- 1 What is a Heart Rate Monitor?
- 2 What is a Normal Resting Heart Rate?
- 3 Types of Heart Rate Monitors
- 4 Top 10 Heart Rate Monitors
- 5 Best Heart Rate Monitor for Your Budget
- 6 Who Should Use a Heart Rate Monitor?
- 7 How Does a Heart Rate Monitor Work?
- 8 Top 10 Best HRM Features
- 9 Pre-Purchase Considerations
- 10 Warranty & Product Support
- 11 Will a Foot Pod Work With My Heart Rate Monitor?
- 12 What is Heart Rate Monitor Training?
- 13 Best Heart Rate Monitor Brands
There are many different types of heart rate monitors (HRMs). From standalone sports watches to high-tech fitness trackers, they all collect heart rate data for intelligent workout tracking.
But which is the best heart rate monitor on the market?
In this guide, we’ll focus on standalone HRMs, which can be used to accurately record your heart rate during exercise. They can also be a great way to track your resting heart rate for health reasons.
You’ll find expert reviews for some of the best strapless heart rate monitors, heart rate watches and chest straps. We’ll also walk you through the best heart rate zones for weight loss, calorie burn, and overall cardiovascular fitness.
What is a Heart Rate Monitor?
A heart rate monitor is an electronic device that detects and transmits a user’s heart rate. Some of the best heart rate monitors can produce audible alerts when your heart rate is too high or too low.
Many personal fitness trackers combine a HRM with a pedometer (step count) and sleep monitor, for a holistic view of your personal health.
Manual tracking of a heart rate can be time-consuming and inaccurate. This is why athletes, people trying to lose weight, heart patients, and people tracking their daily health turn to heart rate monitors.
What is a Normal Resting Heart Rate?
A normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM).
Lower resting heart rates (around 40 BPM) are usually a reflection of better cardiovascular fitness. However, they can indicate heart conditions such as bradycardia, which is when your heart rate is less than 60 BPM.
Resting heart rates over 100 BPM may indicate underlying health issues, such as Tachycardia or Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate rhythm).
Whether your resting heart rate is considered high or low depends on several factors, including your age and personal fitness level.
Types of Heart Rate Monitors
There are two main types of HRMs: chest-strap, and wrist-based.
But you can also buy finger heart rate monitors – known as pulse oximeters, and even wireless in-ear pulse monitors combined with headphones.
So, which is the best type of heart rate monitor for you?
Chest Strap Monitors
Chest strap heart rate monitors measure electrical signals generated by your heart when it contracts. The strap around the chest (transmitter) can often be purchased separately to the wireless wristwatch (receiver).
Many of the best chest strap HRMs also use Bluetooth technology or ANT+ transmission, to sync your pulse rate to other devices and fitness apps.
Polar have their own advanced technology, called GymLink, which pairs devices like the Polar H7 to compatible gym equipment. GymLink connectivity also supports heart rate data collection underwater while swimming.
In terms of comfort, chest straps aren’t top of our list. If they’re not wrapped around the chest tightly enough they can quickly slip out of place, and it’s not easy to reposition them while you’re in motion.
Heart rate straps are most popular with cyclists and runners, but aren’t practical for long-term monitoring of resting heart rate.
If you need to track your heart rate throughout the day, and don’t want to pay for two devices, a wrist-based heart rate monitor would be best.
Top 5 Best Heart Rate Chest Straps
- 1. Polar H10
An upgrade of Polar’s most accurate chest strap HRM – the Polar H7. Enhanced battery life of 400 hours. GoPro Hero 5 compatibility to overlay your heart rate data with recorded video. Improved strap design prevents slipping and improves comfort while running. 5 kHz transmission for underwater heart rate monitoring. Transfer heart rate data to Polar Beat after your workout, to track your fitness.
- 2. Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor
Soft elastic strap with adjustable sizing for a secure, comfortable fit. Wireless transmission of heart rate data to ANT+ devices, including the Garmin Fenix 3 HR (Click here for a full list of compatible devices). Adjustable strap length from 21″ to 29.5″, with water resistance to 30m. Approximately 4.5 year battery life, based on 1 hour of use per day.
- 3. Wahoo TICKR
Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ compatible heart rate monitor. Can connect to Polar and Garmin GPS watches, in addition to smartphones and tablets. View real-time heart rate feedback with a range of fitness apps, including Nike+ Running, MapMyFitness, and Strava. Waterproof and sweat proof up to 5 feet, with a 12-month battery life. Choose the TICKR X version if you need to track running analytics, and for personalized heart rate training.
- 4. Garmin HRM-Tri / HRM-Swim
Specifically designed for triathletes, this is Garmin’s smallest and lightest HRM. The ANT+ compatible HRM-Tri stores heart rate data, then forwards it to the Forerunner 920XT watch. Built-in accelerometer uses torso movement to calculate cadence, vertical oscillation, and ground contact time. 5 ATM water rating means the HRM-Tri is suitable for swimming and protected from the rain. 10-month battery life, based on 1 hour of training per day.
- 5. Polar T31
Uses 5kHz transmission to transmit heart rate data to Polar monitors and compatible gym equipment. Compatible devices include the FT1, FT4, and FT7. Lightweight and waterproof design. Fits 25″ to 54″ chest size, with an average battery life of 2500 hours (non-replaceable battery). As a coded transmitter, the Polar T31 readings aren’t interrupted by other electronic devices.
Fingertip Pulse Oximeters
Pulse Oximeters are mainly used for pulse oximetry, which is a non-invasive method of measuring blood oxygen saturation. But they can also be used to measure pulse rate, usually for a short period, and not while exercising.
Oximeters have proven incredibly popular in recent years, as they’re easier to use than chest strap monitors. The only downside is that you should stop mid-workout to get a reading.
Some of the best oximeters on the market are made by Acc U Rate, Santamedical, Facelake and Innovo.
Top 5 Best Oximeters
- 1. Santamedical Deluxe SM-110
Accurately determine your SpO2 (blood oxygen and saturation levels) and pulse measurements. Large LED display with bi-directional feedback. Self-adjusting finger clamp with hypoallergenic silicone chamber, for fast reading with high accuracy. Requires 2 x AAA batteries. Carrying case and lanyard included. Supplied with a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- 2. Facelake FL400 Pulse Oximeter
Quickly measures your blood’s SpO2 oxygen saturation levels, pulse rate, and pulse strength in under 10 seconds. Large LED display for clear, easy-to-read feedback. Single button operation with prolonged battery life, thanks to its automatic shut-off feature. Requires 2 x AAA batteries. Nylon carrying case and neck lanyard included. Supplied with a 1-year warranty.
