A heart rate monitor is an electronic device used to monitor heart rate during exercise. It consists of a chest strap that fits just below the breast and a wrist unit. The strap has a series of electrodes that detect ECG, the electric signal produced by the heart. This signal is sent to the wrist unit, where the wearer can see it.
A heart rate monitor can also be bought without a chest strap, but this makes it trickier to use. To get a reading, you need to place your fingers on a sensor. Factors such as cold hands or humidity can affect the reading, making strapless monitors less reliable.
Because cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important factors in achieving a healthy body, maintaining an optimal heart rate during your workout is vital. To determine your aerobic training pulse or ATP — the pace at which you should work out — start by establishing your maximum heart rate, which is basically the number 220 minus your age. Your ATP is 60 percent of that number. Using a heart rate monitor will help you stay within your cardio training zone and improve stamina and resistance.
A heart rate monitor can come with a number of features. The basic models display only heart rate and cost around 75 US Dollars (USD). More expensive models may come with an alarm to indicate if you go outside your heart rate zone, timers, clock, training calendars, and more. Some even come with pre-programmed workouts for weight loss or aerobic fitness. The most sophisticated type of heart rate monitor can store your workout information and transmit it to a computer to help you chart your progress. Polar, Reebok and Lifesource are the three top producers of heart rate monitors.
The best heart rate monitor is one that is user-friendly. If the monitor has so many buttons that you need to read the manual every time you use it, you will get tired of it pretty quickly. If you can't stand the idea of playing with microscopic buttons, get the HEARTalker, a heart rate monitor that comes with headphones instead of a wrist device. Instead of having to read the numbers on the screen, you can listen to them at set intervals.
Invented by Australian physicist Robert Treffene, the heart rate monitor was originally designed with swimmers in mind, but has become standard for runners and aerobic instructors. Even the occasional exerciser can benefit from owning one.