What Are Heart Rate Monitors?

Get your cardio on and pump it up. This article will tell you everything that you need to know about heart rate monitors.

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Now, that you are quarantined at home and can’t really venture out or do anything for that matter. Maybe, this is the best time to work on yourself. Get that summer body that you’ve always wanted to have and have been pushing it forever. Heart rate monitors help you to stay on track and measure literally every step that you take.

While wellness has always been the buzzword, 2020 is the time to get things in order. And, while you want to achieve a particular goal, it is only important to invest in a good heart rate monitor that can help you track your fitness.

Heart rate monitors (HRM) measure and display your heart rate continuously. It is usually a device that you wear on your wrist. The data displayed is in the form of the number of beats per minute.

The electrode sensors present on the strap detect each heartbeat and send the data to a receiver display, a wearable, a watch or an app.

Learning your heart-rate patterns, both during a workout and during your daily activity, can show you a lot about your health. According to Harvard's Health blog, your resting heart rate is a key factor to determining your overall current and future health, and monitoring heart-rate changes over time can give you more of the information you need to lead a healthy life. Chest straps and optical heart-rate monitors are the two most common types.

How do heart rate monitors work?

Heart rate monitors are devices used by athletes or doctors to understand the heart rate of patients. They help in understanding the progress so that you do not over or undertrain. Optical heart rate monitors are the most commonly used ones by athletes and the general public. The technology used in these heart rate monitors is known as Photoplethysmography (PPG).

Heart rate is basically the number of times your heart beats, per minute. Your heart is a muscle that works like a pump continuously. Each beat of your heart is set in motion like an electrical signal. Electrical activity is recorded by an electrocardiogram. Each beat of your heart begins with an electrical signal from your sinoatrial (SA) node. The SA node is located in your heart’s right atrium. When the heart’s atrium is filled with blood, the electrical signals cause your heart to contract. This pumps blood due to the open valves.

Most heart rate monitor models have indicators that show whether you have been exercising in your chosen heart rate zone and send you alerts when you are above or below that zone. This allows you to change or alter your routine depending upon the reading.

The basic heart rate monitors may only show the average heart rate for the session, and many of them save and display the workout heart rate on a graph.

What Are Heart Rate Monitors?

How heart rate monitors (hrm) are designed?

A wireless heart rate monitor uses a strap around the chest that has an electrode sensor. These sensors detect the electrical activity of the heart as it beats. Data is then transmitted to a receiver which processes and displays the signal as beats per minute.

Seppo Säynäjäkangas, founder of Polar company invented the wireless personal heart rate monitor in 1977 in Finland.

Sensors are embedded or attached. For original sensors to work, one needs to have moist contact with the skin to get accurate readings.

How to choose good heart rate monitors?

Finding the right heart rate monitor can be quite a challenge. Here are a few things that you must consider before you invest in that heart rate monitor. Here’s what you should look for:

Physical activity: The kind of exercise regime you follow is an important factor here. Whether you walk, run or swim. In case you follow a high-intensity workout schedule, a fitness tracker will make more sense to you.

Design: Don’t go for something clunky, lest it becomes an eyesore. You can opt for something that even goes with your casual outfits, that way you will be able to track your fitness all the time.

Wellness features: Opt for a heart rate monitor which also measures your sleep pattern, the number of steps you’ve taken, the daily movement, etc.

Smartphone compatibility: This is a major plus, as you will be able to text and answer calls while you are trying to achieve your fitness goals.

Best heart rate monitors one should buy

Here are the best heart rate monitors to help with your health or guide you through your training:

  • Fitbit Inspire HR
  • Polar Ignite
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Wahoo Tickr X
  • Polar OH1
  • Wahoo Tickr Fit
  • Garmin HRM-Swim
What Are Heart Rate Monitors?

Do heart rate monitors measure pulse?

Your pulse can actually help you measure your heart rate. It is a pretty simple way to do it with your hand. All you have to do is to place your index and third finger on your neck, adjacent to your windpipe. You will be able to feel your pulse, simply count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Now, you’ve got to get your mathematical brain into action, and, multiply this number by four to calculate the beats per minute.

Optical heart monitors are the most common pulse sensors in wearables. The process that these optical heart-rate monitors use is called "photoplethysmography" (PPG), which is also the process of using light to measure blood flow.

Heart rate monitors should be used by

Before initiating any exercise program, it is important to consult your physician, so that you can have complete awareness and guidance. The following should be using a heart rate monitor:

Joggers & walkers: Aim at fat-burning and aerobics, and achieve much more from your walking than your average walks.

Runners: This can help you stay in your peak zone during those days when you are in a heavy-duty mode, and at your aerobic base during the easy sessions.

Cyclists: The HRM can track the training performance during endurance, tempo and even stationary exercise.

Triathletes: Some HRMs also monitor data related to swimming like pool lengths, distance, and stroke count.

Hikers, climbers, and skiers: For a peak ascent, the HRM can help you to condition well.

Weight-loss: Most HRMs display the calories burnt during exercise, some may also tell you your goal weight to be achieved.

