Heart rate monitors can be particularly valuable in measuring your heart’s performance during physical activities such as running, swimming, and biking. Some heart rate monitors can even measure more detailed metrics such as distance moved, average stride length, the number of calories burned during a session, and more. If you are serious about athletic performance and cardiovascular health, now is a great time to invest in a high-quality heart rate monitor.
Buying Guide for Heart Rate Monitors
Why buy a heart rate monitor?
Heart rate readings can be an indispensable insight for improving your fitness regimen. Your heart rate is one of the best metrics for determining how intense a workout is. Thus, if you can maintain an elevated heart rate for longer periods, you’ll burn more calories and fat while simultaneously improving your cardiovascular fitness. On the flip side, if you routinely push yourself to your limits during a workout, a heart rate monitor can also alert you when the intensity of your workout regimen threatens your heart’s health.
What should you look for in a heart rate monitor?
- Accuracy: A heart rate monitor is only as good as it is accurate. Most serious athletes prefer chest strap heart rate monitors that utilize electrocardiography to produce detailed heart rate metrics throughout a workout. However, many wrist and armband heart rate monitors have also evolved in terms of accuracy over the years. Many consider these devices more comfortable than chest strap designs, even if they provide less accurate data.
- Comfort: To function correctly, heart rate monitors must fit securely to your body and stay put over a workout. If you’re looking for a chest band heart rate monitor, find a product that mitigates chafing issues during prolonged, sweaty workouts. While chafing is less of an issue with heart rate monitors worn around your arm or wrist, keeping these products in place can be challenging. If you’re looking to buy one of these, invest in a design that straps securely to your arm. It shouldn’t move even while doing vigorous exercise.
- Functionality: Your heart rate data can provide invaluable information to your fitness coach or personal trainer, but first, you’ll need to export the data in a way that’s easy to read and understand. Finding a model that can be synced to your favorite fitness app is a good idea since it will allow you to track the data over time and organize it into handy charts and graphs. Downloading data to a computer is another great option to visualize your heart health improvement over time. At the very least, check to see if the heart rate monitor you want to buy is compatible with your favorite fitness apps and products and allows for simple exporting of your workout data.
Do you need a heart rate monitor if you’re not an athlete?
You don’t need a heart rate monitor in order to get a good workout. However, if you’re in the midst of a fitness plateau and struggling to reach the next level, a heart rate monitor can undoubtedly help you reach your target intensity. Those with health conditions that require them to stay under a certain heart rate threshold can also greatly benefit from a heart rate monitor, especially if they wish to continue living an active lifestyle. Given how accurate and inexpensive modern heart rate monitors have become, they’re excellent for those who take their workouts and physical fitness seriously.
Our Picks for the Best Heart Rate Monitors
Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor
This well-reputed HR brand's accurate and versatile H10 tracks your heart rate during vigorous workouts.
Pros: The Polar H10 isn’t just one of the most comfortable chest strap heart rate monitors out there; it’s also one of the most accurate products on the market. Additionally, its ANT+ and Bluetooth functionality ensure it’s compatible with a wide range of smartwatches, apps, and fitness machines. This model also scores points for its great battery life (weeks of continuous use), and it performs well in water, making it a versatile pick that will exceed the needs of many.
Cons: While this is one of the most accurate options for tracking your heart rate over a workout, it’s not nearly as accurate when resting, so it’s not recommended for all-day (or night) wear. Also, the Polar app does take some getting used to.
Bottom Line: Chest strap heart rate monitors are known for highly accurate results, but the Polar H10 takes it to the next level. Overall, there’s a lot to love about this product and very little to hate, although those seeking an option for all-day wear are better off seeking out a watch or wristband with HRM functionality.
loket 2022 Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor with Voice
A blood pressure and heart rate monitor with a large screen that tracks changes, alerts wearers, and stores information.
