Heart rate monitors — a great tracking tool

Often, in this column, we discuss monitoring and tracking exercise intensity. Heart rate monitors are one of the simplest tools used to track and measure intensity.

A good quality heart rate monitor provides immediate feedback regarding the heart rate, kilocalorie expenditure, average/maximum heart rate during the exercise bout and, depending upon the model and make of monitor, a weekly file on exercise statistics. In my experience with clients, utilizing a monitor increases intensity awareness throughout each workout enabling them to track their progress.

Countless times through the years, clients who had previously not been achieving their fitness goals, began to utilize a monitor and experience excellent outcomes. Therefore, check out the guidelines for purchasing a monitor below and as always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

If you have a pacemaker or other cardiac device, you may not be a candidate for wearing a heart rate monitor due to possible interference. Consequently, always follow the device’s directions.

• Purchase a good quality heart rate monitor. How do you know if it is a good quality monitor? Spend a little time researching through consumer publications, thoroughly reading the information and understanding the specifications of the monitor and then contrast and compare based upon your specific needs.

• For most of my clients, we opt for a simple monitor that provides the heart rate, kilocalorie expenditure, file of weekly exercise statistics and is simple to operate and to read (i.e. keep in mind that you need to be able to see the readout, so choose a monitor that may be easily read).

• While there are many monitors on the market, some of the most common are Polar, Timex and Garmin. Purchase what you will use and avoid too many bells and whistles unless you are tech-savvy and enjoy downloading your statistics, etc.

• Monitors range in price from $60 to $600 and come in both men’s and women’s styles, colors and sizes.

• Consult with your fitness professional if you require assistance setting up the monitor although the instruction manual is usually self-explanatory.

• One aspect of heart rate monitors that I really like is the Polar “Own Zone” feature, which enables the user to input their own target heart rate zone rather than utilizing the maximal heart rate formula which has no scientific foundation. You may chat with your fitness professional, who should be trained to administer a sub-maximal heart rate test that will provide you with your target heart rate zone reflecting the test results. Then, you may take that information and input it into the monitor so that your tracking data is more accurate (i.e. a true maximal heart rate test is performed in the presence of a licensed cardiologist in most cases and is outside the scope of practice of the average fitness professional which is why we perform sub-maximal tests).

• Once the monitor is programmed, then it is as simple as strapping on the transmitter (usually a chest strap but there are arm strap and wrist strap models available) and the “watch” and get busy performing your program.

• Monitors are usually battery-operated, so you will occasionally need to change the transmitter and watch battery.

• Follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning/maintaining.

• Check out www.HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com for purchasing your heart rate monitor.

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