Best Heart Rate Monitors

Heart Rate Monitor Review (updated Jan 2017)

Hello, I’m Samuel. Welcome to the web’s source for the best Heart Rate Monitor Review (updated Jan 2017). If you’re looking to buy a fitness tracker that has heart rate monitor or a chest strap, you can find from my research below useful information that will help you choose what really fits you.

Here are all information you need to know before purchasing an activity tracker that has heart rate monitor:

heart rate monitor review

After reading this article, I’m sure you can answer yourself these questions: Should I have a heart rate monitor device? Chest strap or wristwatch heart rate monitor? Polar or Garmin? Which is compatible with Bluetooth or ANT+ devices? Which is waterproof? Which is cheap?

Why measuring your heart rate important?

Many of my friends now have a smart watch with heart rate monitor function. But when I ask, most of them don’t utilize this feature because they don’t get the importance of measuring heart rate. Why buy a fitness tracker with heart rate monitor when you don’t really know what it is for? Let me give you some studies and numbers about heart rate. Your heart rate at rest, as well as during exercise, can tell you a lot about your health and how fit you are.

Measure your heart rate at rest

Your resting heart rate, when considered in the context of other markers, such as body temperature, blood pressure and breathing rate, can help identify potential health problems. While you’re at rest, heart rate variability is directly linked with the body’s regulatory systems, their efficiency and health. An optimum level of heart rate variability within an organism is a sign of healthy function and an inherent self-regulatory capacity, resilience or adaptability.

“In certain cases, a lower resting heart rate can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which is associated with reduced rates of cardiac events like heart attacks,” says Dr. Jason Wasfy, director of quality and analytics at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. However, some situations can make your resting heart rate too low, which may cause occasional fatigue or dizziness.

A high resting heart rate could be a sign of a cardiac risk in some situations. A study in the journal Heart(2013) tracked the cardiovascular health of about 3,000 men for 16 years and found that the higher a person’s resting heart rate, the greater the risk of early death. A high resting heart rate was related to lower physical fitness and higher body weight, blood pressure and levels of circulating blood fats. Specifically, a resting heart rate between 81 and 90 doubled the chance of death, while a resting heart rate higher than 90 tripled it. Therefore, frequently checking your resting heart rate using a heart rate monitor chest strap / fitness tracker is a good way to detect health issues.
Check how your resting heart rate should be at a specific age:

best Heart Rate Monitor reviewreview to buy heart rate monitor

Measure your heart rate during exercise

Your heart continuously beating to keep blood circulating throughout your body is also a muscle. Exercise, in turn, helps keep it healthy. The American Heart Association recommends that a person should exercise to raise their heart rate to their target heart rate zone which is 50% to 85% of their maximum heart rate (MHR). So fitness isn’t just about the amount you exercise, it’s also about the intensity of that exercise. A heart rate monitor chest strap / fitness tracker is your pacer, telling you when to speed up or slow down to achieve results.

How to know your maximum heart rate? Various algorithms have been developed to calculate it, but the simplest is:

Your maximum heart rate = 220 – Your age

Age Target HR Zone 50-85% (beats/minute) Average Maximum Heart Rate 100% (beats/minute)
20 100-170 200
30 95-162 190
35 93-157 185
40 90-153 180
45 88-149 175
50 85-145 170
55 83-140 165
60 80-136 160
65 78-132 155
70 75-128 150
To raise your heart rate to the target heart rate zone, you can follow heart rate training which relies on exercising in different heart rate zones. Each training stimulates different metabolic pathways and has different effects on the enzymes in the muscles. When you know your zones you can plan workouts to make the greatest fitness gains without overworking.

  • Endurance (60%–70% MHR; 40-80 minutes): Considered ideal for endurance and weight-loss programs. Develops cardiovascular and muscular efficiency. Your body will use stored fat as fuel.
  • Aerobic (70%–80% MHR; 10-40 minutes): Highly effective for cardiovascular fitness as well as muscle strength. You will burn mostly fat and carbohydrates in this zone.
  • Anaerobic (80%–90% MHR; 2-10 minutes): Used for interval workouts or consistent speed. At this zone, your breathing will be heavy and your muscles tired. Increases lactate tolerance and enhances lung capacity.
  • VO2 Max (90%–100% MHR; 0-2 minutes): For athletes who want to enhance speed. Muscles quickly go into oxygen debt at this level so only exercise for short period.

During the first few weeks of working out, aim for the lower range of your target zone (50%) and gradually increase to the higher range (85%). If you’ve started an exercise program, you might see a decrease in your resting heart rate and that means your fitness is improving. It takes about four to six weeks of following an exercise program before you can see measurable changes in your resting heart rate.

