How to Buy Fitness Heart Rate Monitor


A fitness heart rate monitor is a device to measure its user's heart rate in real time during exercise. It usually comes in two basic designs - with or without chest strap transmitter. In the first design, one straps a belt with a transmitter around the chest and the transmitter sends signal to a monitor for recording the pulse rate. The monitor can record one's heart rate continuously. The second design requires the user to touch the monitor for a few seconds with his finger to record a reading. This design is for spot reading readings only and lacks some of the functionalities of the first design.

The monitor is usually in the form of a wrist watch and functions as a watch also.

There are many different exercise heart rate monitor designs with various enhanced features, including average heart rate over exercise period, time in a specific heart rate zone, calories bured, coded transmission to eliminate interference and detailed logging for downloading to a computer for further analysis.

A heart rate monitor helps you to maintain your target heart rate and pace yourself during exercise. A target heart rate is usually between 50% to 85% of your maximum heart rate(MHR) and the target rate is where you can exercise safely while getting the most benefit. For building endurance, your target exercise level should be at 60-65% MHR and for burning calories, your target exercise level should be at 80-85% of MHR. Furthermore, your exercise heart rate is also dependent on your age, level of fitness and overall health condition.

The easiest way to find your MHR is to use an online calculator.

The cost of a exercise heart rate monitor starts at around $25 to $300. The main difference is the number of bells and whistles available. You can find some quality products at $25 range if you do not need the extra features. Make sure you know what features you want as there is no point in paying $$$ for features that you never use.

Basic Features

  • Watch
    • Date, time
    • Alarm
    • Stop watch
  • Backlight
  • Water resistant
  • Heart rate (beats per minute)
  • Mounting bracelet

Common Features

  • Heart rate (% of maximum heart rate)
  • Pre-set target zones (based on age)
  • Custom configuration
    • Custom target zones (one or more)
    • Favorite exercise heart rate settings
    • Exercise programs (one or more stored programs)
      • Multiple stages (warm up, stage 1, recovery…) with time and heart rate zone set for each stage
      • Audio and visual alarm when transition from one stage to another
      • Configure, start and reset exercise program
  • Time in, below and above zones
  • Zone alarm (visual and audio)
  • Maximum heart rate alarm
  • Calorie expenditure
  • Average heart rate of exercise
  • Maximum heart rate of exercise
  • Current zone indicator
  • Memory - Record exercise data for later review
    • Date, time, duration
    • Exercise program
    • Statistics
      • Time in zones
      • Maximum heart rate
      • Average heart rate
      • One-year warranty

Advanced Features

  • Fitness indicator –
    • A symbol appears on the watch display every 10 minutes in target zone. This feature shows a bullet symbol on the display of your heart rate monitor for every 10 minutes spent exercising/training in your target heart rate zone.
    • Coded transmission
      • Eliminate interference with other heart rate monitors
      • Computer interface
      • USB
      • Infra-red
      • Data management and analysis software program
    • Multi-year warranty