- 3. Zacurate 400B Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
Accurate display of your SpO2 blood oxygen saturation, pulse rate, and pulse strength in under 10 seconds. Clear feedback via the large LED digital display. Medical-grade pulse oximeter with one-button operation. Requires 2 x AAA batteries. Supplied with a 1-year warranty.
- 4. Vive Precision Finger Pulse Oximeter
Instant display of pulse rate and SpO2 oxygen saturation level. One-touch operation, with pulse wave graph and built-in alarm to detect irregular heartbeats. Each device rigorously tested to ensure accuracy. Carry case and neck lanyard included. Requires 2 x AAA batteries. Supplied with a 2-year warranty.
- 5. Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
Clinically tested for accuracy and reliability. Includes plethymosgraph and perfusion index, to indicate whether you’re taking your SpO2 and pulse rate correctly. Audible alarm when SpO2 and pulse rate go beyond limits. Audible beep that tracks your pulse (can be disabled). Adjustable OLED screen brightness, with pulse rate bar graph and one-button operation. Requires 2 x AAA batteries.
Wireless In-ear Heart Rate Monitors
Earbud heart rate monitors track your pulse rate using photoplethysmography. A small light is shone against your skin to measure blood flow based on how light reflects off blood vessels. This is known as a photoplethysmogram (PPG).
It’s a similar process to the green LEDs used by wrist-based HRMs.
Sweat-proof headphones, like the Jabra Sport Pulse or Under Armour Sport Wireless, deliver your favorite workout music while tracking your heart rate.
Many of the best earbud HRMs feature a secure, over-ear design, which remains comfortable throughout your workout.
In-ear HRMs are primarily designed for runners, but still haven’t proven as popular as traditional wrist-based heart rate monitors.
Battery life tends to be relatively short, with a full charge lasting 3 to 5 hours on average, for the best devices. Most sport earbuds are also sweat and water-resistant, with Android and iOS compatibility.
Top 5 Best Pulse-Sensing Earbuds
- 1. Bose SoundSport Pulse
An upgrade to the standard ‘Bose SoundSport’ headphones, with a built-in heart rate sensor and wireless connectivity. StayHear+ Pulse tips provide a secure and comfortable in-ear fit during high-intensity workouts. Compatible with a range of fitness apps, including MapMyRun and RunKeeper, in addition to Bose Connect. Bluetooth and NFC wireless device pairing. Inline mic and remote for volume, music, and call control. Charging case also available.
- 2. Bragi Dash
Features Knowles® Balanced Armature Speakers, for high-quality stereo sound. Control music tracks, phone calls, and deliver voice commands. Multiple FitTip sizes for a comfortable, secure fit. Up to 5 hours battery life. The Dash Pro is Bluetooth LE 4.0 compatible, waterproof to 1m, and uses adaptive Versant 2.0 technology for clear voice calls. Recharge up to 5 times using the portable charging case. 4GB internal storage for up to 1000 songs. Automatic activity and heart rate monitoring.
- 3. Jabra Elite Sport
Upgraded version of the Sport Pulse SE, allows you to listen to music or take calls while you workout. Wireless precision heart rate monitor earbuds, with up to 4.5 hours of battery life per charge (3-times longer than the Samsung Icon X). Charging case provides 6 additional hours. Comfortable and secure fit, with a waterproof design that’s IP67 rated. Compatible with the SportLife App, to track and analyze your fitness activity. Supplied with a 1-year warranty.
- 4. Samsung Gear IconX
Track speed, distance, calorie burn, and heart rate. Multiple sizes of ear-tips and wing-tips ensure you find the perfect fit. Samsung S-Health app functions only available with Android devices. Stream music and take calls with both iOS and Android. 5 hours of Bluetooth streaming, 7 hours of MP3 music, or 4 hours of talk time per charge. Wireless earbuds can be used independently. Reacts to voice and touch commands, with no need for an inline control.
- 5. JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless
Ergonomic design specifically for athletes ensures a comfortable and secure fit. Ipx5 sweat proof construction. Bluetooth connectivity to iOS and Android devices. Headphones connected by a single wire, to hold the 3-button mic for adjusting volume, controlling music tracks, and answering calls. 8 hours of battery life per charge. Amazon has mixed reviews about the sound quality.
Strapless Heart Rate Monitors
Heart rate monitor watches are also known as strapless heart rate monitors. You don’t have to wear a chest strap, as the sensors are embedded under the watch face.
This is often the most practical way to measure your heart rate while swimming, and several waterproof designs are available.
The Bowflex EZ Pro heart rate monitor watch is water-resistant to 30 meters, with a backlit LCD screen. It accurately reports your ECG heart rate, and is powered using a single CR2032 coin cell battery.
Some heart rate monitor watches also use BLE (Bluetooth 4.0) technology to sync your pulse feedback to your iPhone. It’s a feature that’s available on the Mio ALPHA sports watch, which can also connect to fitness apps like Map My Run.
Top 5 Best Strapless Heart Rate Monitors
- 1. Fitbit Charge 2
All-day activity and sleep tracking. PurePulse continuous wrist-based heart rate monitoring. Connects to your phone’s GPS for real-time running stats, such as pace, distance, a map of your route, and number of calories burned. Guided breathing sessions, customizable clock faces, and notifications for calls, texts, and calendar alerts. Syncs wirelessly to the Fitbit app on over 200 compatible devices.
- 2. Garmin Fenix 3 HR
Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology to measure your heart rate at the wrist. Track heart rate data without a chest strap. Soft, comfortable silicone band. Suitable for swimming, with waterproofing to 100 meters. 1.2″ high-resolution color Chroma display. Wireless connectivity to sync workout data to Garmin Connect. Features built-in step counter and records calories burned. Customize watch faces with the Connect IQTM platform.
- 3. Fitbit Alta HR
PurePulse® heart rate monitoring, with interchangeable bands for style and comfort. Also features SmartTrack™ exercise recognition, tracking for step count, calories burned, and distance. Automatically tracks sleep stages, time spent in heart rate zones during a workout, and average bpm. Up to 7-days battery life, with customizable clock faces and alerts for calls, texts, and calendar appointments.
- 4. Garmin vívosmart HR
Displays step count, distance, calories burned, heart rate, floors climbed, and activity intensity. Receive smart notifications from email, calendar entries, social media, calls, emails, and texts. Wrist-based heart rate monitoring uses Garmin Elevate technology. Features an integrated barometric altimeter and is compatible with Garmin Connect Mobile, to sync important fitness and workout data. Up to 5 days battery life. vívosmart HR+ is also GPS enabled.
- 5. Garmin Forerunner 35
Lightweight design with a large screen for clear workout feedback while running. Activity tracking counts steps, calories burned, and workout intensity. Built-in GPS measures distance, pace, and route taken, while Elevate wrist-based heart rate monitoring tracks your pulse. Can receive smart phone notifications for text and social media. More dedicated runners with a larger budget may prefer the Garmin Forerunner 235.