Benefits of Heart Rate Monitor Devices

Numerous studies have proved that coherence training consisting of intentional activation of positive emotions paired with heart rate variability coherence feedback facilitates substantial improvements in wellness and well-being indicators in a variety of populations.

heart rate monitor advantage
A key benefit of a heart rate monitor device is that it enables you to maintain the optimum heart rate target zone for your specific goal. Higher-end models inform you of this via a digital display and/or an audible tone. Tracking heart rate along with activity may tell users which of their daily activities count as exercise.People with heart problems can monitor their heart rate to know whether their heart rate is related to certain symptoms (such as light-headedness). If you are trying stress management techniques, a heart rate monitor fitness tracker might help you see whether your techniques (for example, practicing deep breathing) made your heart rate go down. Later in this heart rate monitor review, I will help you choose which monitor works best with you.

Quick tool to calculate your target heart rate

Who should use Heart Rate Monitor Device

Those who want to be healthier all should use heart rate monitors. Because with this facility, not only we are able to identify our health issues by measuring our resting heart rate but also can exercise targeting suitable heart rate zone to make our heart stronger.

  • Joggers and walkers: By aiming for fat-burning and aerobic target zones on your heart rate monitor, you can get more out of your exercise time.
  • Runners: A heart rate monitor can keep you in your highest target zone on intense training days as well as at your aerobic base during easier sessions.
  • Swimmers: some swimming heart rate monitor has data like distance, pace, stroke type/count and number of pool lengths.
  • Cyclists: Whether you bike on a road, trail or stationary trainer, you can track your training performance during endurance, tempo and interval rides.
  • Hikers, climbers and skiers: Use a heart rate monitor to condition more effectively for a peak ascent.
  • Weight-loss participants: Heart rate monitors help target your exercise for fat burning. Most display calories burned during a workout.
  • Injury-rehabilitation patients: For patients recovering from an injury or an illness, Heart rate monitors provide real-time valuable feedback. Such data can help ensure that your recovery proceeds safely and steadily.

Types of Heart Rate Monitor Device

One of the most frequently asked questions about Heart Rate Monitor Review is: Which one is the most accurate? I see a lot of heart rate monitor reviews with experiments comparing some Heart Rate Monitor Models, however I think before you compare them you should know how each model work to measure heart rate. Whatever model is, they either use Optical Sensor or ECG Sensor and this will decide which model is more accurate.

Optical Sensor vs ECG/EKG Sensor

Type Light based Optical Sensor
“wristwatch
ECG/EKG Sensor
chest strap heart rate monitor review
Description Detect changes in blood volume
Sensor often is put on your wrist or your arm
Measures the electrical activity of the heart to show continuous and resting heart rate data.
Sensor often is put under your chest
Accuracy Accuracy can be reduced by light leaking in and affecting the sensor, the movement of your arm and the flexing of your wrist. More accurate and reliable than optical sensors because they use ECG sensor and are close to the heart
Comfort Convenient when exercising
No need to use gel or cream to make it work
You have to wet the back of the strap with water, or conductive gel before exercising and wet it again whenever you have trouble getting a reading.
Battery life Shorter life battery Long life battery. It may last to a year.
Which one is for you? This type fits with almost everyone Choose this type if you’re serious about sports and high accuracy
Besides accuracy and comfort, many people say that they concern about the convenience and effectiveness of a heart rate monitor. So another thing you should definitely check about a heart rate monitor is that it’s Continuous Reading or Touch Type

Continuous-Reading vs Touch-Type

Touch Type
“cheap
Continuous Reading
wristwatch with heart rate monitor
Description You need to either touch the device on its screen or press a button to get a reading. Your heart rate data is real-time and continuously displayed on either the wristwatch or the iPhone via Bluetooth
Convenience Can be distracting when you run or cycle. It may take several seconds to get a reading. Convenient when exercising. You can move freely.
Battery life Long battery life, up to 20 days. Short battery life. You may need to take it off and charge the device daily.
Which one is for you? If you just have light exercise and simply just want to have a watch with more functions, you can consider this. Choose this if you want to use a heart rate monitor for serious training activities
Ok, now you know that you should care about the type of sensor a heart rate monitor uses and check if that model is continuous reading or touch-type. In the market, a heart rate monitor is rarely labelled “ECG sensor” or “continuous reading” but “ABC chest strap” or “XYZ wristwatch” instead. So which one should you choose? Chest strap or wristwatch? Check this table below then you will understand why I provide you information about sensor and reading type before reviewing about chest strap and wristwatch heart rate monitor.

