The heart rate monitor is an important tool. It helps to give important data to determine the efficiency or lack of efficiency of the cardiovascular system. It monitors the number of times the heart beats per minute and then you can use that data to determine things like – how long it takes for the heart to return to its resting heart rate: how long you are in your target heart rate zone: and how many calories are burned during a cardio session.
Why is this important?
(Click the link above) Monitoring resting heart rates daily can provide a window into external stressors such as overtraining, prolonged stress (over triggering of sympathetic system), sleep deprivation, dehydration and illness. According to the American Heart Association the greatest stressors on the heart are high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
(Click the link above) Using a blended average of the heart rate during a work session can give a general idea of how many calories are burned supporting weight loss goals.
(Click the link above) The heart rate monitor market is flooded with a myriad of options these days. In terms of technology there are two ways to go - chest strap monitoring and optical sensor monitoring.
1. Resting Heart Rate
A good resting heart rate is an indicator of good heart health and fitness and typically falls between 60-80 bpm for the average person. According to the American Heart Association a healthy resting heart rate ranges from 60-100 bpm and a resting heart rate above 100 bpm is dangerous and defined as tachycardia (See AMA article).
By taking daily reads of the resting heart rate using a heart rate monitor it gives the user a powerful tool. Diligent tracking of spikes in the resting heart rate can be a helpful diagnostic. When spikes occur in a healthy resting heart rate then the user can review activity leading up to the spike to discover what caused it. Some typical causes of a spike could be excessive coffee, lack of sleep, overtraining, psychological stress or the onset of illness.
Here are 3 strategies to consider to reduce your resting heart rate. The quicker the heart returns to its resting rate the greater the efficiency and health of the heart.
- Consider modifying your diet moving away from refined carbohydrates and sugar. Click here to download your FREE guide to sugar -
- Consider establishing a good sleep pattern tapping into the body’s circadian rhythms. When the sleep cycle is disrupted or inconsistent it makes it difficult for the body to function efficiently. See NIH article on Circadian Rhythms.
- Consider learning how to utilize meditative breathing. The breath is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to bring down the heart rate preventing a huge cortisol jump from the adrenals that sets a negative chain reaction off in the body.
2. Target Heart Rate
Your target heart rate gives you a guideline for the intensity of your exercise on the cardiovascular system. A good, simple way to determine your maximum target heart rate for your training efforts is to subtract your age from 220. The number identified becomes the maximum target heart rate and is considered the heart’s 100% effort. See example below.
100% Max: 220-39=181
50%-60%: 181 x .5=91, 181x.6=109 Range: 91-109
60%-80%: 181x.6=109, 181x.8=145 Range: 109-145
80%-90%: 181x.8=145, 181x.9=163 Range: 145-163
3. Blended Average Heart Rate
Heart rate monitors only indirectly estimate calories expended during certain types of exercise. For greatest calorie counting accuracy you must be able to include VO2 max along with HR max, VO2 max, gender, age weight and HR rest. The VO2 max measures the maximum amount of oxygen the body utilizes during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.
Does that mean that the estimate of calories expended is not useful unless you know your VO2 max? This is not necessarily true. If you are consistent in monitoring your activity using a heart rate monitor the calorie data gathered is accurate unto itself. Combine this information with a structured nutrition plan to manage weight loss goals. Typically it takes 3,500 calories burned in a week through exercise to lose a pound of fat. It is important to know generally how many calories you are taking in so you can find the tipping point where your metabolism works for you and starts to burn bodyfat stores.
Which Heart Rate Monitor is Best for You?
The heart rate monitor market is flooded with a myriad of options these days. In terms of technology there are two ways to go - chest strap monitoring and optical sensor monitoring. Overall optical sensor monitoring is primarily preferred because of its incorporation into fitness trackers. Prior to your purchase here are some things to consider:
1. What is your spending limit?
Generally, most heart rate monitor/fitness trackers cost between $75-$250. If you pay less than $75 you will find mediocre accuracy which defeats the purpose of tracking. More expensive options with a GPS feature are tailored toward athletes and exercise enthusiasts and may not be necessary.
2. What type of activity are you monitoring?
What sport do you participate in? Swimmers will want a waterproof tracker, but keep in mind that not all water-safe trackers actually track swimming. Runners will probably want a watch that shows time, distance, pace, and lap time, at the very least. Cyclists have even more considerations. There's a difference between tracking how many miles you pedal and calories you burn versus monitoring your power and cadence.
3. What style of monitor fits your goals?
Chest Strap Monitoring
Chest strap heart rate monitors measure electrical signals generated by your heart when it contracts. Because of its direct contact over the heart a chest strap tends to be more accurate. The downside of the chest strap is ease of use and comfort. If not wrapped tightly around the chest it can easily slip out of place and is difficult to reposition while moving. The chest strap is primarily used by runners and cyclists, but is not practical for long-term monitoring of resting heart rate.
Optical Sensor Monitoring
Optical wrist sensor monitors are the most common pulse sensors. Heart rate data is measured using photoplethysmography. This is a process of using small LED lights to refract off of blood flow to determine pulse readings. There can be periodic connectivity issues with the watch that cause a slight lag in measuring spikes in heart rates. Overall, this is a far more comfortable way to monitor heart rate especially for long-term monitoring of resting heart rate.
Where are you at in your fitness goals?
Consider adding a heart rate monitor to your gym bag or your life. Whether you are an active athlete or an average person trying to shed body fat this is an essential tool for physical transformation and overall health.
Would you lift weights without knowing the poundage? Why do cardio without knowing your intensity?
After extensive research we have compiled a list of many different heart rate monitor options from chest straps to armbands to smartwatches. More expensive options with a GPS feature are tailored toward athletes and exercise enthusiasts and may not be necessary. We found that quality, accurate heart rate monitor/fitness trackers cost between $60-$275. Learn More about our recommendations.
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