Arm Band Heart Rate Monitors
Very few fitness equipment companies produce armband HRMs. This could be due to the assumption that increased movement in the sensors from arm swinging produces too much ‘noise’ to give an accurate heart rate reading.
One study compared the accuracy of the BodyMedia SenseWear HR Armband to an electrocardiogram (ECG). This involved 30 healthy adults (18-59 years old) walking for seven 5-minute stages, including walking and sitting.
The SenseWear HR Armband was found to record a higher heart rate by 2-8 bpm, compared to the ECG. However, there was no similar test performed for heart rate chest straps and wrist monitors.
BodyMedia was one of the companies acquired by Jawbone, but shut down on January 31st, 2016. This meant that Scosche became the market leader for armband-based sensing technology for heart rate assessment.
Best Arm Band Heart Rate Monitors
- 1. Scosche Rhythm+
Tracks your heart rate, distance, pace, and number of calories burned. Ip67 waterproof covers submersion up to 1 meter. Compatible with all Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ enabled devices. Works with a range of top fitness apps, including Strava, MapMyFitness, and Runkeeper. Powered by Valencell’s PerformTek biometric sensor technology for improved accuracy. No built-in memory. 8 hour battery life.
- 2. Polar OH1
Optical heart rate tracking via 6 LEDs.Works with all Polar BLE devices and a range of fitness apps. Waterproof to 30m. Machine-washable textile band is comfortable and easy to use. Compatible with Polar’s own Polar Beat fitness training app, and Polar Flow to analyze your performance. Built-in memory for up to 200 hours of training data. Rechargeable battery, with up to 12 hours of life per charge.
Top 10 Heart Rate Monitors
Listed below, you’ll find the 10 best heart rate monitor chest straps, heart rate monitor running watches, and heart rate monitor fitness trackers on the market.
These have been chosen based on accuracy, price, design, warranty, and the quality of customer service provided by the brand. Data transmission security and integration with fitness apps also factored into our decision.
1. Garmin Fenix 3 HR
2. Fitbit Charge 2
3. Fitbit Alta HR
4. Garmin vívosmart HR
5. Scosche Rhythm+
6. Wahoo Fitness TICKR X
7. Bose SoundSport Pulse
8. Bragi Dash Pro
9. Polar H10
10. Santamedical Deluxe SM-110
Best Heart Rate Monitor for Your Budget
There are hundreds of HRMs available, many from big brands like Fitbit, Zacurate, Wahoo Fitness, and Garmin.
Some of the most affordable fingertip heart rate monitors cost just $13, while high-end GPS watches can cost over $500.
So how do you find the best HRM for your budget? What if all you need is accurate heart rate tracking, without any activity tracking, sleep monitoring, or temperature sensor.
The following devices have been chosen based on in-depth reviews of the pulse rate accuracy, comfort, and technology.
Due to the difficulty of measuring your heart rate while active, pulse oximeters have been excluded from our selection. Each of the top 5 pulse oximeters listed earlier in our guide is available for less than $30.
Best HRM Under $50 – Wahoo Fitness TICKR X
The TICKR X is a chest-strap heart rate monitor packed with useful features, such as an accelerometer. This is used to measure your running across three dimensions, and enables the collection of stride rate and vertical oscillation data.
- Built-in accelerometer
- Captures running and cycling cadence data
- Works with a range of third-party fitness apps
- Can connect directly to the Apple Watch
- Tracks heart rate and calories burned
- Uses replaceable CR2032 batteries (12-month life)
- ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart enabled
- Adjustable strap length from 23″ to 48″
The TICKR X also tracks your cadence and running smoothness, making it one of the best heart rate monitors for runners.
On-board memory can hold data for up to 16 hours of workouts, with up to 12 months of charge in a single battery. Fortunately, the CR2032 button cell lithium batteries are cheap and easily replaceable.
Support for ANT+ and Bluetooth LE means real time heart rate tracking can be synced to your smartphone. This can be via the Wahoo Fitness app (iOS and Android), or one of 50+ others, including Strava, MapMyFitness, and Runkeeper.
Rep counting is also supported for resistance training. This can be combined with the popular Wahoo Fitness 7-Minute Workout app, for bodyweight circuit-training.
We probably wouldn’t recommend the Wahoo Fitness TICKR X for swimming, as it’s only IPX7 rated. This means it’s waterproof to 5ft.
If you need a heart rate monitor for swimming, we recommend the Garmin HRM-Swim, which is available for a similar price.
Best HRM Under $100 – Polar H10
As an upgrade to the now discontinued Polar H7, the H10 chest strap is one of the best on the market for accurate heart rate readings.
Compared to the Polar H7, you can enjoy more than twice the battery life (400 hrs. vs. 150 hrs.), built-in training session memory, and software that’s easily updateable over the air.
- Polar Pro strap with improved electrodes
- Silicone dots to reduce unwanted movement
- Connectivity to the Polar Beat fitness app
- 5 kHz transmission via GymLink
- Soft textile material for non-slip comfort
- 400 hours battery life (BLE and 5kHz transmission)
- Compatible with a range of 3rd part fitness apps
- Operates in temperatures from 14 °F to 122 °F
- Waterproof to 30m
The lightweight clip-on transmitter for the Polar H10 also weighs less than the H7 (21 g vs. 25.3 g). This is powered by a CR2025 coin battery, which is easily replaceable. You can even receive heart rate data underwater when paired with one of Polar’s heart rate monitor watches, via GymLink.
Polar also reports the ECG (electrocardiogram) heart rate sensors are their most accurate yet. This means the readings are also more accurate than light-based optical sensors, such as those used by the Jabra Pulse earphones.
If you’re looking for a reliable heart rate monitor for under $100, the Polar H10 is an excellent choice. The extended battery life and Polar Pro strap with anti-slip silicone dots boosts the accuracy of what was already one of the best heart rate monitors on the market.
Best HRM Under $150 – Fitbit Charge 2
With lower priced HRMs, the focus was purely on monitoring your pulse rate. But once you move above $100, you have a much wider choice of premium fitness trackers, from brands such as Fitbit, Garmin, and TomTom.
As an upgraded version of the Charge HR, Fitbit Charge 2 uses PurePulse technology for continuous heart rate tracking.
- PurePulse Optical Heart Rate Monitoring
- Call, Text and Calendar Alerts
- Interchangeable accessory bands
- SmartTrack exercise recognition
- Up to 5 days battery life
- Connected GPS for real-time run stats
- Auto sleep tracking and sleep stages
- Available in a variety of colors
We found the Fitbit Charge 2 was excellent for accurately measuring heart rate during steady-state cardio. However, due to the narrowness of the band and flexing in the wrist, contact was lost with the sensors during weightlifting. This caused interference with the heart rate signal.
