The Best Heart Rate Monitor

by Claire Huffman
Last Updated: 05/04/2020
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Heart rate monitors come in handy to acquire data from your training sessions. This information is useful, whether you are on a fitness journey or an athlete. With today’s technology, heart rate monitors suit more than just sport.

There are designs that, in addition to tracking your heart, spot illness, stress, or fatigue. These can help you determine when you need a break or when you need to make changes to your activity levels.

Below are the top 10 heart rate monitor reviews that you can buy.

P.S. Also, check out our article ranking the best pedometer to buy.

The Top 10 Heart Rate Monitors

1.      Polar H10 Heart Rate Sensor Chest Strap

Polar H10
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This chest strap heart rate monitor is ideal for sports and activities where using a wristwatch would be challenging to use.

Key Features

  • Built-in memory
  • GoPro Compatible
  • Updatable firmware
  • Enhances battery life
  • Comfortable fit

The chest strap is super easy to use and can easily pair with your GoPro Hero 5. It sends data to the recorded video for east tracking. It comes with built-in memory that can store one training session. You can always go back and review before the next recorded session. 

The firmware is easy to update to enhance the functionality of the device. You can track heart rate anytime, thanks to the 400 hours of operation time of the battery. The advanced strap design ensures comfort and security in any type of exercise.

It is easy to use; however, you need to wear the chest strap a few days in a row to acquire accurate results.

2.      Polar OH1+Optical Heart Rate Sensor

Polar OH1
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Polar is known for its high-quality fitness trackers. This particular model is ideal for people that train regularly and need to track the sessions.

Key Features

  • Built-in memory
  • Waterproof up to 30m
  • Comfortable fit

The Polar optical heart rate monitor for exercise combines versatility and comfort. It comes with a high-quality soft textile material that is comfortable on the hand. Additionally, you can toss it in the machine for a quick wash.

The device has built-in memory that can store up to 200 hours of exercise data. This feature allows you to review your training data, make changes, and work out according to your fitness levels.

You can sync the data to Power Flow with web service or the Polar Flow app. It works well, but for swimmers, it might be challenging to get accurate results on backstroke.

3.      Garmin Vivoactive Heart Rate Monitor

The functionality of this sensor is outstanding and allows you to use it with smartphones.

Key Features

  • Touchscreen display
  • Several fitness applications
  • GPS tracking mode
  • Smartwatch features

The smartwatch combines GPS capability with mobile phone functionality for easy use. It features a high-resolution glare-free touchscreen display for easy reading of parameters. For additional functionality, this watch has a clock, pedometer, alarm, stopwatch, and compass.

It tracks speed, time, temperature, sleep, and calories. With the built-in heart rate monitor, you can also keep track of your heart rate at a given time. It is therefore suitable for running, walking, Crossfit, and swimming. The good thing is that the battery is rechargeable, so you do not have to worry about replacing it.

4.      Garmin Access Heart Rate Tracker

Garmin Access
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This compact heart rate monitor is a suitable choice for regular fitness enthusiasts.

Key Features

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Built-in memory
  • Provides running dynamics
  • Long battery life
  • Advanced heart rate features

It is one of the smallest and lightest designs from Garmin. The design is seamless and comfortable, thanks to the rounded edges. It is suitable for extended hours of exercise and has a built-in memory. It holds up to 20 hours of data and forwards it to a compatible device at the end of the session.

It also sends a real-time heart rate to the watch when out of the water after a swim. With this heartbeat watch, you can get feedback on running form by measuring vertical oscillation, ground contact time, and cadence.

The device works well to track heart rate; however, it might take you some time to figure out connections with a compatible device.

5.      Fitbit Style Smart Watch Heart Rate Monitor

This is one of the most accurate wrist heart rate monitor models on the market.

Key Features

  • Smartphone compatibility
  • Seamless design
  • All-day activity tracking
  • Comfortable wristband
  • Rechargeable battery

The wristwatch tracks heart rate and sleeps automatically and continuously. It gives you real-time readings to keep you in check and make changes where necessary. More to this, it has a gravity sensor that identifies and counts your daily workout activities. It can count steps, calculate distance, determine the speed and track time.

With the built-in USB plug, it is easy to charge using a USB block or computer. The battery is long-lasting and gives you up to 7 days of working time. The design is simple to use, and the wristband is comfortable for long hours of use.

6.      Garmin HRM-Dual Heart Rate Monitor

Garmin HRM
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If you are looking for a heart rate monitor watch review, this one on Garmin HRM is resourceful.

Key Features

  • ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Low energy technology
  • Real-time readings
  • Soft, comfortable strap
  • Washable
  • Long battery life

This Garmin heart rate watch combines the comfort and flexibility to suit regular users. It comes with a soft and comfortable strap and non-straining on the wrist. Also, it is easy to wash and keep clean.

