how it works, types, how to choose


A heart rate monitor is a device that can measure the pulse (heart rate). The second name is a heart rate monitor. What it is for is easy to understand: track the work of the heart in order to effectively calculate the load during training. One of the important functions is the calculation of the heart rate zone. Heart rate monitors are most widely used among athletes and those who monitor their health. The principle of operation, tips for choosing, types of monitors are presented below.

Main functions

Heart rate monitors are used for different sports and types of training, in addition, they differ from each other by way of location. There are options for the chest, on the finger or on the wrist and other types. This will be discussed in more detail below. It is important to understand that regardless of the type, functions in general overlap:

  • heart rate calculation;
  • selection and adjustment of the heart rate zone;
  • notification of a change in heart rate zone;
  • calculation of average and maximum heart rate indicators;
  • calculation of calories burned.

heart rate monitor

This list is typical for most monitors, but additional ones can be integrated with GPS, a pedometer, counting training zones, information about past results, fitness tests, calculating the required heart rate for different circles, the latter is convenient for runners to use.

How it works

The heart rate monitor uses the electrical activity of the heart muscles to read the pulse. The phenomenon became known in the 19th century and is used to this day. In modern heart rate monitors or fitness bracelets, as well as other devices, the pulse is measured using optical plethysmography. It sounds scary, but it’s actually quite simple. On the back of the device are LEDs, usually green. They emit a glow that is absorbed by the human body. In this case, the blood absorbs light more than the skin. Based on the amount of absorbed light, the device calculates the volume of blood and uses special algorithms in the gadget to calculate the pulse.

Rear panel of the heart rate monitor

Important! The downside of the technology is that if the heart rate is too high, the blood flows too fast, and the count may not be accurate.

The second measurement option uses a mechanical method: here pressure is assessed. The special shape of the monitor with elastic fasteners fixes the device in such a way that as the frequency of contractions increases or decreases, the pressure on the transducer increases or decreases. The method is more accurate, but rather new and not as widespread as the previous version.

Who needs a heart rate monitor

Based on the name, it is easy to understand that the main task of the heart rate monitor is to control heart rate. This term is often referred to BPM in heart rate monitor, which translates into Russian as «pulse rate per minute.» Those people who want to receive data on the work of their heart during training need this device.

In addition, it will allow you to maintain the necessary indicators and count calories. The heart rate monitor is needed not only for sports. Today, bracelets are widespread that show a person’s state throughout the day — the distance traveled, calories, pulse, sleep phases.

In the modern world, everyone needs a heart rate monitor — from people who are passionate about sports to ordinary people who simply want to receive information about their physical condition. In fact, the heart rate monitor is not only a measurement tool, but also a real assistant. He will be able to choose an activity program or simply remind the user that it’s time to move.

Why you need to measure the pulse

To some, measuring the pulse seems strange and not a necessary exercise. But it is worth knowing that, depending on the pulse, the human body uses different sources of energy production from each other. Allocate 5 load zones. It depends on them not only how effective the training is, but also what it is aimed at.

Running heart rate monitor

Load level What result
Max 90-100% Maximum development of strength and speed. Level for participation in competitions.
Heavy 80-90% Promotes the growth of muscle mass.
Average 70-80% Develops aerobic capacity.
Light 60-70% Raises overall endurance, promotes fat burning.
Very light 50-60% Warm-up, recovery and exercise.

The percentage is based on the maximum heart rate obtained. To calculate it, you should know the formula: Max heart rate \u003d 220 — the number of years.

Example! A person of thirty years of age needs to use fats to generate energy, that is, as a percentage, the load should be 60-70%. To calculate the required heart rate readings, you must perform the following steps:

  • bottom line = (220-30)*0.6=114
  • upper bound \u003d (220-30) * 0.7 \u003d 133

Thus, armed with a heart rate monitor and the necessary numbers, the athlete will achieve weight loss due to burning excess fat, and will also develop his aerobic abilities.

So, the heart rate monitor allows you to track the level of the pulse and keep it in the zone that is necessary to achieve a certain load and, accordingly, the results of classes.