Because the Charge 2 has such a sleek design, it’s convenient to wear the band all day. This enables you to keep track of your resting heart rate, which is a useful measure for general heart health.
Tracking sleep patterns and calories burned
The Cardio Fitness Score is also incredibly useful, as it uses your heart rate to estimate VO2 Max. When combined with data about your age, gender, weight, and height, this enables the Charge 2 to produce a much more accurate estimate for the number of calories burned.
In addition to the heart rate monitoring, you can also track everyday activities, as well as your sleep.
The Fitbit Charge 2 automatically tracks sleep and wake times, with the option to add a silent alarm. One of the newest features is Sleep Stages, where you can see the time spent in light, deep, and REM sleep.
Aside from health monitoring, Fitbit are also excellent with customization.
You can choose from a range of strap colors, change the material to luxe leather, or even select one of two special edition designs.
Best HRM Under $200 – Garmin Forerunner 35
The TomTom Spark 3 is a popular choice of heart rate monitor for under $200. But after TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn announced “We are not satisfied with the progress we are making (in sports),” it came as no surprise that the company has now stepped away from the fitness wearables market.
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring via Garmin Elevate™
- New high resolution display
- Vibration alerts for activity tracking milestones
- Automatically uploads fitness data to Garmin Connect
- Tracks step count, calories burned, and intensity minutes
- Up to 9 days battery life (13 hours in training mode)
- Broadcast heart rate data over ANT+ to paired devices
- 5 ATM water rating
- Built-in GPS and accelerometer
The Garmin Forerunner 35 was already a strong contender in this price range, but for us, it’s important to buy from a company that continues to improve and support its heart rate monitors. Garmin currently generate the majority of revenue from their sports and fitness business.
In addition to the wrist-based heart rate monitor, you can also use Garmin’s Virtual Pacer™ feature to help you maintain a specific running pace. The LiveTrack feature allows friends and family to follow your races and training activities in real time, and you can even track sleep statistics, including total hours of sleep, sleep levels, and sleep movement.
The Forerunner 35 is also compatible with the Garmin Foot Pod, to record pace and distance indoors, or when you have a weak GPS signal.
Best HRM Over $200 – Garmin Fenix 3 HR
Garmin are a leading manufacturer of premium GPS-enabled heart rate monitors. This includes the Vivoactive, Vivosport, Forerunner series, and top-of-the-line Fenix collection.
The Fenix Chronos usually retails for around $1100, but the Garmin Fenix 3 is usually priced closer to $350 for the base model. This features much of the same technology, including wrist-based heart rate tracking via Garmin Elevate.
- 1.2″ Chroma™ display
- Wireless connectivity with Garmin Connect
- Soft, flexible silicone band as standard
- Garmin Elevate heart rate technology
- ABC sensors (Altimeter, Barometer and Compass)
- Customizable watch faces via Connect IQTM platform
- Activity and sleep tracking
- 2-week battery life (24/7 heart rate monitoring)
It’s important to mention there’s a range of different models to choose from, with a significant difference in price. For the most affordable, you’ll want the Garmin Fenix 3 GPS Watch. More expensive variations include the Fenix 3 Silver HR and Fenix 3 Sapphire HR.
The very top-end models will even switch out the silicone strap for a titanium wristband. Expect to pay closer to $800 for a Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire HR with this feature.
The Fenix 3 HR has a wrist-based heart rate receiver that pairs with the Garmin chest belt (supplied). It’s also compatible with other ANT+ HRMs.
Advanced Fitness Tracking
To gain insight into your running form, Garmin’s HRM-Run accessory can pair with the Fenix 3 HR. The accelerometer that’s built into HRM-Run provides information about your cadence, ground contact time, balance, and vertical oscillation.
This information is displayed in color gauges, to help improve your running balance and performance.
Who Should Use a Heart Rate Monitor?
There are two main reasons to use an HRM: to track changes in heart rate during exercise, and to track your resting heart rate.
Lower resting heart rates have been associated with numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and living a longer life.
Relaxation, meditation, and regular exercise can all help lower resting heart rates. But it’s important to measure this change over time, to determine which technique works best for you.
At-Risk Heart Patients
Accurate heart rate monitoring can save the lives of cardiac patients. The pairing of real-time HRM systems with patient’s doctors enables remote alerts to be sent and acted upon in the event of cardiac arrest.
One study evaluated the use of an online telemedicine system, specifically one that used a real-time heart monitoring system.
40 individuals, aged between 18 and 66 years, were given wearable sensors to transmit their heart rate, and an Android device as the receiver.
Patient data, including information relating to their pulse rate, was loaded into a database. This was used by an adaptive alarming system to create upper and lower thresholds for the safe heart rate zone of a patient.
As the sensors collected heart rate data, it was compared to the medical information and heart rate thresholds of the patient. If the reading crossed one of these limits, an alarm message was sent to the patient’s doctor.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 90% of patients can’t recognize themselves as being at high risk before cardiac attack. That’s why remote HRM systems like these are so valuable for heart patients, and those at high-risk of developing heart problems.
It’s important to monitor heart rate following an injury, especially one that requires extensive rest with limited opportunity for exercise.
This makes it easier to monitor the effects of any medication on your resting heart rate, and allows you to workout without breaching unhealthy heart rate thresholds.
It’s also useful for outpatient cardiac rehabilitation.
Research published in the Methods of Information in Medicine journal found that such programs had excellent clinical benefits, but were severely under-utilized.
This could be because they’re generally resource-intensive, which could change with the introduction of online telemedicine systems, like the one mentioned above.
Walkers, Joggers, and Runners
When you’re jogging or running, it’s useful to know your current heart rate zone. These zones are usually measured as a percentage of your maximum heart rate.
Sample heart rate zones:
- Zone 1: 50-60% – Low intensity zone. Useful for boosting recovery, and easily achievable with walking.
- Zone 2: 60-70% – Steady-state cardio, warm-up runs, and longer running sessions. Improves general endurance.
- Zone 3: 70-80% – Widely regarded as being the most effective HR zone for cardiovascular fitness. Improves efficiency of blood circulation.
- Zone 4: 80-90% – Training in the anaerobic zone helps to increase the lactate threshold
- Zone 5: 90-100% – Short, high-intensity sprinting, also known as VO2 max.
But before you decide on a target zone, you need to find out what your maximum heart rate (HRmax).
How to Accurately Calculate Your HRmax
There are many different formulas for finding your HRmax, the most popular of which is 220 – age. However, experts believe this is inaccurate, as it doesn’t factor in current fitness level or gender.
