How to Choose a Heart Rate Monitor

Heart Rate Monitor Features to Help You Choose

As Simple as Possible

The biggest mistake is to choose a heart rate monitor which is more complicated than you need - you will only get frustrated as you try to get your head around all the features you don't need and won't use.

If all you want to do is check your heart rate as you exercise, something very simple like the Omron HR100C will be just right for you. Simple also means inexpensive which is a bonus. If you use your heart rate monitor for a while and like using it, you can then trade up to a more complicated (and expensive) model but then you know you will make use of it.

Size of Monitor

Some monitors are just not meant for a dainty female or narrow wrist so look out for a smaller monitor and strap if this is likely to apply to you. My Polar F6 heart rate monitor came in a female version so I decided to get that - not for the attractive pattern on the dial but to prevent it moving around my wrist when I was running.

Be especially careful if you go for a GPS heart rate monitor - these can be particularly bulky on a small wrist.

With Chest Strap or Strapless

If you want to measure your heart rate continuously you will need to wear a chest strap. Although you may not like the idea of this, modern chest straps are really very comfortable in use.

Many people buy a strapless monitor because it sounds like a good idea and then they are disappointed when they have to stop to measure their heart rate (This is only one step up from feeling your pulse).

Strapless monitors (especially those like the Mio Shape models) ARE good if you only want to get a view now and again of your heart rate. Strapless watches are also better for swimmers - the water would interfere with transmission and so they tend to measure their heart rate at the end of each lap.

With Calorie Calculation

Although the calorie calculations on heart rate monitors are not 100% accurate, it really doesn't matter too much. These heart rate monitors are excellent for motivation when you are trying to lose weight.

I know from experience just how much my Polar F6 encourages me to do a little bit more to hit a calorie milestone or to work just a bit harder to burn more calories in my 20 minutes of exercise, or whatever.

Just don't eat an extra 200 calories because you think you've earned them from the calories you are burning and then the exercise will help your weight loss efforts!

With GPS or Footpod technology

Newer technologies allow you not only to measure your heart rate but also the speed and distance you are travelling.

While GPS monitors like the Garmin Forerunner 305 heart rate monitor are useful outdoors where there is a clear view of the sky, they may be affected by running between very tall buildings or under a canopy of trees and can't be used to measure distance indoors.

Footpod technology such as you'll find on the Polar S625X, on the other hand, can be used anywhere indoor or out.

But you also need to consider the sports you want to use your monitor for. While GPS monitors can be used to calculate distance traveled in any sport, footpod technology is only useful for running.

There is an equivalent to footpod technology available for cyclists but that means buying an additional bikepod element or a heart rate monitor aimed at cyclists such as the Polar CS200CAD

If you want both footpod and bikepod technology - you can buy optional extras but it can end up being quite expensive.

Comments 2 comments

Jim and Laura profile image

Jim and Laura 6 years ago from Chicago area

Janice, I agree that Polar heart rate monitors are excellent. As you stated, a person can spend hundreds of dollars for a heart rate monitor, which simply isn't necessary.

The simpler the better. The last thing a person wants is a bulky piece of equipment strapped to their wrist.

Good heart rate monitors are readily available for less than $100 and as you suggest, people should only buy features they will actually use.


gulam safdar355 5 years ago

The simpler the better. The last thing a person wants is a bulky piece of equipment strapped to their wrist.

Good heart rate monitors are readily available for less than $100 and as you suggest, people should only buy features they will actually use.

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