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Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor

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Updated April 22, 2009

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:

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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