bra and bands that go around your biceps—some can even go over exercise clothing for cold-weather workouts.
Best Heart Rate Monitor Brands
There are many brands of heart rate monitors, but some are better than others. Polar heart rate monitors have a long history of reliability and accuracy. Polar also makes a wide variety of additional products for your monitor, like a "foot pod" GPS system that attaches to your shoe.
Timex heart rate monitors are also known for their quality. Timex makes the official Ironman Race Trainer, which can store calorie totals and other information from your last 10 workouts.
Keep in mind that the more bells and whistles you want on your monitor, the more it will cost you. For the best value, choose a monitor that's not only comfortable but has all the capabilities you need—and none that you don't.