How to Compare Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors provide a variety of data, from a simple display of beats per minute to complex splits of data you can download onto your computer. The more features, the more expensive the monitor. However, more features and a high price tag don’t necessarily signify a better buy for you. If you’re only interested in one or two pieces of information, such as calories burned or average heart rate during a workout, you may want to consider a reliable, low-end heart rate monitor.

Step-by-Step Instructions

List Your Goals – Write down your goals for exercise or training. Knowing your goals, such as losing weight or increasing stamina, helps you determine what information about your workouts a monitor should provide to help you train better.

Write down the types of information you want to track. For example, if you’re looking to lose weight through aerobic exercise, you’ll want to know how many minutes you spent in your target heart rate during each workout, and how many calories you burned. Tracking information can include:

  • Average heart rate
  • Peak heart rate
  • Total minutes worked
  • Minutes in target heart rate zone
  • Calories burned

Think About Features – Write a list of the features you want in a heart rate monitor if you’re training for a bike race. List the features you want in a heart rate monitor such as, information delivered in splits, by wheel size, temperature, altitude and distance traveled.

Other features for your list might include: storage of data (some monitors store data from multiple workouts); ability to download data onto your computer; water resistance; night light; coded readings, to prevent interference from other electronic devices near you; price; warranty; and battery changing.

Where to buy heart rate monitors.

Do Your Homework – Research various heart rate monitors. The Internet may be your best source for this. Start by compiling the raw data concerning features by visiting manufacturer’s websites and putting the information into your chart or spreadsheet. Learn how long the warranty lasts and what it covers.

Check Out Reviews – Read reviews of the finalist heart rate monitors you have chosen. Look for independent reviews, such as those at Amazon, rather than those on the manufacturer’s websites. Some manufacturers, such as Timex, may include negative reviews on their sites. In addition to reliability, look for comments on ease of use, accuracy of data and ability to change the battery, which is a problem with some monitors.

Warning – Some heart rate monitors, like those made by Polar, require you to send the monitor in to change the battery. A battery should last for years, but this is still a pain. Contact the makers of your finalist candidates to see if you can buy a replacement battery at your local electronics store or Big Box retailer.

Tips – Different heart rate monitors use different formulas to estimate the number of calories burned during a workout. You may only need a monitor that provides reasonably accurate data, but which provides consistent information so that you can track your workouts. For example, if the monitor is reporting 15 percent more calories than you actually burn in a 30-minute workout, as long as it does so every workout, you can still compare your results from workout to workout.

Some monitors give you a visual or audio (beep) alert when you go above or below your target heart rate range during exercise. This will help you step it up or slow down, maintaining the best workout pace.