The device is super easy to connect and transfer data. You can sync with fitness apps such as Swift and other fitness equipment to receive accurate heart rate readings. You will love the quality of the battery; it lasts up to 3.5 years with consistent use.

It might be challenging to pair the device with the Garmin Ant+ but works perfectly fine connected to smartphones via Bluetooth.

7.      Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Sensor

The TICKR model from Wahoo is one of the most advanced designs to track heart rate.

Key Features

  • Burn and Burst program
  • Tracks additional parameters
  • Compactible with apps and smartphones
  • Dual-band technology
  • Real-time tracking
  • Adjustable strap
  • Long battery life

The Burst and Burn program can come in handy for people looking to lose weight and burn fat. It runs for eight weeks and can be a great way to kick-start your fitness journey. The device is compatible with most fitness apps such as Nike+ Running, Strava, and MapMyFitness.

The monitor connects to smartphones where you can track time, distance and calorie burn, and heart rate. It is lightweight and comfortable to use for hours; however, it requires you to track consistently to determine accuracy.

8.     Smart Watch Fitness Heart Rate Monitor

This activity smartwatch is ideal for monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, steps, and sleep. It has a variety of features that suit regular fitness enthusiasts.

Key Features

  • Bright screen
  • IP67 water resistance
  • Long working time
  • Ergonomic design
  • Inbuilt USB charge port

It is the best heart rate monitor watch for exercise watch if you are looking for an activity tracker to use regularly. With features such as call reminders, sleep monitor, alarm reminders, camera remote control, you can make the most out of it.

It has a bright, colourful screen for easy reading. More to this, the display automatically brightens when you raise your hand. It is useful for swimming and other water sports, thanks to the IP67 water resistance quality.

For comfort, the smartwatch has a high-quality soft band that you can wear for hours. Also, it is generally lightweight and does not put any strain on the wrist.

9.      FT1 Heart Rate Monitor

FT1
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This Polar FT1 heart rate monitor is one of the best for continuous and accurate heart rate tracking.

Key Features

  • Large display
  • Includes T31 coded transmitter chest strap
  • Manual heart rate target zone
  • One-button start

One of the features that stand out with this wearable heart rate monitor is the heart rate target zone. It allows you to exercise safely within your target zone that you can easily set. It depends on your fitness levels and goals.

The monitor has a large display that you can easily read at a glance. It displays large fonts for the heart rate in beats per minute. It also shows a summary of your latest workout, which can help you determine where to make changes.

The design also features a one-button start for easy use. It has a coded heart rate transmission to avoid cross-talk that could affect accuracy. It works efficiently; however, the battery on the chest strap is not replaceable, so you would need to buy a new chest strap.

10.  IGPSPORT HR40 ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap

This highly-sensitive sensor device is ideal for different activities, including cycling, running, etc.

Key Features

  • Soft fabric material
  • High-quality battery
  • IPX7 Waterproof quality
  • Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity
  • Includes a battery
  • Lightweight
  • Real-time tracking

The chest strap is a continuous heart rate monitor that works well to deliver accurate results in real-time. It is compatible with apps and smartphones with ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity. This feature allows you to keep track of your activity, including the heart rate from any smart device.

The strap is comfortable to wear and keep on for hours of exercise. It is adjustable for a perfect fit and to ensure it is snug enough to stay in place. It is IPX7 waterproof, which allows you to engage in water sports and still use it for tracking.

The battery has about 340 hours of working time giving you more than one year of battery life. The package comes with an HR40, a chest strap, a battery, and a user manual.

How Does a Heart Rate Monitor Work?

A heart rate monitor is a device that you wear to show your heart rate continuously as you engage in exercise. Electrode sensors transmit data to a receiver display such as a fitness wearable, watch, or phone app. The receiver displays the number as beats per minute.

Simple designs only show the heart rate at a given time. Intricate designs not only show the heart rate but can also record time, show an average rate and maximum rate for a specific exercise period. Some have alarms when the user reaches or exceeds a pre-set target heart rate zone.

Key Features

Recovery Heart Rate

Advanced heart rate monitors have the ability to measure resting heart rate. It shows the time required for the heart to return to a normal, resting stage. It is an essential indication of heart health, and people that engage in high-intensity workouts find it extremely important.

Pulse Monitoring

Pulse monitors work by detecting the pulse. You can easily place a finger or two on the sensors for automatic reading. However, the rate might not be reliable, especially with cold fingers.

Heart Rate Zones

Some monitors allow you to set one or several target rate zones. These heart rate zones depend on the specific workout you intend to engage in. The time in the target zone will measure the amount of time you spend exercising within the specified target zone.

Sport Watch

Some heart rate monitors feature digital calendars, clocks, alarms, and timers. These features make the monitor more of a sports watch but useful for people that need such functions when working out.

