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Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor

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Updated July 08, 2014

Mature male runner looking at digital sports band
Mike Harrington/Taxi/Getty Images

If you're trying to lose weight and get in shape, a heart rate monitor (HRM) is a great way to monitor your intensity and make sure you're working in your target heart rate zone. Many monitors not only provide a continuous heart rate reading but also tell you if you're working in your zone and how many calories you're burning.

With the variety of HRMs out there, it's hard to know how to choose the right one for you. Before you spend your money, check out the factors you want to consider when buying a heart rate monitor.

 

Your Goals

The type of HRM you buy will often depend on your fitness level, needs and goals:

  • For Weight Loss: Try a HRM that tracks time spent in your heart rate zone and calories burned such as the Polar F6.
  • For Athletes: Consider a HRM, like the Garmin Forerunner, that offers multi-sport support, workout feedback and advanced features such as GPS and downloadable data.
  • For Techno-Phobes: Look for a basic model that offers your heart rate with one-button functionality like the Polar FS1
  • For General Fitness: Try one that helps you improve fitness with information about intensity and training zones, like the Polar FS3.

 

Your Budget

Heart rate monitors can cost from $25-$400 and up depending on the brand and features included but you do get what you pay for. An inexpensive model may not fit as well or offer as many features as you'd like. What you can expect:

  • $50-$100: This will include a variety of HRMs that track heart rate, calories burned, time in zone and more.
  • $100-$200: In this price range, you'll find more features like the ability to create workouts, track progress and download data.
  • $200-$400: This price range will offer more advanced features like GPS, multi-sport tracking, workout comparisons and more.

 

Ease of Use and Comfort

Another factor to consider is how easy the HRM is to use and see. The more features you get, the more effort it takes to navigate to different screens, which may be a problem in the middle of a workout. Most HRMs will require some time to set up and figure out what the buttons mean, but you shouldn't need a degree to figure it out.

Another consideration is the comfort of the watch and the chest strap. Most HRMs are large, but some companies (like Polar) do make smaller models for women. A thin, form-fitting chest strap offers the most comfort, but you can also choose a strapless model like the MIO.

 

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