Heart rate monitors allow you to target the appropriate heart rate zone during exercises. Tracking heart rate helps you reach your fitness goals faster by maintaining you at the required levels of intensity for maximum benefit. Not reaching the ideal intensity level and sustaining it for a minimum period of time is inefficient and is ultimately void of results. On the other hand, if you’re in the middle of a cardio exercise session and your heartbeat becomes dangerously high, it is a sign for you to slow down a bit, rest, and relax.
The market is oversaturated with a plethora of fitness trackers. Too many choices can quickly overwhelm a buyer who isn’t aware of important trends and features. The three most common heart rate monitor types include i) chest straps, ii) wrist bands, and iii) arm bands.
Differentiating the Three Types of Fitness Trackers
i) Chest straps
Chest straps, as the name suggests, feature Bluetooth sensors that are strapped directly onto the upper chest area. These sensors detect your pulse and electronically send signals to the app or wristwatch receiver. The app or receiver will accurately display your heart rate reading. Some of the most common complaints reported by users include the following:
- The chest strap might be sliding along the upper torso while the user is running.
- The user might feel uncomfortable when the chest strap is too tight.
But there are still many advantages reported by the loyal users of chest straps:
- The accuracy is very good. The heart rate reading does not get affected even if the user raises the arms, changes gestures, moves rapidly, or doesn’t run steadily.
- It’s rather low maintenance compared with other types of heart rate monitors because
- It’s rather easy to set up.
- It easily connects with most fitness apps via Bluetooth or ANT+.
- The battery lasts long and users don’t need to charge.
- Chest straps are hidden underneath the sportswear, almost as if they are a part of the sportswear itself.
Chest straps are more accurate because the sensor is placed closer to the heart, making it more likely to capture authentic heart beat signals. Once users get used to the high accuracy of the heart rate reading from chest straps, it’s hard to go back to wearing wrist bands and arm bands.
Our pick: Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor and Wahoo Tickr X
Wristbands are optical sensors that are directly integrated into the watchband to sense your pulse through the skin. It can take a while before wristbands start to show accurate results. For example, when users start warm ups, the wristbands might display a reading of 180 bpm when the actual reading is in fact 100bpm, only to adjust to a more correct reading maybe a minute later.
Wristbands get a lot of flak for being inaccurate. The market is flooded with various wristbands that can measure heart rate. But the accuracy largely depends on the heart rate reading chips used for the devices. The chip accounts a large part of a wristband’s cost. Unfortunately, some cheap wristbands can be still very poor for heart rate reading, while higher-end models with precise accuracy of heart rate readings tend to cost much more.
While wristbands are less accurate than chest straps, they are much more comfortable and convenient to use. Keep in mind that wristbands that only use green light won’t produce accurate readings through dark pigmented skin and tattoos.
Our pick: Garmin Vivosport
Armbands are easy to wear and comfortable enough for long-term use. However, there are only a few brands in the market that produce arm bands, making it difficult to purchase them for novice buyers.
Generally, arm bands are more accurate than wrist bands and are reportedly more comfortable for many people when compared to chest bands. The disturbance from the body to the arm bands may not be as much as to the wrist bands. But the users still may see the deviations of 10-20 bpm due to sudden jerky movements of the arms.
However, if the user wants to wear his/her smartphone on the arm while running, it’s also quite inconvenient to wear the arm band on the other arm or on the same arm. Some people don’t like it.