Which heart rate monitor is best?

Although it’s only one part of a bigger picture, your heart rate can give you an idea of your cardiovascular fitness and overall heart health. Owning a heart rate monitor lets you check your heart rate at any time, whether that’s during an exercise session or when you’re at rest. The best is the Garmin Vivofit 4, which not only monitors you but spurs you on to more activity.

What to know before you buy a heart rate monitor

Types of heart rate monitors

The best type of heart rate monitor for you will depend on whether you’re tracking your heart rate for fitness or for medical purposes.

  • Fitness: Those interested in keeping track of their heart rate during exercise should choose either a wrist heart rate monitor or a chest strap heart rate monitor. Wrist units usually incorporate other activity-tracking features, such as a step counter or a tally of your total distance traveled for the day. Chest straps are usually paired with an app that can track your steps, activity types, and other fitness-related parameters.
  • Medical: Those who need to monitor their heart health are more likely to want a pulse oximeter, which measures both heart rate and oxygen saturation in the blood, or a mini electrocardiogram device that can monitor heart rate and rhythm to pick up any abnormalities.

App pairing

You can pair the vast majority of heart rate monitors with an app  to better track and store your heart rate and other data. Some monitors have proprietary apps you can only use if you own a device of the relevant brand, while others can be paired with popular third-party fitness apps, such as Strava or MyFitnessPal.

What to look for in a heart rate monitor


Heart rate monitors with built-in GPS capabilities are great for runners and cyclists, as you can check how your heart rate changes at precise points on your route. This lets you see where you need to push harder and where you can dial it down a notch.

Target heart rate

Some heart rate monitors let you set a target heart rate and alert you when you reach it. This means that you’ll know when you’ve reached your optimum heart rate to improve your fitness but also when you’ve gone a little too far and need to slow down.

How much you can expect to spend on a heart rate monitor

You can find basic heart rate monitors starting around $20, but high-end models with the most advanced activity-tracking features and those of medical-grade quality can cost as much as $150-$200.

Heart rate monitor FAQ

Q. Why should I use a heart rate monitor?

A. The two main purposes are to make sure your heart rate is reaching optimum levels during cardiovascular exercise and to monitor your heart rate at home due to a medical condition. Your reason for monitoring your heart rate is likely to influence your choice of monitor, since some are geared toward exercise use and others are better suited for medical monitoring.

Q. What is a normal heart rate?

A. A normal resting heart rate is usually 60 to 100 beats per minute, depending on factors such as cardiovascular fitness, stress, hormones and medications. People who are extremely physically fit, however, may have heart rates as low as 40 bpm without ill effects. Your target heart rate during exercise varies with your age and the rigorousness of the exercise, so it’s best to do a little research.

What heart rate monitor is best to buy?

Top heart rate monitor

Best Garmin Vivofit 4

Garmin Vivofit 4

What you need to know: The ultimate choice for those who want more than just a heart rate monitor.

What you’ll love: Safe for swimming and showering, it reminds you to move if you’ve been inactive for 15 minutes. Also, it records steps and distance traveled. It has a clear backlit display, too.

What to consider: The Garmin Connect app could be improved.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top heart rate monitor for the money

Fitbit Inspire HR

Fitbit Inspire HR

What you need to know: This is an excellent heart rate monitor with bonus fitness tracking and goal setting, all at a reasonable price.

What you’ll love: It measures your heart rate all day, along with other data, such as steps and distance traveled. It lets you set exercise goals and automatically recognizes a variety of exercises.

What to consider: It doesn’t include GPS.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Best Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5

What you need to know: This is a comprehensive activity tracker that includes a heart rate monitor and GPS.

What you’ll love: Thanks to the GPS, you can see how your heart rate changes along your exercise route. It’s water-resistant, so it can be worn swimming, and it syncs to devices wirelessly.

What to consider: Some users find the display screen too small and hard to read.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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