Benefits of a personal heart rate monitor

Exercise rooms often have exercise machines that have built-in heart rate monitors. On the treadmill, a sensor is integrated into the handle that counts the pulse, but in order for it to count correctly, you must constantly keep your hands on it. And this is sometimes inconvenient. As practice shows, a special running heart rate monitor gives more accurate results than the built-in version. Nothing prevents you from counting the pulse manually, but it is obvious that in this case you will have to stop, the pace will go astray, and the result will not be the most correct. Thus, we highlight the following advantages of heart rate monitors.

  1. Monitoring is carried out directly during classes, this allows you not to overwork the heart.
  2. It’s easy to select a heart rate zone and stay in it.
  3. The heart rate monitor allows follow the progress due to the control of loads and the reaction to them from the body.
  4. Ability to calculate calories burned.
  5. The heart rate monitor can be used throughout the day and assess the functioning of the body and the reaction to normal work or everyday activities that are not related to training.
  6. In the absence of a dedicated area for training, for example, while running in the park or exercising on the horizontal bar, the only way to control is a heart rate monitor. Thus, another advantage is the ability to use anywhere.

On the treadmill

Types of heart rate monitors

Sports heart rate monitors are divided into two large types: chest and wrist. In addition, there are devices in the form of headphones, clothespins on the lobe or on the finger. There are also medical heart rate monitors, but they are not considered in this text, as they have excellent functionality and design.


Models with a chest sensor are located under the chest, special electrodes monitor the heartbeat and send the readings to the watch or smartphone. The connection is made via Bluetooth technology.

chest heart rate monitor

An important parameter for wearable devices is the method of data transfer. The analog version is subject to interference and may not give the most correct results, while it can be synchronized with the simulator. If someone nearby is engaged with a similar heart rate monitor, then they can influence each other’s work.

Advice! It is better to buy a heart rate monitor with a digital data encoding method. They are more expensive, but are not subject to interference, that is, they give the most accurate results. The downside is that they cannot be connected to the simulator.


Wrist-mounted monitors are considered more comfortable as they do not require a chest strap. They may look like a watch or a fitness bracelet that only collects data, but the result is displayed in a special smartphone application. Wrist heart rate monitors are divided into two types.

  1. Pulse is measured when your finger touches the touch panel on the display. This method is not convenient in that it monitors the pulse not constantly, but only during touching. It is not very suitable for training and is more suitable for those people who need periodic monitoring — for example, climbers, tourists and people with heart disease.
  2. The second type is essentially optical heart rate monitor. The principle of operation is described above — the control of passing blood. They are more comfortable, and if constant control is needed, then it is better to choose this type, however, it should be understood that the watch or bracelet must be tightly tightened on the arm to achieve maximum contact (this affects accuracy). This is not always convenient during training.

Important! If you compare the accuracy of the data between a wrist or chest monitor, then the latter give more correct results. It is better for professional athletes to choose a heart rate monitor on the chest, because its only drawback is the presence of additional accessories on the chest, which is not always convenient, but you can get used to it.

Wrist models are divided into several types — there are simple fitness bracelets, which have a minimum of functions and in fact represent a pedometer and a heart rate monitor in one device with a heart rate display on a small display (sometimes without it). More advanced models are watch with GPS, in which you can lay a route for running, set the nature and intensity of the workout. In addition, they are synchronized with the phone (sometimes they work independently) and send the data to a special application, which helps later to evaluate them more accurately and adjust the next classes.

Sync your heart rate monitor with your phone

Choosing a heart rate monitor

In order for the heart rate monitor to be of practical use, it is important to choose it correctly. Obviously, it depends on the capabilities of the model how complete the data will be.

It should be immediately understood that the simplest functionality of fitness bracelets. If the main task of the user is to count steps, periodically check the heart rate and be able to minimally interact with the smartphone, then in this case the choice is an inexpensive bracelet. It can be used as a children’s heart rate monitor or on hand for the elderly. The possibilities are minimal, it’s easy to manage, they don’t interfere during the day, as the owner just gets used to them, like a watch, and does not even notice that they are on the arm.

Fitness bracelet

If the heart rate monitor works for full control in training for athletes, then the requirements will be more stringent. In this case, you should stop at more expensive bracelets or consider buying watch with an external heart rate monitor.