A study by Tanaka et al. tested this formula to determine its accuracy.
After analyzing HRmax values from 351 studies, involving 18,712 subjects, a new lab-based study was conducted. In the new study, HRmax was measured in 514 healthy subjects.
Results showed that HRmax had a strong correlation with age, and that there was no significant difference between men and women.
A new, more accurate formula to predict HRmax in healthy adults was determined to be (208 – 0.7 x age). This was also the finding of a similar research paper, which determined the Tanaka formula to under-estimate by 1.1 BPM on average, compared to an over-estimation of 4.6 BPM for the 220 – age formula.
So, if you’re walking, jogging, or running, an HRM can help you stay within your target heart rate zone. It can also prevent you exceeding your target zone on a regular basis, which could potentially lead to injury or CNS fatigue.
Tracking heart rate variability (HRV) is often associated with medical applications, but new research suggests it could also help optimize physical exercise training.
Monitoring HRV can be useful for tracking training adaptation, which enables you to accurately update your training loads.
It’s similar to what happens with strength training and bodybuilding. In those cases, strength and muscle endurance are used as indicators, instead of heart rate.
As power meters are often too expensive for recreational cycling, heart rate monitors are often considered essential.
Many of the best HRM watches incorporate GPS tracking. This helps you link your heart rate zone to specific locations.
But even the most affordable heart rate monitors can have excellent accuracy, such as the Polar H10 chest strap.
With cycling, recommended heart rate zones follow slightly different guidelines. Rather than the 5 zones listed above, the Association of British Cycling Coaches recommends a six-zone system:
- 1 (60-65% MHR): Suitable for longer periods of low-intensity cycling.
- 2 (65-75% MHR): Recommended training zone for longer rides.
- 3 (75-82% MHR): Improve aerobic capacity and endurance.
- 4 (82-89% MHR): Simulation of tapering race pace.
- 5 (89-94% MHR): Improving anaerobic capacity over longer distances.
- 6 (94-100% MHR): Short bursts, usually during high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
As with any type of cardiovascular exercise, regular heart rate monitoring can help identify underlying health issues. It can also identify some of the early-indicators of overtraining.
Garmin Edge HRMs can also be mounted directly onto the handlebars, with a large LCD screen to monitor heart rate readings while cycling. This is also available with the Magellan Cyclo devices.
A popular measurement of aerobic improvement is the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) test, developed by Dr Phil Maffetone.
How Does a Heart Rate Monitor Work?
Heart rate monitors detect electrical signals transmitted through the skin, which the body generates to contract the heart muscle. To do this, heart rate monitors use a transmitter and a receiver.
With heart rate monitor watches, both components are in the same device. But with heart rate chest straps, the belt is fitted with contact pads to act as the transmitter. The watch is then used as a receiver.
How do Optical Heart Rate Sensors Work?
In addition to the electrical signal, each heartbeat causes a spike in oxygenated (arterial) blood.
Green light emitted from the underside of a watch or fitness tracker detects changes in the absorbance of light by the blood.
Therefore, most heart rate devices, such as the Fitbit Charge HR, use green LED’s. When your heart beats, there’s increased blood flow in your wrist, and green light absorption is increased.
It’s the same process used by with their Apple Watch heart rate sensor, which also uses light-sensitive photodiodes. The green LED light is used to measure your heart rate during workouts and track Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
How Does a Heart Rate Monitor Track Calories Burned?
The health and fitness media often equate calorie burning to weight loss. This could be one reason why it’s become such popular feature of HRMs.
They’re also a more accurate way of tracking caloric expenditure compared to fitness equipment, such as treadmills or ellipticals. That’s because the sensor is in constant contact with your skin, and there’s no need to maintain a certain grip strength/position.
However, it’s still only an estimation of calories burned.
The HRM calculation is based on the association between heart rate and oxygen uptake. But to improve the accuracy, it’s still important to know your age (to calculate your maximum heart rate), weight, resting heart rate, gender, and VO2 max.
This can all be programmed into most fitness trackers and HRMs, but should be updated on a regular basis.
Brands such as Polar and Suunto use sophisticated algorithms to analyze intervals of heart beat signals based on the link between heart rate and oxygen uptake.
Some of the most accurate heart rate monitors include the Polar RS800, Suunto T6c, and Garmin Forerunner 405. The Polar FT40 and FT60 also allow you to manually enter your VO2max, which is a feature that’s missing from the Polar FT4 and FT7.
How Does a Heart Rate Monitor Help You Lose Weight?
Using a heart rate monitor can ensure your pulse rate is within your target heart rate zone. But to lose weight, your caloric expenditure must be greater than your caloric intake.
Not all HRMs monitor the number of calories burned, and as we mentioned above, this is more of an estimation.
If you buy a HRM that uses a solid scientific basis to calculate calories burned, then this can help with weight loss. A food diary can be used to track your calorie intake, which can be combined with your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) to calculate your net calorie intake (NCI).
Lowering your NCI to a level where you’re losing 1-2 lbs of weight per week is generally recommended as a safe maximum rate of weight loss.
Top 10 Best HRM Features
Before buying a new heart rate monitor, it’s worth knowing the best features worth paying for.
Basic monitors only provide real-time pulse tracking, whereas advanced heart rate watches include accelerometers, Bluetooth data sync, and calorie burning.
We’ll also provide our top recommendations for HRMs that have these features, and represent the best value for money.
Heart Rate Zone Alarm
Many HRM watches are fitted with two types of alarm: one for the time of day, and one for your heart rate.
Some devices, like the Polar FT4, use a visual notification rather than an audible alert to tell you if you’re within your target heart rate zone. The upper and lower limits for this zone can be configured before starting your workout.
More advanced HRM watches, such as the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, allow you to set 3 types of alerts.
- Event alerts: Activate when a single event is achieved, such as reaching a specific elevation.
- Range alerts: Used for target heart rate zones, to notify you each time you go above or below your limits.
- Recurring alerts: Notifies you when an interval is reached, such as every 30 minutes.
If you decide to buy a heart rate chest strap, like the Polar H7 or H10, heart rate zone alarms won’t be available as standard. You’ll need to purchase a watch that’s compatible with the belt. This is what you’ll need to check for alarm settings.
Having a timer can be useful if you want to track intervals during a HIIT workout. Unfortunately, most HRMs, including the Fitbit Charge 2, only have a stopwatch function.
A lap timer is also available on some of the most advanced HRM GPS watches, such as the Garmin Fenix 5. After setting a distance for each lap, you can customize data pages to display additional lap data, such as lap time.
But for most people, a standard stopwatch and clock will be sufficient. These are both available on many of the most affordable HRM watches, including the Polar FT1.
