Updated: December 2017

Heart Rate Monitor Reviews and Buying Guide:

In order to achieve an effective aerobic workout, you need to maintain your heart rate in the proper zone for at least 20 minutes per session. If your heart rate goes too high or low, you lose the overall workout effectiveness. Using a heart rate monitor will help ensure that your body is burning fat at optimal levels. Fat burning and weight reduction occur in the optimal zone of 55-65% of your maximum heart rate which usually coincides with lower intensity and longer duration exercises. Whether you are swimming, running, cycling, or just walking, a good heart rate monitor (HRM) will help guide your fitness routine and keep you motivated to keep up your exercise schedule. Some of the HRM's have chest straps which closely monitor your heart rate (pulse) and send the data to a monitor that is usually worn on your wrist. Women have always had troubles with the chest straps since they were more often than not created for men and the fit was never right. Now, you can buy strapless heart rate monitors that you wear just a like - hence the name heart rate monitor watch. With the touch of your finger, the watch can give you a readout on your pulse and let you know if you are in the target workout zone.

Many of the budget priced heart rate monitors like the Omron HR-100C and the Reebok Fitwatch 10S are under $50, but we suggest going with something more expensive like the very popular Polar F6 (mens and womens models available). The F6 is about $100 and considered an excellent heart rate monitor for those involved with sports other than just basic walking. In low end HRM's you will get readouts for heart rate and maybe exercise time, but that's about it. As you move up in price range, you get additional features like heart rate zone alarms and alerts so you can always stay in your optimal workout zone. There are lots of timers such as stopwatch, interval timers, countdown timers, alarm, and clock. More advance heart rate monitors figure your calories burned, have preprogrammed workouts, fitness tests, and more. Ultimately you want a monitor that is easy to use and has a display screen that is easy to read. The design should be intuitive and the programs should be easy to follow. The pulse monitors are our favorites since there is no chest strap to use - there are sensor buttons where you place your fingers (1 or 2) to get a reading on your pulse. Some experts say the chest strap models are more accurate as they keep a constant readout on your heart rate while the pulse monitors only check it periodically. My wife recently trained for the Portland Marathon and we started with a basic pedometer but she quickly moved on to a heart rate monitor - the Timex Ironman T5J985 Unisex Trail Runner Bodylink Heart Rate Monitor Watch which covered everything she wanted to measure for her training routine. Some of the more expensive HRM watches come with software so you can track your workouts. In reviews, the heart monitors that were the most accurate received the highest scores. We found excellent in depth reviews on Exerciseequipmentexpert.com, About.com (walking and running sections), and Runners World magazine updates their top picks often in reviews. Consumer Reports did some research on monitors some years back, but nothing in the last few years. We found most of our information on sites like Amazon.com which list the most popular models, many of which have dozens of consumer reviews and owner comments on pros and cons of each particular model. The top brands are Omron, Polar, Reebok, Nike, Timex, Mio, Acumen, Cardio Sport, Garmin, and Oregon Scientific. RECOMMEND - You can browse the selection of best selling heart rate monitors here.

Best Heart Rate Monitor:

RECOMMENDED - The best overall heart rate monitor is the Polar F11 ($160) which gives you lots of features. The "Keeps U Fit" program is very personalized and you are constantly getting feedback on your heart rate and calories burned so you can get the best workout possible. The F11 uses a coded transmitter (Wearlink) to get your heart rate negating interference from potential nearby HRM's. The Polar will track heart rate, exercise time, average heart rate, and it's water resistant to 100 feet (30meters) so all those swimmers out there will love it. Reviews for all the Polar heart rate monitors are very positive, so really any model you choose should do the job. The best heart rate monitor based on value is the Polar F6 at $110 - it comes in a black coal color for men and a pink coral for women. Users say the monitor is accurate and easy to use allowing you to view previous workout data and the displays are are big enough to view while working out. The F6 heart rate monitor guides you through your workouts and keeps you in the optimal fat burning levels. It features Automatic/Manual Target Heart Rate Zone. The only disadvantage to this heart rate monitor (HRM) is that you have to send back the chest strap and wrist monitor to Polar when replacing batteries per the manufacturer. You can view all the best selling Polar heart rate monitors online here.

GPS Heart Rate Monitor:

RECOMMENDED - The best GPS heart rate monitor is made by Garmin. The Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor is expensive ($170) due to the global positioning system it comes with. With built in pc software so you can analyze and make workouts, it's probably not meant for anyone but advanced workout enthusiasts. This training assistant is perfect for athletes out there - it tracks speed, distance, and pace. Signal reception is superior to other competitors and the Garmin 305 includes software so you can keep track of all your training needs. My wife has been eyeing this monitor for future training of marathons or perhaps even a triathlon.

Basic Heart Rate Monitor:

RECOMMENDED - The best selling heart rate monitor on Amazon is the Omron HR-100C Heart Rate Monitor and at $35 it's considered a "good quality" budget model. Owners say it's easy to program, comfortable to wear, and the high/low heart rate alarm keeps you on target. Comes with a mounting bracket if you want to put the watch receiver on a treadmill or exercise bike. See all the budget HRM's here.

Reasons for using a heart rate monitor:

  • HRMs measure your heart rate in beats per minute so you can track your aerobic exercise level and keep it in a safe zone
  • HRMs are a perfect tool to maximize the benefits of your training program
  • HRMs enable you to accurately evaluate your performance so you can make the necessary adjustments to reach your goals
  • HRM's immediate feedback gives you motivation and keeps you working at your optimum level

Get detailed information on specific brands - Reebok Heart Rate Monitor Review - Timex Heart Rate Monitor Reviews - Polar Heart Rate Monitor Reviews