Best heart rate monitor

Fitness Gear

Heart rate monitors tend to have built-in, rechargeable batteries, but some contain watch batteries that will need to be replaced every so often.

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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 allows you to check your heart rate at any time, whether that’s during an exercise session or when you’re at rest.

In this guide, you’ll find all the information you need to select your ideal heart rate monitor. At the end, we’ve also included short reviews of a handful of favorites, such as the Garmin Vívofit 2, which is our overall top pick.

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.

Those interested in keeping track of their heart rate during exercise sessions 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 throughout the day. Chest straps don’t tend to offer other features themselves, but are usually paired with an app that can track your steps, activity types, and other fitness-related parameters.

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 EKG device that can monitor heart rate and heart rhythm to pick up any abnormalities.

App pairing

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

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A HEART RATE MONITOR

GPS

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, allowing you to see where you need to push harder and where you can dial it down a notch.

Target heart rate

Some heart rate monitors allow you to set a target heart rate and will 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 some basic heart rate monitors starting at 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 MONITORS FAQ

Q. Why should I use a heart rate monitor?

A. Different individuals have their own reasons for using a heart rate monitor, but 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. For the average person, a normal resting heart rate is somewhere between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm), depending on factors such as cardiovascular fitness, stress, hormones, and certain medications. People who are extremely physically fit, however, may have heart rates as low as 40 bpm without any ill effects. Your target heart rate during exercise will vary depending on your age and the rigorousness of the exercise you’re engaging in, so it’s best to do a little research.

WHAT HEART RATE MONITORS ARE BEST TO BUY?

Top heart rate monitor

Garmin Vívofit 2

Garmin Vívofit 2

Our take: The ultimate choice for those who want more than just a heart rate monitor.

What we like: Reminds you to move if you’ve been inactive for 15 minutes. Also records steps and distance traveled. Clear backlit display.

What to consider: Garmin Connect app could be improved.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Top heart rate monitor for the money

Fitbit Inspire HR

Fitbit Inspire HR

Our take: An excellent heart rate monitor with bonus fitness tracking and goal setting, all at a reasonable price.

What we like: Measures your heart rate all day, along with other data, such as steps and distance traveled. Allows you to set exercise goals and automatically recognizes a variety of exercises.

What to consider: No GPS.

Where to buy: Sold at Amazon

Worth checking out

Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit Charge 4

Our take: A comprehensive activity tracker that includes a heart rate monitor and GPS.

What we like: Thanks to the GPS, you can see how your heart rate changes along your exercise route. Water resistant, so it can be worn swimming. Syncs to devices wirelessly.

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

Where to buy: Sold at 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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