Time in Target Zone
During your workout, heart rate zones can be useful for adjusting your training intensity.
When you complete your training session, some heart rate monitors also allow you to view how long you spent in each zone. This is a feature that’s available with the Garmin Fenix 3 HR.
Fitbit have a similar feature, where 3 heart rate zones are displayed in a colored bar graph on your training profile. These are: Fat Burning Zone, Cardio Zone, Peak Zone.
Heart rate zone duration is available with the Fitbit Alta HR, Fitbit Blaze, Fitbit Surge, and Fitbit Charge 2.
Recovery Heart Mode
One way to measure your current fitness level is with a Recovery Heart Rate test. This is available on many home treadmills and elliptical machines, as well as HRMs.
RHR is the speed at which your heart rate returns to normal after strenuous exercise, such as running or cycling. The first minute after exercise is when your heart rate drops the fastest, falling by around 20 beats per minute.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, RHR can be used as a predictor for morbidity. They found that people with longer Recovery Heart Rate times had a higher risk of death than people with shorter recovery times.
Some of the best heart rate monitors to offer an RHR test are the Garmin Forerunner 630 and Garmin Fenix 3 HR. We’ve seen a feature request from the Fitbit community to add a recovery heart rate test, but this doesn’t seem to be available yet.
Aside from monitoring heart rate data, the most common use for HRMs is tracking calorie burn.
But to do this with any amount of accuracy, you need to enter information to calculate your basal metabolic rate. This includes age, gender, weight, height, and where possible, HRmax and VO2max.
The Fitbit Alta HR and Charge 2 also use this information to perform other useful calculations, such as stride length and distance.
Some top-of-the-line cardio equipment is fitted with a fitness test, designed to measure your current physical fitness level.
While the structure and purpose of this test may vary, nearly all of them rely on reading your heart rate.
Polar have developed a feature called Fitness Test, which is available on the M460, V800, M430, and A300 monitors. This is an effective way to track improvements in your fitness level over time.
A slightly different type of test has also been developed by Polar, called an Orthostatic Test. This measures how your heart responds to stress and illness, which can be a useful indicator of what to expect from your training.
Some of the best heart rate monitors to include fitness tests are:
- Fitbit Charge 2 – Cardio Fitness Level
- Garmin Fenix 5/5S – Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test, Stress Level testing, Lactate Threshold Guided Test
- Garmin Fenix 3 HR – Stress Level testing, Lactate Threshold Guided Test
- Polar M460 GPS Bike Computer – Fitness Test and Orthostatic Test
- Polar M400 Running Watch – Fitness Test and Orthostatic Test
Fitbit use a measurement called Cardio Fitness Level, which produces a Cardio Fitness Score, based on an estimation of your VO2 Max. This is generated automatically, using your resting heart rate and information from your profile.
It’s a feature that’s available on the Fitbit Blaze, Charge 2, and the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch.
Unfortunately, heart rate chest straps and earbud heart rate monitors don’t support fitness tests. You would need to pair the chest strap with a wristwatch that offered testing as a feature.
Many of the best heart rate sensor brands have created apps to sync with their devices. You can also pair them with third-party fitness apps, if you’ve already built up a food log or workout history on something like Endomondo.
- Polar: Polar Flow
Compatible with almost all Polar HRMs, including the M430, V800, H10 and OH1. This is a web service that can receive feedback about your activity, sleep, and training.
- Garmin: Garmin Connect Mobile
An online training tool that stores all the most important information about your running, swimming, cycling, and hiking workouts. Also includes smart coaching based on digital insights about your lifestyle, to help improve your fitness level.
- Wahoo: Wahoo Fitness Apps
The Wahoo TICKR X is compatible with over 100 different training apps, including several from Wahoo Fitness. This includes Elemnt, Wahoo Runfit, and 7 Minute Workout.
- Fitbit: Fitbit Connect
Fitbit apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows 10. Once your Fitbit tracker is paired with the app, data can sync back and forth when the two are in range. Fitbit Connect is a software application that can be downloaded to a Bluetooth-enabled MAC or Windows 10 PC, and has the same features as the smartphone app.
- Mio: Mio PAI or Mio GO
Mio PAI 1 uses your heart rate to create an overall assessment of your health. The Mio GO app has a similar function, and both are available for iOS and Android.
Devices that can be paired with Mio apps include the Mio FUSE, ALPHA 2, LINK, and VELO, but the apps themselves don’t get positive reviews. Instead, your best option is to pair a Mio with one of the MapMyFitness apps.
Some wrist-based heart rate monitors feature built-in workout plans, which range from light jogging, to high-intensity sprints.
The Garmin Fenix 3 HR allows you to either download a workout from Garmin Connect, or create a custom interval workout using the watch menu. This is the same technology that’s available with the Fenix 5, and you can also schedule workouts in advance and store them in-memory.
Fitbit are excellent at fitness tracking and heart rate monitoring, but only the Fitbit Blaze comes with Fitstar workouts. They do, however, have Fitbit Coach, which is a premium (around $50 per year) service that recommends workouts based on your Fitbit activity and fitness goals.
Comfort and Ease of Use
Whether you choose a heart rate chest strap or wrist-based HRM, it’s worth considering how comfortable it will be to wear.
The Fitbit Charge 2 has a range of accessories to choose from, including perforated sport bands to replace the standard straps. These have been tested by ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes, pro-cyclist Jens Voigt, and pro-runners Ryan and Sara Hall.
The Classic Fitbit bands are water-resistant (not swim proof) and made from an equally durable elastomer material. Or for the ultimate in style, you could select one of the Luxe leather bands, made from soft, genuine leather (not sweat or water resistant).
Polar Chest Straps
The Polar H10 features a soft textile strap, with a slim-profile buckle that’s comfortable to wear, even during longer workouts.
As for the Polar heart rate watches, devices like the V800 use a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for the strap, and stainless steel for the buckle.
Garmin Watch Straps
For added comfort, Garmin created a fabric wrist strap, which is compatible with most of the more affordable Fenix designs (2, 3, 3 Sapphire).
As standard, Garmin use TPU for the strap material, with a fiber-reinforced polymer for the case.
Before making a final buying decision, you also need to find out how easy a heart rate monitor is to use.
If you’re not able to check this yourself, most companies produce in-depth user guides, which are available on their websites. You can also browse the customer reviews on Amazon to see if there’s any negative feedback, and even ask the question if it hasn’t already been answered.
How often you’ll need to recharge your heart rate monitor depends on which features you have enabled. Some conserve battery when not in use, while others use combine GPS and HRM, which can quickly drain the battery.
