Heart Rate Monitor Buyers Guide

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A heart rate monitor will measure your heart rate and pulse during your cardio aerobic exercise routine.

Knowing what to expect from a monitor and how they work should be clear to you before buying, and it is with this intention that we have posted the following buyers guide. Cardio exercise is an important factor to anybody’s heart health regime, therefore, an instrument that effectively measures your pulse and heart beat is essential. Knowing your heart rate can also help you calculate calorie expenditure.


by Wallace C. Donoghue

This buyers guide, prepared by Creative Health Products (chponline.com), explains the uses and benefits of Heart Rate Monitors or Pulse Monitors to anyone interested in their health, fitness and longevity. Note that Heart Rate Monitors and Pulse Monitors are simply different names for the same device. Both measure and display the number of beats per minute that the heart is beating. This guide also describes the different types of heart rate monitors, advantages and disadvantages of each type and the kinds of exercises and uses most suitable for each. The major makes and models of heart rate monitors on the market are described along with the features of each. Creative Health Products has been supplying fitness and health testing products, primarily to institutions, since 1976 and we test and evaluate products sold. We have done this with the heart rate monitors and give you our honest opinions. We stock and sell most of these monitors.

Many things are important to a person’s health, fitness and longevity. Exercise is one of the most important. There is complete agreement among doctors, heart specialists, sports medicine physicians, etc., that aerobic exercise of sufficient duration and frequency, and at the proper heart rate has many benefits. Most people think of exercise only in terms of caloric expenditure, weight reduction, etc., in combination with diet, for the purpose of reducing fat and improving appearance. It is true that these are definite benefits. But there are even more significant and possibly life saving benefits of proper aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise at the proper heart rate can improve cardiovascular fitness, lower risk of heart attack and improve chances of recovery if one does occur, improve mental alertness, improve sleep, increase longevity, increase endurance, reduce fatigue, lower blood pressure and more. You should, of course, consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

In order to obtain the maximum benefit from exercise, particularly in terms of cardiovascular improvement, it is important to exercise at the proper heart rate, and sustain this heart rate for a sufficient period of time. The heart, like any other muscle, can be strengthened by regular exercise. Exercise creates a demand for more blood flow, causes the heart to work harder and its rate to increase. Medical authorities have determined the best heart rate range for optimal cardiovascular conditioning and improvement. This best heart rate range is commonly referred to as the “Target Zone”. It is high enough to achieve and maintain substantial improvement but not so high as to overstress the heart or be harmful.

There are several different formulas for determining your “Target Zone” but all of them produce results that are very similar. The most common method is to first estimate your maximum attainable heart rate. This is done by subtracting your age from 220. Your target zone is between a minimum of 70% of this result and a maximum of 85%. For example, a 40 year old person would have a maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute (220 - 40 = 180). Multiplying 180 by 70% is 126 and by 85% is 153. The optimal exercise target zone for a 40-year-old would, therefore, be between 126 and 153 beats per minute. It should be noted that people are individuals and this formula for determining target zone provides an average for most people. The maximum heart rate for some people can be lower or higher, but the formula provides a good starting point. Research indicates that a heart rate between 60 and 70% will provide optimal fat burn, but not as much cardiovascular conditioning as above 70%. Therefore, if a person is more interested in weight and fat loss, a range of 60 to 70% is better for this purpose. We recommend you consult your physician before you start an exercise program. He or she can recommend a target zone that is best for you depending on your health, physical condition and goals.

Research has shown that for significant cardiovascular improvement to take place the heart rate has to be maintained in the “target zone” continuously for a minimum of 20 minutes during each exercise session. In addition, a minimum of 3 to 4 exercise sessions per week are necessary with no more than 2 days between workouts. Also, each session should begin with a 5 to 10 minute warm-up with intensity gradually increasing to get into the target zone and a 5 to 10 minute cool-down gradually decreasing.

It is impossible for a person to determine their heart rate without measuring it. Without a heart rate monitor a person must stop their exercise and feel their pulse with a finger and count it. This interrupts the exercise which is not desirable and the heart slows down. It may even drop below the minimum level that should be maintained. Furthermore, feeling the pulse and counting it is not accurate and provides only an approximation. By using a heart rate monitor a person can measure their heart rate accurately. And most monitors show a continuous display of heart rate in beats per minute on a digital readout which can be immediately viewed anytime without interrupting the exercise. Most monitors also have alarms that can be set to the users “target zone” which will warn the user with an audible tone if their heart rate goes above or below their target zone. This enables the user to exercise without having to periodically look at the monitor and be confident they are exercising at the proper heart rate.

The above article prepared by Creative Health Products (chponline.com) should have given you a better idea about what a pulse rate or heart rate monitor is, what it does and how it does it. Measuring your progress during your cardio aerobic routine, or any other exercise program, can be very rewarding and help stimulate you to continue your quest for heart health. Don’t give in.

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