Distance and Speed Monitoring

When exercising, some monitors calculate the speed and the distance you cover. These features rely on a GPS receiver in outdoor environments for accuracy. Indoor workouts rely on a footpad together with an accelerometer to gauge the length of strides.

Calorie Counts

This feature in some monitors displays the number of calories you burn during workouts. It is an important feature, especially for people on a weight loss journey that need to track their calorie deficit.

Lap Times and Stopwatch

Recent models of heart rate monitors measure the time in laps. Some feature a lap button to measure the change in pace during exercise.

Tethering

This feature is common among most fitness trackers. It allows a wireless connection to your smartphone for easy control of phone features. With this feature, you can easily connect to fitness apps, play music, text without having to take out your phone from your pocket.

Code Transmitter

For chest strap designs a code transmitter encrypts between the sensor and the wrist unit. This activity prevents any communication between the signals of other devices on the people around you.

Accuracy

The accuracy of a heart rate monitor depends on the specific type. Chest straps are preferable among athletes because they display more accurate data. There are a few reasons why chest straps are more reliable than the wrist-mounted type, one being they are worn close to the heart [1].

A chest strap captures a stronger heartbeat compared to the wristband type. A good example to explain the accurate readings of chest straps is how doctors use ECG machines. They usually place the sensors on specific parts of the body, with most around the chest area. This allows doctors to assess the electrical activity of the heart.

Following this example, a chest strap design simplifies the method for convenience and comfort.

Another reason why chest straps are accurate is they leave no room for user error. When you buy the right size of a chest strap, it is less likely to wear it loosely as it would fall to the waist.

Also, the electrodes are on the straps, so you do not have enough room to move the strap around. Somstraps have one central electrode near the chest bone, while others have two that lay on the rib cage. There is little flexibility with wearing chest straps, and while this can make you uncomfortable, it explains why they are accurate.

When it comes to using wrist-mounted fitness trackers, a little movement of the device can alter the readings. For example, if you are doing a high-intensity workout, the monitor can shift around, too low, or too high on your wrist. They are much comfortable to wear than chest straps, but with the movement, they cannot guarantee accuracy all the time. 

If the wristband is tight, then movement should not be much of an issue. A comfortable fit is essential; however, you need to understand how tight it can be to affect functionality. If the band is too snug on the wrist, it could interfere with blood flow.

Although the monitor can pick up signals better, it cannot be accurate because blood will not flow naturally to your wrist. Again, if it is too loose, then space and air can affect how the monitor captures the heart rate. The idea is to ensure it fits snugly enough to move around but not too tight to obstruct blood flow.

Types of Heart Rate Monitors

Fitness heart rate monitors come in two types.

Watch/Wrist

Wristwatch monitors are available in two main types. The simple model only functions if you touch the device to read the heart rate at a specific time. These work just like regular wristwatches; they are small and compact. Although these are good for reading the rate once in a while, they do not give you constant readings.

The other type, which is most common among fitness enthusiasts, gives continuous heart rate readings. Like a regular watch, this type is small, compact, and comfortable to wear. However, you need to place such a watch above the wrist bone and fit it snugly for effective use.

The continuous reading wristwatch is ideal for any kind of workout, as long it fits correctly. Since they are more convenient than other types, they come at a price. There are different brands, and the features vary from one brand to another

Chest Strap

The chest heart rate monitor is the most accurate type. Because it is placed very close to the heart, the monitor picks up signals better for accurate results. The monitor comes as a strap that you fit on the chest region. It has electrodes or infra-red sensors that link to the display unit. In most cases, the display unit is the receiver end of the device, usually on the wrist.

The display unit will beep if the heart rate goes above a pre-determined limit. It is simple to use and works perfectly for regular fitness enthusiasts and athletes.

The best feature of this type is that it delivers continuous heart rate readings. Although it can be uncomfortable to wear for long hours, it does not hinder movements and shows the readings automatically.

FAQ

What Is the Most Accurate Heart Rate Monitor?

The type, fit, and functionality of a heart rate monitor affects its accuracy. Generally, chest straps are more accurate than wristwatch monitors because they are located close to the heart. Also, they have little or no room for user error to interfere with the results.

How to Pair Polar Heart Rate Monitor With Watch?

According to the Polar website, you can easily pair the sensor with your watch. First, you need to wear a moistened sensor. On the watch, open ‘general settings,’ ‘pair and sync,’ ‘pair sensor,’ and press ‘OK.’ Next, touch your sensor with the watch and wait for a while. Once the sensor is found, and the device ID found, press ‘OK’ to start pairing.

The Bottom Line

You cannot overlook the importance of heart rate monitors. It is not only useful to measure your heart rate at a given time but also helps you alter the activity to suit your lifestyle. The above heart rate monitors are ideal, whether you are an avid athlete or a fitness enthusiast. With an understanding of the features to look for, you can easily select a design that works best for you.

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