The proliferation of fitness bands and smartwatches has made us more fitness-conscious, while these devices’ affordability added to the appeal. However, these devices didn’t fully eliminate the need for standalone heart-rate monitors (HRM), and HRM chest straps are as popular as ever. It is because heart rate monitors generally do a better job managing workout, exercise, and monitoring.
While smartwatches do a great job at being an all-in-one tool, standalone fitness bands often have better compatibility with different sporting equipment, including elliptical machines and treadmills. Most HRMs are strapped to the chest while others are wrapped around the forearm or chest. In this article, we’ll list 5 of the best heart rate monitors available in the market today.
As a top choice for athletes, the Polar H10 takes the top spot for heart rate monitors. This iconic chest strap boasts superb heart rate monitoring and comfort. Thanks to Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility, Polar H10’s versatility is a no-brainer option. The device works with many sports and smartwatches (Polar, Garmin, Apple, Suunto, etc.), Polar Beat, fitness apps such as Strava and Nike, and virtually ALL HRM compatible Cardio Equipment.
Since it’s built for athletes, Polar H10 is fully waterproof, and it has internal memory for one training session. Software updates are also available via the Polar Beat app to keep H10 HRM up-to-date. Is it battery conscious? Polar H10 has a 400-hour operation capability with Bluetooth Low Energy and 5 kHz transmission active.
Garmin HRM-Tri is a compact and comfortable device, boasting the smallest and lightest heart rate monitor device created by Garmin. It is designed with rounded edges and no exposed seams; the strap remains comfortable during extended training hours.
While it’s more expensive than other heart rate monitors, Garmin HRM-Tri is dedicated specifically for triathletes with existing Garmin wearables like a Garmin Fenix 6 or Forerunner 945. However, this HRM only works with ANT+, so no Bluetooth. However, it truly is an accurate and comfortable chest strap that’s as good underwater as above.
The battery lasts ten months for 1 hour/day use and with a user-replaceable CR2032 battery.
Wahoo TICKR X
Wahoo TICKR X is perfect if you’re looking for a versatile heart monitor that can store 50-hours of data, so you can go weeks without needing your phone or downloading data. Wahoo TICKR X also has twice as much memory as Garmin HRM-Tri, but cheaper. However, it’s not waterproof.
Connectivity is through dual ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity with the support of up to three Bluetooth connections simultaneously. The whopping 500-hour battery life might also be enough for a full year.
Apple Watch Series 6
Apple Watch Series 6 offers viable heart rate monitors like many smartwatches and fitness bands dubbed by Apple as the future of health on the wrist. It uses a generic optical sensor which is generally less accurate than the standard electrical pulse sensor used by chest straps. It’s accurate enough for normal use and works with iOS fitness apps. However, if you need an ANT+ connection, this isn’t the right device.
Athletes and casual users get the Apple Watch Series 7 for its variety of features, including fitness tracking, an ECG to test for atrial fibrillation, a SpO2 sensor for blood oxygen level readings, sleep monitoring, and notifications. Regardless, you might grow dissatisfied with Apple Watch eventually if you’re serious about training and not just using it casually.
The most significant downsides include the need to carry your phone to download heart rate data in real-time and the one-day battery life.
Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds
Yes, earphones have evolved to sports heart rate monitoring. More than just an excellent audio gear, Jabra Elite Sports Earbuds have optical heart rate monitors built-in. The monitoring works by reading heart rate through the blood passing through the ears; this is the same typical method used by fitness bands and smartwatches. While Jabra wasn’t first in the ear-based HRM business, they managed to create one of the most accurate and reliable devices to date.
With only about three hours of runtime, you’ll need to charge these frequently, although they can be charged quite fast with their charging case. They’re IP67 waterproof, which is perfect for exercising. However, athletes might find the features lacking and the short battery life frustrating. For casual daily workouts, Jabra Elite Sport earbuds are still a great fitness partner.
Should you get a dedicated heart monitor?
Accuracy is a top consideration when it comes to heart rate monitors. Dedicated HRMs are often built as chest straps, which are easily more accurate than devices like fitness bands and smartwatches. Dedicated HRM users also benefit from a wireless standard besides Bluetooth called ANT+, supported by a lot of sports equipment. They also generally have long battery life that goes for weeks or months. Most even have a memory that can store multiple workouts so that you can track your heart rate without your phone.
Choosing between electrical and optical HRMs
Chest strap HRMs use electrical pulses, while most other varieties utilize optical pulses. Electrical signal measurements are substantially more accurate than their optical counterpart, plus it’s better at maintaining a precise and consistent reading, which is particularly vital to athletes who need to measure their heart rate as it varies in workout and recovery.
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