What functions a good heart rate monitor should have was mentioned above, the types have also already been discussed — wrist and chest models with a built-in sensor (information is displayed directly on the device itself) or is it an external sensor that transmits information to a smartphone or sports watch (sensor while on the chest). In addition, there are external miniature sensors — on the earlobe, on the finger, on the forearms, headphones with a heart rate monitor. Which one to choose depends on the needs of the user. In some cases, a watch on the arm or on the chest will interfere, then it is worth considering the option of an earpiece or on the earlobe.

Primary requirements

It should be understood that training watches are tested no worse than an athlete, which means that they must also meet certain requirements.

  1. Material. When buying, you should take into account the nature of the training: the heart rate monitor should not interfere, be strong, have convenient attachments and the ability to adjust the straps, and the material should not cause allergies and deteriorate from moisture. Obviously, during the exercise, the athlete sweats, and if the device is of poor quality, then it may lose its properties. For example, metal models will oxidize, which, of course, is not a sign of quality. Do not forget that some sports involve extreme impact, for example, it is important for a hockey player that the monitor does not break during hard collisions with opponents on the field.
  2. Moisture protection. For swimming in the sea or for the pool, the device must be waterproof, otherwise it will simply fail. Do not forget that a reservoir can have water of different composition — it is salty in the sea, not in the pool, and the presence of salt can also affect the durability of the device. When buying, it is worth clarifying whether the device is designed to work in salty sea water or is suitable only for fresh water and purified pool water. In addition, good models have at least minimal resistance to moisture that is released by the body. This is true for CrossFit and other strength training.
  3. Many modern models are used throughout the day, and with them go on a hike for several days. Therefore, it is important that the watch has long charging time.
  4. For training at night, it will not be superfluous to have screen backlight.

Features of models for various types of activity

Depending on the type of sports activity, additional requirements may also apply to models.

  1. For cyclists, runners and skiers It is useful that the heart rate monitor can read the distance traveled and speed.
  2. Calorie counting is suitable for a sport that is aimed at weight loss, it can be simple fitness exercises or rockingwhere the mass is increased and general strengthening classes are performed.
  3. Calculating the time spent on a lap and calculating the average heart rate when passing a lap is relevant for runners.
  4. Models with fitness functions essentially become personal trainerhere you can enter information about the food eaten, on the basis of which the special software calculates the calories gained and spent and gives recommendations for further training.
    Fitness bracelet
  5. The option of tracking the speed of recovery of the pulse will help those athletes who are engaged in sprint and interval training.
  6. Models with built-in GPS are convenient for running and travelers. In them, you can not only lay a route, track the speed of movement, but also take into account elevation differences.
  7. Some watches can track the time your foot hits the ground, which is also a useful feature for running.

Helpful Hints

There are many options to choose from, but in order for the model to perform its functions qualitatively, all the nuances should be considered. To do this, proceed according to the following algorithm.

  1. We determine the type of tasks that are assigned to the heart rate monitor.
  2. We define how the device is positioned on the bodyand also where the data will go — directly displayed on the accessory, or they will be processed by an external device.
    Types of bracelets
  3. Finding out if we need additional functions (calls notification, etc.).
  4. We determine the budget and select the available models within it.

After that, we go to the store for a personal acquaintance with the selected devices, their build quality, and the level of protection from external influences. It will not be superfluous to read the reviews on the forums to find out more accurate values, because the manufacturer can declare the operating time for several days, but depending on the nature of use, it can be significantly less.

Advice! It is useful to check before buying whether the model sits comfortably on the arm (or other places depending on the type).

If the selected heart rate monitor meets all the needs of the user, then it makes sense to buy it. Otherwise, you should look for more options, and not compromise and take what you have, because the result of training depends on the correct calculation of indicators, and this is impossible if the device does not meet the requirements of a particular user.

The most reliable heart rate monitors

Heart rate monitor Beurer PM15 on Yandex Market

Heart rate monitor Polar H10 M-XXL on Yandex Market

Polar OH1 heart rate monitor on Yandex Market

Heart rate monitor SUUNTO Smart Sensor on Yandex Market

Heart rate monitor SIGMA PC 10.11 on Yandex Market


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