As a quick comparison guide, we’ve listed the battery life of the top rated HRMs:
- Garmin Fenix 5 (lithium-ion): Activity tracking with 24/7 HRM – Up to 2 weeks, GPS mode with wrist-based HRM – Up to 24 hrs., UltraTrac GPS – Up to 75 hrs.
- Garmin Fenix 3 (lithium-ion): Normal GPS Mode – Up to 20 hrs., UltraTrac GPS mode – Up to 50 hrs., Watch mode – Up to 6 weeks.
- Fitbit Charge 2 (lithium-polymer): Up to 5 days, with a 1 to 2 hour charge time.
- Fitbit Alta HR: Up to 7 days.
- Wahoo TICKR X (CR2032 coin cell): Up to 12 months. Cannot be recharged.
- Fitbit Blaze (lithium-polymer): Up to 5 days, with a 1 to 2 hour charge time.
- Polar H10 (CR2025 coin cell): Up to 400 hours.
- Polar H7: Up to 150 hours.
Here are a few tips for maximizing the battery life of heart rate watches:
- Reduce the backlight timeout
- Reduce backlight brightness
- Turn off any Bluetooth features when not in use
- Limit any smartphone notifications displayed by the device
- Disable wrist-based heart rate monitoring when it’s not needed
- With the Fenix 3 HR, use a Connect IQ™ watch face that doesn’t update every second (no second hand)
Most heart rate sensor batteries are easily replaceable, and inexpensive to buy. But the majority use lithium-ion batteries, which can be recharged with a standard power outlet or USB port.
Before making a final buying decision about which heart rate monitor to buy, there’s a few final factors to consider. This includes how securely data is transmitted between the device and your fitness account, and whether you need a virtual trainer.
Data security may not be your top priority when buying a new heart rate monitor, but it’s certainly something to bear in mind.
This is particularly true of all-in-one fitness trackers, with HRM and GPS. These can contain a wealth of information about your daily routine, location, sleep patterns, and personal health.
Such information can prove invaluable to marketing agencies and online retailers, as well as healthcare and insurance companies.
A 2017 study by the University of Edinburgh found weaknesses in two Fitbit fitness trackers.
Scientists could intercept the data as it was being transferred from the device to the company’s cloud servers, where it’s sent for storage. It was also possible for them to create false activity records.
Fitbit has since developed software patches to improve the security of its personal fitness trackers.
A year earlier, in 2016, the American University in Washington published a paper investigating the security of health wearable devices.
HRM Brands with Good Security
Apple was noted as one of the companies that was particularly strong on consumer privacy, and ensuring that outsiders cannot access your data without permission. This includes the Apple Watch and Health app.
Cybersecurity researchers also tested devices from Garmin, Fitbit, Jawbone, Mio, Withings, Xiaomi, Basis and Apple. The worst devices for security at that time were the Garmin Vivosmart, Mio Fuse, and Withings Pulse O2, which led to Garmin releasing a statement clarifying their position on data security.
When and Where Will You Use An HRM?
Each type of HRM has its benefits, but some are better suited than others to certain types of activity.
If you need to track your heart rate 24/7, you can rule out earbud and chest strap devices. Your best option will be either a low-profile smartwatch or fitness tracker, with a comfortable strap.
Ideally the strap will also be removeable, or at least splash proof, so that you can clean it on a regular basis.
If you only need to track your heart rate during activity, such as outdoor cycling or running, you have complete freedom of choice. A good quality chest strap will be comfortable enough to wear for hours.
Also, if you run at night, you’ll need a bright enough screen to view your heart rate at a glance. Anything with large display text and a backlight or illuminated feedback would be ideal.
The Fitbit Surge has a backlight, as does the Garmin vívoactive HR. The Garmin device even lets you adjust the brightness level and backlight timeout.
Do You Want to Track Long-term Progress?
Whether you want to improve your cardiovascular health or simply monitor changes in pulse rate, it’s important to look back and analyze past data.
Some HRMs can store a history of workouts in memory. The Polar H10 stores only your previous heart rate session, but the Wahoo TICKR X holds details of up to 16 workouts.
But for tracking long-term performance, it’s important to sync this data to a fitness app or online profile. Every major fitness wearable company has one, including Fitbit (Fitbit Connect) and Polar (Polar Flow).
Ideally, the same app will also allow you to record nutrition data in a food log, but this isn’t such a common feature.
Warranty & Product Support
Premium HRMs can cost over $1000, which is why it’s important to understand the warranty coverage provided by each company.
- Polar Heart Rate Monitor Warranty
Warranty period of 2 years from date of purchase. All Polar products must also be repaired or replaced at an authorized Polar Service Center. Does not cover damage or loss, only that the device will be free from manufacturer defects. More info.
- Garmin Heart Rate Monitor Warranty
Warranty period of 1 year from date of purchase. Repairs and replacements will only be authorized for defects in manufacturing, not for cosmetic damage. More info.
- Suunto Heart Rate Monitor Warranty
Warranty period of 2 years from date of purchase. Must register the HRM on Suunto’s official website, and only be repaired or modified at an authorized Service Center. More info.
- Mio Heart Rate Monitor Warranty
Limited warranty period, lasting for 1 year from date of purchase. Must have been purchased from an authorized reseller, and only serviced by Mio Global. More info.
- Sigma Heart Rate Monitor Warranty
Warranty period of 2 years from date of original purchase. Must retain proof of purchase, and any items purchased from Ebay are not covered. Sigma Sport only covers the return shipping, not for the cost of sending to their warranty department. More info.
- Fitbit Heart Rate Monitor Warranty
Limited warranty period of 1 year from date of purchase. Fitbit products can only be serviced, altered, refurbished, and modified by an authorized Fitbit service center. A backup of data is recommended before any warranty service. More info.
Will a Foot Pod Work With My Heart Rate Monitor?
A foot pod is a small, lightweight device with a built-in accelerometer. Garmin ANT+ Foot Pods can clip onto your shoe, but some brands are designed to fit under the insoles.
Foot pods allow you to monitor your speed and distance during cardiovascular workouts, such as running on a treadmill. They’re also responsive to changes in stride-lengths, and the Garmin Foot Pod is compatible with many of the Forerunner GPS watches.
Unfortunately, foot pods alone cannot be used for monitoring heart rate. They can, however, be used in combination with a separate wrist-based or chest strap HRM.
If you need to monitor cadence while cycling, we would recommend the Wahoo RPM Cadence Sensor as an alternative to the Garmin Foot Pod.
This connects straight to the bike’s crank arm, with Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ dual band technology to sync data straight to your smartphone or GPS bike computer. The only downside is the short battery life.
Some other examples of foot pods include the MilestonePod V3, Polar Stride Sensor, Adidas MiCoach, and RunScribe.
What is Heart Rate Monitor Training?
Buy a heart rate monitor is one thing, but what’s the best way to use them?