How much do hrm monitors cost?

HRM monitors which were first introduced in the year 1960, help to monitor heart rate during any physical activity or some even while you are sleeping. From professional to recreational activities, they can help athletes to get the maximum out of their workout. The device also proves beneficial for heart patients to monitor their cardiac rates during any moderate activity.

As there is a variety of heart-rate monitors available in the market, the costs vary. Here’s a round-up:

The most common type of hrm monitors available in the market usually has a strap that is worn around the chest and has a watch that displays the heart rate. The monitor costs anything between $30 and $470.

Athletes who really mean business though should ideally opt for a more expensive heart rate monitor, which may include a variety of features, such as GPS tracking of miles completed, alerts that relate to the individual's target heart rate and ability to store data or send heart rate reports to a computer.

Those who are amateurs or just begin an exercise program are likely to purchase a heart rate monitor like the PC3 Heart Rate Monitor. The PC3, which retails for $30, is a simple monitor, strap and watch with a stopwatch. It offers no additional features.

The Polar FT80G1 GPS costs more than $400, offers the standard heart rate monitor features along with the ability to store target heart rate ranges and GPS to obtain accurate workout mileage.

The other types of hrm monitors are the kinds that measure the heart rate on the fingertip or the wrist. These monitors can cost between $20 and $50. These types of monitors typically lack the features of the watch and strap heart rate monitors.

How Accurate Are Fitness Tracker Heart Rate Monitors?

Actually some wrist-worn heart-rate monitors are more accurate than others.

However, if getting an accurate heart-rate measurement is very important, then you might want to consider a chest strap monitor.

Those of you who have a wrist-worn hrm monitor may be aware that readings aren't always accurate.

Commercial heart-rate monitors use chest straps, which measure the heart's electrical activity with electrodes. Now, many fitness tracker companies have added heart-rate monitors to the devices worn on the wrist. These use optical sensors, which detect light bouncing back from blood flow beneath the skin, to measure your pulse.

Hrm monitors use light to measure your pulse by shining a light into the blood vessels in your wrist, detecting the changes in blood volume that occur each time your heart beats and pushes blood through your body. This way of measuring heart rate can become challenging when people exercise because of other external factors like ambient light and the movement of muscles. It can interfere with the measurements. Although companies have developed algorithms that cancel out a lot of the "noise" generated by people's movements. This noise has the potential to be a bigger problem for wrist-worn monitors than for chest straps that use electrodes.

Optimal heart rate monitoring for those striving to reach their health and fitness goals is best achieved by taking heart rate across an extended time frame.

Hrm monitors are no longer just a medical equipment, they are fast becoming a fashion accessory. Athletes, and those who take their workout seriously like to sport it as it is of great help to achieve their goals.

It has been predicted that the heart rate monitors are going to make an explosion in the tech market. Some of the emerging players are:

  • Apple (United States)
  • Garmin Ltd. (United States)
  • Visiomed Group (France)
  • Samsung Electronics (South Korea)
  • Nike (United States)
  • Fitbit (United States)
  • Beurer (Germany)
  • Omron Healthcare Inc. (Japan)
  • LG Electronics (South Korea)
  • TomTom International (Netherland)
  • Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (China)
  • Motorola Solutions Inc. (United States)
  • Sony (Japan)

This has been determined keeping in mind the following factors:

  • the competitive situation
  • sales, revenue
  • global market share of top manufacturers

The market may seem an upsurge owing to the following reasons:

  • Increasing rates of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues
  • Increase in the government’s support and easy funding
  • The growing trend of using wearable heart rate monitors such as Smartwatch among millennials
  • Rising emphasis on health and fitness
  • Increasing geriatric population and increasing healthcare expenditure worldwide
  • Rise in demand for smartphone-compatible and wireless medical devices and spiraling technological innovations in smart medical devices

But, there are a few challenges involved too, which are:

Privacy issues related to the data gathered and shared by such devices and government regulations and device protection and thermal consideration

As much as these hrm monitors are going to help you monitor your heart rate and your overall health. There are certain things, that one should follow, to keep their health in check. These are pretty basic, and we’ve probably been hearing about them and reading about them all over, but don’t follow them. These are some basics that we should all follow:

  • getting the recommended activity of 150 minutes a week
  • eating healthy, whole foods that are low in saturated fats
  • checking with your doctor and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar checked to see if there’s any diabetes or high blood pressure

The icing on the cake is the accuracy of these devices. The overall accuracy of the devices relative to ECG are variable with average errors of 7.2 beats per minute (BPM) in the consumer-grade wearables and 13.9 BPM in the research-grade wearables at rest.

Wearables are ubiquitous in today’s society. Such devices have evolved in their capabilities from step counters to devices that measure calories burnt, sleep, and heart rate. It’s pretty common to meet people using a wearable or two to track their fitness goals.

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers see an enormous opportunity to increase the tracking of infectious diseases, especially in regard to the ongoing influenza season. It turns out, tracking fluctuations in your heart rate during sleep could signal that your body is fighting a viral infection like the coronavirus.

Health and Wellness

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