Chest Strap vs Armband vs Wristwatch

Wristwatch / Wristband
best wrist band heart rate monitor
Chest strap
top chest strap heart rate monitor review
Armband
armband heart rate monitor
Description The wristwatch models allow you to measure and view your heart rate right on the screens. All of these models are worn with a chest strap which send data to a wristwatch-style receiver or your Phone via Bluetooth. You wear this model on your arm and it will send data to your Phone via Bluetooth.
Sensor Optical sensor ECG sensor Optical sensor
Reading type Either continuous-reading or touch-type wristwatch Continuous, real-time reading data on your phone / wristwatch receiver Continuous, real-time reading data on your phone
Accuracy Not as accurate as chest strap More accurate because they are right up against the skin and close to the heart and use ECG sensor Not as accurate as chest strap
Comfort More comfort as Models do not require a chest strap Many people got chafed and find it a bit hard to breathe
You have to wet the chest strap at least initially, to get a reading
Breathable than chest strap
Convenience Can use as a watch and measure daily activities (steps, calories burned) If you want to read data, you need to carry your phone along or buy a heart rate receiver watch to pair with it. If you want to read data, you need to carry your phone along
Battery life Short if it’s continuous reading
Longer if it’s touch-type but still not as long as chest strap
Long battery life, may last up to 1 year Short
Others Cheaper than wrist-only models.
Can’t use it for normal activities.
Can’t use as a watch
Who should use Who’s not too serious about sport and data Who’s serious about sport and data For whom exercise with gloves on such as MMA

Top Heart Rate Monitor Review 2017

Now you may have decided to go with Wristwatch or Chest strap or Armband. For each category I will review the best-seller ones:

1. Wristwatch


Fitbit Charge HR Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Rubber strap. 5 color options: black, plum, blue, teal and tangerine. Comfortable to sleep with
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Workouts, distance, floors climbed, steps, active minutes and calories burned. Automatically monitor your sleep and wake with a silent alarm. You can see time of day, call notifications, daily stats on the OLED display
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant. Not suitable for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices
Battery life: 5 days
* My Comment: Fitbit is favoured by even President Barrack Obama. Design as well as functions are really nice. Its biggest cons are small display screen and not suitable for swimming.
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Fitbit Charge 2 Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Band is interchangeable. Sreen are 4 times bigger than Fitbit Charge HR. 5 color options: black, blue, plum, teal and lavender.
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Workouts, distance, floors climbed, steps, active minutes and calories burned. Automatically monitor your sleep and wake with a silent alarm. You can see time of day, call notifications, daily stats on the OLED display. Enhanced with Cardio Fitness Level which indicates how fit you are.
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant. Not suitable for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices
Battery life: 5 days
* My Comment: Fitbit Charge 2 is quite a good choice if you prefer wearing a fitness band to a fitness watch. However this model is still not suitable for swimming. Read my full review of pros and cons of Fitbit Charge 2.
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Garmin Vivosmart Activity tracker heart rate monitor Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Sleek design. 3 color options: black, imperial purple, midnight blue
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Steps, distance, calories, heart rate, floors climbed and activity intensity. Receive text, call, email, social media and calendar alerts. Control your music and your VIRB action camera
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 50m. Safe for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth & ANT+ devices. Garmin Connect app
Battery life: 5 days
* My Comment: This one is a very good choice among fitness trackers of same price range.
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Polar A360 Fitness tracker heart rate monitor Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Colorful touchscreen
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Workouts, steps, distance, calories burned, sleep quality, and activity 24/7
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 30m. Safe for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth. Iphone & Android devices
Battery life: 2 weeks
* My Comment: This one is more expensive than others but it has colorful touch screen and battery life is up to 2 weeks. Worth a try!
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Pebble 2 heart rate monitor Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: 5 color options – Black, white, aqua, flame and lime. E-paper. 1.26-inch display with a 144 x 168 resolution
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Sleep and activity tracking. Built-in microphone, record voice notes. Music control.
Water resistant: 30 m. Safe for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth. No wifi and GPS; can work with both iOS and Android devices
Battery life: 7 days
* My Comment: I’m not a fan of Pebble’s design. However, good price for offered functions. You can find my detailed review of this smartwatch here.
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Mio Alpha sports watch heart rate monitor Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Black color
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Total exercise time. Timer/Clock
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 30 m. Safe for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices
Battery life: 20+ hours
* My Comment: Cheaper but less functions than the mentioned wristwatch. Suitable for high intense workouts such as: running, cycling.
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Samsung Gear Fit 2 Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Light and durable with a 1.5 inch curved Super AMOLED display. Interchangeable bands and screens
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Track your step count, calories burned, heart rate, sleep Quality and More. Map your activity accurately with the built-in GPS. Auto tracking recognizes and starts Tracking multiple exercises when you move. Receive and respond to notifications, calls and texts right on your wrist
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant 1.5 m for 30 minutes
Compatibility: Android devices
Battery life: 3-4 days
* My Comment: Short battery life and just can work with Android devices.
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TomTom Spark Cardio + Music, GPS Fitness Watch + Heart Rate Monitor Review