Tracking your heart rate is all about smarter training. Whether that’s for swimming, running, cycling, or rowing, using an HRM correctly can reduce your risk of injury, and improve recovery times.
Heart rate is one of the best ways to track your workout intensity. If your training routine involves rotating between high and low-intensity exercise, it’s important to stay within certain limits.
Training too hard on low-intensity days can mean your body hasn’t recovered in time for your high-intensity workout. This can quickly lead to overtraining and diminishing returns, due to fatigue of the leg muscles.
That’s why with the correct use of a heart rate monitor, athletes can experience better results from their workouts.
Best Heart Rate Monitor Brands
The fitness wearables market is big business, with dozens of companies creating HRMs, GPS running watches, and fitness trackers.
So, when it comes to heart rate monitors, who can you trust?
In this section of the guide, we’ll walk you through the best HRM brands in the industry. These companies were carefully selected based on the quality of their products, customer service record, review feedback, and their history of innovation.
Garmin was founded by Gary Burrell and Min Kao in 1989, with a focus on developing high-quality, accurate GPS navigation devices. Since then, their rapid expansion has led to the creation of products for the automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor, and sports markets.
Since 2014, most of Garmin’s revenue no longer comes from the automotive industry (vehicle GPS), but from outdoor and fitness devices.
Some of their most popular wrist-based heart rate monitors are the vívoactive® HR, Forerunner 920XT, and Garmin Fenix 3.
The top-of-the-line Fenix Chronos is packed with advanced features, including GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, TracBack® to navigate back to your starting point, and is water-rated to 100 meters, in addition to its Elevate™ wrist heart rate technology.
Aside from their HRM function, many Garmin sports watches also offer GPS tracking, activity monitoring, Wi-Fi connectivity, and even boat connectivity (quatix® 5).
Mio was founded in 1999 by Liz Dickinson, and introduced the world’s first ECG-accurate heart rate tracking wrist monitor with the Mio Classic.
The Mio Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) App was later developed, and paired with Mio SLICE – a personal fitness tracker that monitors sleep, calories burned, steps, and 24/7 heart rate monitoring. This led to Mio Global being recognized by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best brands at CES 2017.
Mio is one of the few companies on the market that focusses solely on HRMs. Their current product line includes the FUSE, ALPHA 2, LINK, and VELO.
Omron Healthcare was founded in 1933, in Kyoto, Japan. Today, it’s one of the market leaders in medical equipment and electronic healthcare products, such as blood pressure monitors and respiratory therapy devices.
Unfortunately, Omron heart rate monitors appear to have been discontinued, with only a handful of devices available on Amazon. This includes the HR-310, HR-100CN, and Omron HR-210, each of which is priced around $120.
Omron have built a strong reputation for accurate body composition monitors, fat loss monitors, and electrotherapy devices. But it’s their upper arm and wrist blood pressure monitors that stand out, with thousands of highly rated reviews.
The best Omron blood pressure monitor on the market right now is the Omron 7 Series. You can store up to 100 measurements in memory for quick comparisons, and even take advantage of their Heart Rate Guidance system.
Polar was founded in 1976, in Oulu, Finland. Shortly after, in 1982, Polar launched the first ever wireless wearable heart rate monitor, in the form of the Sport Tester PE2000.
In the 40+ years that followed, Polar have established themselves as one of the market leaders for HRMs. Since 1986 they’ve been creating cutting edge heart rate analysis software, and even introduced the first heart rate monitoring system for team sports in 2001.
The focus for Polar continues to be their wrist-based HRMs, such as the A360 and M400. But they’ve also developed several bestselling heart rate chest straps, including the Polar H7 and H10.
Aside from HRMs, Polar have used their precision technology to create a line of GPS sports watches, bike computers, and running watches. That’s in addition to two fitness apps (Polar Flow and Polar Beat).
As a German fitness technology company, with over 30 years experience, SIGMA is renowned for their in-house testing and precision engineering.
Their current product line includes GPS devices, bike computers, fitness trackers, and sport watches, with built-in heart rate monitors.
However, while a quick search on Amazon reveals dozens of HRM watches and chest-straps, average review rating struggles to get above 60%.
Two of the most popular and affordable SIGMA heart rate monitors are the PC15.11 and PC3.11.
Because of the low price, some customers have purchased two or three of these watches over the years, but still have complaints about the lack of replacement bands, movement in the chest straps, and inability to download workout data.
With an average price of $50-$70, if your only option is to replace the whole device when the strap breaks, it might be better to invest in a Fitbit Alta HR. This has replaceable accessory bands, in a range of colors.
SIGMA also has several fitness apps, including SIGMA LINK for downloading trip data from their bike computers, and the SIGMA MOVE app for running data. MOVE is fully compatible with one of their most accurate ECG heart rate monitors – the Sigma Sport RC Move.
Suunto (from the Finnish word, meaning direction) is a company that was founded in Finland in 1936 by Tuomas Vohlonen. Over the past 80+ years, Suunto have created an innovative range of hand crafted premium sports watches and dive instruments.
In 2010, Suunto launched MovesCount.com, a growing online sports community where you can share activities and customize Suunto heart rate watches. The Suunto App Designer also allows you to create your own apps for the sports watches.
Their latest collection of Suunto Spartan Sport HR watches feature GPS/GLONASS route navigation, similar to the system used by Garmin. They’re also designed with up to 100m of water resistance, support for over 80 sports, and built-in memory that can store a 30-day training summary.
Timex have been producing affordable timepieces since 1854, when the company was founded in Waterbury, Connecticut. More recently, they developed their own line of Ironman GPS watches, including the Timex Women’s Ironman Road Trainer with HRM.
But while Timex make some very affordable wrist-based HRMs, they haven’t gained the same popularity as Garmin or Polar. Most of their watch faces feature a very similar digital display, with none of the customization options you get with Garmin.
Timex also have an iOS app that can pair with selected Timex smart watches, which supports basic fitness monitoring. This includes step count, distance, calorie burn, and sleep patterns.
However, they don’t have a great track history for fitness apps. Run x50+ was met with mostly negative feedback, as was their TIMEX Connected Android app.
Wahoo Fitness was founded in 2009, and is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia.
As a tech-fitness company, Wahoo specialize in high-quality workout data tracking for runners, cyclists, and fitness enthusiasts. They even have a developer API, for anyone that’s interested in creating branded health and fitness experiences for iOS and Android devices.
Their current product line includes Smart Trainers, bike computers, and cycling sensors. This is in addition to their bestselling heart rate monitors, which include the Wahoo Blue HR, and Wahoo TICKR X.
TICKR heart rate monitors allow you to connect to sport watches, bike computers, and over 100 different third-party fitness apps.