What are Heart Rate Monitors?
Heart rate monitors are a personal device that can be used to gauge your intensity level while exercising. The quickest and most simple answer as to how they work is to say that they transmit a signal from your chest strap to your wrist watch which displays how many beats per minute your heart is pumping during a workout. The more detailed answer on how they can do this is another matter all together. As the heart beats, it sets out an electrical signal that can be picked up through the skin. In order for your watch to receive this information, you must put on a chest strap directly underneath your pectoral muscles so that the strap can pick up the electrical impulse. The strap works as an electrode and uses radio signals to measure the electrical activity of your heart. The strap then takes this information and turns it into heart rate data and transmits it to the wrist watch for it to display.
What Are the Benefits of Exercise with Heart Rate Monitors?
There are numerous benefits to be gained from wearing a heart rate monitor during exercise. First of all, they can help you attain an ideal heart rate zone so that you are continuously working out at the intensity that you want to be exercising at. If you are just beginning an exercise routine and overexert yourself while exercising, it can be counterproductive to your health and your overall goals. For example, say that your goals are to burn the most fat calories possible so that you can lose a majority of your calories from your stored body fat. If you exercise at an intensity that is greater than 85%, you begin working out at what is known as the anaerobic zone instead of staying inside the aerobic zone. This is important because working out at that high of an intensity will cause your body to turn away from using fat as an energy source and start using stored glycogen as its main fuel. This process will in turn produce greater lactic acid which will store up in your muscles causing that burning sensation as you begin to fatigue. You may burn a greater number of calories by working out at a higher intensity, but less of those calories will be coming from your fat stores and you will tire out much faster.
There are several other benefits of exercising with a heart rate monitor. They are very effective at allowing the exerciser to gradually increase exercise intensity in a graded and careful manner. This reduces the risk of injury, overexertion, and excessive stress on the cardiovascular system. Heart rate monitors are very beneficial for people who have been advised by their physicians not to exercise over a certain intensity level, which can be gauged by looking at the Heart Rate Zones.
What are the Heart Rate Zones?
Here are a list of the different Heart Rate Zones and how they can affect your fitness goals:
Healthy Heart Zone: (50 – 60% maximum heart rate) - this is considered the easiest and safest zone for beginning exercisers. It is ideal for warm-ups so that you can loosen up your muscles and get blood flowing throughout your body. This zone has been shown to decrease overall body fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of degenerative diseases as well as the risk of injury. The majority (85%) of the calories burned in this zone come from fat.
Fitness Zone: (60 – 70% maximum heart rate) – this zone is nearly identical to the Healthy Heart Zone, but because of the increased intensity it burns more total calories. The majority (85%) of the calories burned still come from fat.
Aerobic Zone: (70 – 80% maximum heart rate) – this zone is ideal for people looking to strengthen and improve their heart. It is great for building up your cardiovascular and respiratory systems and is considered highly beneficial for people looking to train for endurance events. Half (50%) of the calories are burned from fat.
Anaerobic Zone: (80 – 90% maximum heart rate) – there are some great benefits derived from this zone such as an increased VO2 max (the greatest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise) which builds up your cardiovascular system as well as a higher lactate tolerance ability which staves off fatigue allowing for longer periods of exercise and a greater calorie burn. Small amounts (15%) of the calories are burned from fat.
Red Line: (90 – 100% maximum heart rate) – this zone is only for those who are conditioned for it and are cleared by a physician to do so. Because of its high intensity, many calories are burned but fatigue sets in much faster causing shortened exercise sessions.
What Are the Best Heart Rate Monitors?
Here is a list of some of the top rated Heart Rate Monitors on Amazon.com:
- Omron HR-100C Heart Rate Monitor
- Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor
- Polar FS1 Heart Rate Monitor Watch (Dark Blue)
- Timex Ironman Men’s Road Trainer Heart Rate Monitor Watch, Black/Orange, Full Size
- Suunto M5 Men’s Heart Rate Monitor and Fitness Training Watch (Black)
EllipticalsTrainer.com (2010, December 29). Heart Rate Monitor. Retrieved from https://www.ellipticaltrainers.com/info/heart_monitor.htm
TopEndSports.com (2010, December 29). Heart Rate Monitors – How do They Work? Retrieved from https://www.topendsports.com/fitness/equip-monitors.htm
NewFitness.com (2010, December 29). The Importance of Exercise and the Benefits of Heart Rate Monitors. Retrieved from https://new-fitness.com/exercise/heart_rate_monitors_one.html