Type: Wristwatch. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: 7 color options
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Bluetooth music player. Measures time, distance, speed, pace, calories burned, and sleep
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 40m. Safe for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices
Battery life: 3 weeks (without using GPS + music)
* My Comment: If you’re a sports + music fan, you should consider this one. Plus it has many color options for you to choose.
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2. Chest strap & Armband


Polar H7 heart rate monitor Review

Type: Chest strap, Continuous reading data, ECG sensor
Design and comfort: Elastic strap, Stays tightly, Not really comfortable
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Calories counter
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Yes, but Bluetooth will not work then
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices, Polar watch, Gym equipment using Gym Link
* My Comment: Polar is famous for chest straps so if you’re looking for an accurate chest strap heart rate monitor for activities like running or cycling and you already had a smart watch then this would be the best choice.
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Polar FT7 heart rate monitor Review

Type: Chest strap included wristwatch receiver. Continuous reading data. Using ECG sensor
Design and comfort: Soft fabric. More comfortable
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Calories burned. Energy Pointer
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 30m
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices. Gym equipment using Gym Link
* My Comment: This is a perfect set for you to do exercise. Whenever you go for running, just wear the chest strap and the wristwatch together and you’re good to go.
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Polar FT4 heart rate monitor Review

Type: Chest strap included wristwatch receiver. Continuous reading data. Using ECG sensor
Design and comfort: Soft fabric. More comfortable
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Calories burned
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 30m
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices. Gym equipment using Gym Link
* My Comment: This set is cheaper than Polar FT7 and doesn’t have the feature “Energy Pointer”.
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Garmin Premium Strap heart rate monitor Review

Type: Chest strap. Continuous reading data. ECG sensor
Design and comfort: Soft fabric. Adjustable
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Pace
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 30m
Compatibility: ANT+ devices. Garmin vivofit watch and a lot of smart watches
* My Comment: Garmin is also famous for Chest strap heart rate monitor. While Polar chest trap can connect other devices via Bluetooth, Garmin’s can only connect ANT+ devices.
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WAHOO TICKR heart rate monitor Review

Type: Chest strap. Continuous reading data. ECG sensor
Design and comfort: Soft fabric
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Calories burned
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 1.5m
Compatibility: Bluetooth & ANT+ devices. Smartphones (iPhone & android) and tablets, as well as GPS watches
* My Comment: Compatibility of WAHOO’s chest strap is its strength. However water resistant is just to 1.5m while Polar’s and Garmin’s is up to 30m.
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Timex Mid-Size T5G941 Easy Trainer heart rate monitor Review

Type: Watch included chest strap. Continuous reading data. ECG sensor.
Design and comfort: Elastic strap
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Activity timer
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 30m. Not suitable for swimming
* My Comment: Quite good compared to Polar FT7. The weakness is the material is elastic and you can’t use for swimming.
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TomTom bluetooth Heart rate monitor Review

Type: Chest strap. Continuous reading data. ECG sensor
Design and comfort: Elastic strap
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Just heart rate
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant. Not suitable for swimming
Compatibility: Bluetooth devices. TomTom watch
* My Comment: Don’t recommend this one because it’s elastic and not suitable for swimming.
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Scosche RHYTHM+ heart rate monitor Review

Type: Armband with no screen. Continuous reading data. Optical sensor
Design and comfort: Elastic, lightweight
Tracking beyond heart rate monitoring: Calories burned, distance, pace
Water Resistance / Waterproof: Water resistant to 1m
Compatibility: Bluetooth and ANT+ devices. Works with watches, fitness equipment, smartphones, tablets and most popular fitness apps including DigiFit Run keeper MapMyFitness Strava and more
* My Comment: This one looks really cool. However, a wristwatch will be a better choice since both use optical sensor (same accuracy) while this armband still require you to wear a wristwatch together for reading data continuously.
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I’ll keep updating the latest heart rate monitor review as well as providing new guides and tips, so subscribe my blog for updated information. Meanwhile, checkout my latest posts:

  • With $129 should you buy Pebble 2+HR or aim for another wristwatch instead?
    With $129 should you buy Pebble 2+HR or aim for another wristwatch instead?
  • Fitbit Charge 2 Review – The Pros and Cons You Must Know
    Fitbit Charge 2 Review – The Pros and Cons You Must Know
  • How you can run more efficiently with heart rate monitor
    How you can run more efficiently with heart rate monitor
Heart Rate Monitor Review (updated Jan 2017) Samuel

Summary:

User Rating: 3.3 (2 votes)
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4 Comments

  1. Gerald

    December 13, 2016 at 11:15 pm

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  2. williangillen

    December 22, 2016 at 7:30 pm

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  3. Christastingley

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  4. Darren

    December 29, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Great blog. I have purchased a Fitbit Blaze recently and also get regular headaches. I would be very grateful to hear how you resolved your headaches.

    Reply

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