Pros: This monitor secures comfortably on the wrist for daily wear. An impressive health monitoring tool, it tracks much more than heart rate, including arrhythmias and changes in blood pressure. The easy-to-read back-lit LCD screen illuminates accordingly—red for high, yellow for hypotension, green for normal, and white for standby mode. A highlight feature is the monitor’s memory storage capacity. Knowing what time of day shifts occur is key for those suffering from high or low blood pressure. Not just one but two people can use the monitor, which stores up to 200 readings with date and time stamps.
Cons: The blood pressure monitor is not approved by the FDA. For those concerned about their heart health or who know they suffer from high blood pressure, it’s best to consult a doctor to approve this product.
Bottom Line: This budget-friendly heart rate and blood pressure monitor wristband may offer you some calm as it tracks your health info throughout the day.
Sporting advanced functionality that's tailor-made for runners, this is an excellent buy for Garmin fitness watch owners.
Pros: For those with compatible Garmin fitness watches, the Garmin HRM-Run provides detailed running data that goes beyond what other top heart rate monitors offer. Its ability to track cadence, ground contact time, stride length, and more is a data junkie’s dream and can lead to real improvements in performance. It’s also comfortable, secure, and accurate, even when drenched in sweat and engaged in a full sprint.
Cons: As implied above, you’ll need to own or purchase a compatible Garmin fitness watch to take advantage of this device’s full functionality. While you have plenty of compatible options, this will add to the cost of your investment if you still need to own one. Also, the strap’s durability is somewhat disappointing, given this product’s premium price tag.
Bottom Line: If you’re not a runner, this isn’t a heart rate monitor for you. However, if you’re willing to invest in gear to improve your running form and times, this is the product to help you do just that, assuming you’re willing to buy into other Garmin fitness tech.
Fitbit Inspire 2 Health & Fitness Tracker
Designed for everyday use and sporting a built-in heart rate monitor, this fitness tracker scores points in terms of comfort and advanced features.
Pros: For those seeking a heart rate monitor that can be comfortably worn all day and night, the Fitbit Inspire 2 gives you the best bang for your buck. It’s a major improvement over its predecessor, thanks to its built-in heart rate monitor, and it can even provide heart rate variability and resting heart rate trends to track your heart health. Of course, it’s a Fitbit, so it’s exceptionally comfortable to wear and packs a lot of functionality for those seeking to live a more active lifestyle.
Cons: While the Inspire 2’s compact display is bright and readable (especially when compared to the Inspire 1), its small size limits what information can be provided when looking at the device. Additionally, it’s important to note that some of the more helpful heart health features (such as month-long heart rate variability trends) are only available to paid subscribers, so they will be blocked after your one-year free premium subscription lapses.
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for an affordable heart rate monitor and fitness tracker that’s designed for tracking everyday fitness goals, this is a fantastic choice. However, keep in mind that premium features cost almost as much as the device itself after the one-year free trial, making this a pricier long-term option for monitoring your heart rate.
Garmin Roku Wireless Subwoofer
This wireless heart rate monitor strap stores all real-time data, then updates your Garmin watch when back in range.
Pros: An ideal gadget for athletes competing in various sports, this Garmin heart rate strap communicates data using ANT+ and Bluetooth with Garmin devices like the Forerunner 735XT and training apps like Zwift. Streamlined for more comfort while active, this strap captures and stores running dynamics, heart rate, calories, steps, etc. while you’re out of range of your watch, then syncs up when you’re back in range. It’s basically a wireless version of Garmin’s HRM-Run.
Cons: The battery is only good for a year. Users report that the strap itself lasts only about a year.
Bottom Line: This wireless strap comes in handy for the true athlete or fitness guru who wants to track their progress even when they don’t have their watch. It’s a bit on the pricey side, especially if you also need to buy a watch, but it’s well worth it if you want to gather data in real time.
As you can see, there’s a lot of diversity in the world of heart rate monitors. This might surprise some, given how simple the idea of monitoring one’s heart rate is at its core. That being said, it’s not difficult to find the heart rate monitor that’s right for you as long as you consider your needs before shopping and the demands of your fitness regimen.