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What is the Purpose of Heart Rate Monitors?

written by: Melinda F. • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 6/29/2011

You have probably heard of heart rate monitors before but do you know exactly what they do? How do you know which one to choose? This article answers the question, "What is the purpose of heart rate monitors?".

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    Serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts will sometimes use heart rate monitors during their training to be sure they are training within their own personal target heart rate zone. The target heart rate zone will vary with each individual but staying in your particular zone ensures that you are getting the most from your workout.

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    Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

    If you aren’t sure what your target heart rate is, it’s really easy to find out. There are all kinds of charts available online and you can also figure it out manually. All you need to do is subtract your age from the number 220. This will give you your own personal maximum heart rate. When you are training your heart rate should never exceed this number or you could be risking your health.

    To get your target heart rate zone for workouts you’ll want to be within 50 to 80% of your maximum heart rate. For example let’s say that you are 30 years of age. Your maximum heart rate is approximately 190 beats per minute. If you stay in your target heart rate zone then your heart rate should be between 95 and 162 beats per minute. These numbers are approximate but should give you a general idea.

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    The Two Types

    Heart rate monitors will allow you to see whether you are training in your target heart rate zone or not and there are basically two different kinds to choose from besides those that are built in to exercise machines.

    The first type of heart rate monitor uses a chest strap in addition to a wristwatch. The chest strap is worn during your workout and has the ability to measure your heart rate and then display it directly onto the wristwatch so you can see it.

    The second type involves a wristwatch that has sensors on it that will measure your pulse to determine your approximate heart rate. These are a bit less accurate and you have to stop exercising to take your pulse and get your heart rate reading.

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    Features

    Heart rate monitors vary widely and some are very basic while others have all kinds of different features. If you’re mainly into making sure you’re training within your zone, all you may need is a monitor that will measure and display your heart rate. If you crave numbers and like to analyze, then you may prefer something that offers a bit more. They will no doubt cost a bit more but you can choose from monitors that have timers, alarms, warnings, and ones that will also show how many calories you’ve burned in addition to other types of information.

    In order to be absolutely sure that you’re getting the most out of each and every workout, it’s crucial that you’re training within your target heart rate zone.

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