5 Reasons to Invest in a Heart Rate Monitor for Exercise

Heart rate monitors are growing in popularity. No wonder! They provide feedback on how fast your heart is beating and you don’t have to stop and take your pulse to get that information. A quick glance at a heart rate monitor will give you the information you need. You can get feedback on your heart rate by wearing a monitor at several sites, including your wrist and arm, but your best bet is a heart rate monitor you place on your chest since they’re the most accurate.

Why would you want to wear a heart rate monitor? Let’s look at some of the benefits of monitoring your heart rate during exercise by wearing a monitor.

1. Feedback from a Heart Rate Monitor is a Good Gauge of Exercise Intensity

When you work out, it’s important to know how vigorously you’re exercising. Although you can use low-tech options for estimating exercise intensity like the talk test, it’s not as precise as knowing what your heart rate is.

A heart rate monitor gives you immediate feedback on how hard you’re working. If your goal is to train at a high intensity through high-intensity interval training, a heart rate monitor will ensure you’re achieving a high enough intensity to improve your anaerobic fitness level. Likewise, if your goal is to enhance your aerobic capabilities, it will make sure you’re in the aerobic training zone.

Wearing a heart rate monitor also gives you the ability to make intensity adjustments on the fly. At a glance, you can see whether your heart rate is dropping below your target zone and fire up the intensity to ensure you get benefits. Likewise, you can slow things down if you’re overdoing it.

2.It Can Help You Stay Motivated

The instant feedback a heart rate monitor provides is motivating. You see your heart rate in real-time and get the joy of knowing you’re training hard. Studies show that feedback like this is empowering and increases motivation and the willingness to stick with an exercise program. You can also use a heart rate monitor to check your resting heart rate over time and see how it changes. As you become fitter, your resting heart rate should drop.

3.A Heart Rate Monitor Helps You Track Whether You’re Pushing Too Hard

Exercise should place stress on your body but not to the point that your body can’t recover between sessions. Overreaching is a common problem among serious athletes but anyone who pushes themselves too hard without allowing adequate recovery can experience signs and symptoms of overreaching.

A heart rate monitor can help you determine whether your body isn’t recovering adequately from your training sessions. The best way to do this is to measure your recovery heart rate after exercise.

To check your recovery heart rate, write down your heart rate right after your exercise session ends based on what your heart rate monitor says. Wait one minute and then recheck it. Now, subtract the first heart rate from the second. If the number is 12 or less, you’re either in poor aerobic shape or you’re pushing your body too hard without allowing adequate recovery. The best way to use heart rate recovery is to check it at the end of every training session and write it down. If you notice your heart rate recovery slows, it’s a red flag that you could be overreaching.

Make sure you’re not dehydrated when you do this test. Dehydration can slow heart rate recovery. Also, a slow heart rate recovery is a marker for a higher risk of cardiac events, such as heart attacks. A quick heart rate recovery is a marker of a healthy heart.

4.A Heart Rate Monitor Can Help You Exercise Safer

If you check your heart rate and see it’s much higher than usual when you’re doing the same workout, it could be a sign that you’re dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can raise your heart rate and make exercise feel harder. If you’re diabetic, a rapid heart rate may be a sign that your blood sugar level is dropping and you’re becoming hypoglycemic. A heart rate monitor is also important if you take certain medications, like beta-blockers, that make it harder to achieve your target heart rate. Plus, if you have certain health conditions, your physician might recommend keeping the intensity of your workouts lower. A heart rate monitor helps you do that by providing feedback.

5.A Heart Rate Monitor is Multi-Functional

A heart rate monitor is helpful when you aren’t doing a structured workout. Wear one when you hike or take a leisure walk to see how hard you’re working. You can even strap it one while you’re doing housework. You may discover the tasks you do every day boosts your heart rate enough to offer cardiovascular benefits. It’s also useful when you play leisure sports such as tennis or volleyball to get feedback on how hard you’re working.

The Bottom Line

A heart rate monitor will help you optimize your workouts by providing continuous feedback on heart rate. Some offer added features and will track parameters such as calorie burn and allow you to upload your data to a spreadsheet on your computer. Some will even let you set your target heart rate and will beep when you fall above or below it. You may not need the more advanced features. If that’s the case, get a basic monitor that will give tell you your heart rate at a glance. There are other ways to monitor your heart rate but there’s none easier than wearing a monitor when you work out.


Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2019 Aug; 9(4): 379-385. doi: 10.21037/cdt.2019.06.05.
Wearable Heart Rate Trackers: Which Works Best? Len Kravitz, PhD

Gaining Weight With Exercise: 6 Reasons You’re Exercising but Still Gaining Weight

6 Reasons You’re Exercising but Still Gaining Weight

People start to exercise for many reasons. Some want to improve their stamina and energy level. Others enjoy the disease preventive benefits that exercise offers. But one of the most common reasons people work out is to lose weight. However, it’s frustrating if you’re doing it for weight loss and you’re gaining weight instead! You might wonder what you’re doing wrong and how to correct it.

The reality is you may not be doing anything wrong. If you’re working your muscles against resistance, you could be gaining muscle rather than body fat. Muscle weighs more than fat and it’s pushing the needle on the scale up. Your body composition is improving but the scale doesn’t reflect it. That’s why measuring body fat percentage gives you more information than body weight.

However, it is possible that you are gaining body fat since you started exercising. Let’s look at some reasons why.

1. You Reward Yourself with Food

Using food as a reward and overeating after a workout is the most common reason people gain weight after starting an exercise program. Studies show people are notorious at overestimating the calories they burn during a workout. It’s true of men and women.

In one study, researchers asked men and women to estimate how many calories they burned during an hour-long workout. The subjects said they burned 400 calories but objective data showed they expended only 250 calories. If you adjust your eating habits around that optimistic estimate, you’ll more than compensate for the calories you burned off.

The truth is it takes a lot of exercise to burn off a chocolate chip cookie or a Frappuccino with whipped cream from Starbucks. Even worse, people often don’t count the calories they drink, such as sugary beverages they hydrate with during a workout. It all counts! Also, don’t use food as a reward for working out. Exercise because it makes you feel good, not to earn a brownie. Replace those after-workout snacks with more nutrient-dense fare. How about a container of plain yogurt with fruit?

Studies also suggest that more intense exercise stimulates appetite in some people but the research is conflicting. Some show intense exercise reduces the desire to eat afterward. Take note of how exercise affects your appetite after different workout intensities. Once you know, you can devise strategies for not consuming more calories than you burned off.

2. You’re Not Strength Training Enough

Don’t fall into the trap of only doing cardio exercise to lose weight. Cardio burns more calories while you’re doing it but strength training builds metabolically active muscle tissue that increases the amount of fat you burn even when you aren’t exercising. It’s an investment in a healthy metabolism. The effect of building muscle is modest but it all counts. Plus, strength training is less likely to boost your appetite than cardio. Switch some of your focus toward strengthening your muscles.

3. You Use Exercise as an Excuse Not to Change Your Eating Habits

Exercise and nutrition go together. Sometimes people think if they exercise they don’t have to address their eating habits. A little voice inside your head might tell you that if you’re burning more calories you don’t have to watch what you eat. But, as mentioned, you may overestimate the calories you expend during exercise and eat enough to gain weight. Plus, your body has different nutritional needs when you work out. Make sure you’re supplying your muscles with the macronutrients and micronutrients they need by eating a nutrient-rich diet. Skip the junk food. It won’t nourish your body and the sugar and empty calories will lead to weight gain.

4. You’re Sitting Between Workouts

All movement counts! After exhausting yourself with a workout, do you head for an easy chair for the rest of the day? Working out can’t make up for hours of uninterrupted sitting, not to mention sitting more than 6 hours per day increases all-cause mortality. Add more movement to your day by taking short walks and stretching breaks. Find opportunities to add more motion to your day – take the stairs, park further away, do housework with more vigor. A fitness tracker can help you track your movement when you aren’t exercising. Also, don’t exhaust yourself so much during a workout that you don’t feel like moving the rest of the day.

5. You’re Weighing Too Often

Bodyweight fluctuates on a daily basis and not all weight gain is body fat. You may experience water weight gain during certain times of the month or gain a few pounds due to constipation or eating a large, salty meal. In fact, it can take several days for your weight to return to baseline after eating overindulging at a buffet. Medications can contribute to weight gain too. Stop weighing so often and pay more attention to how your clothes are fitting and how you feel. Ultimately, that is the most important.

6. Your Workouts are Stressing You Out

One of the most common reasons people overeat and gain weight is emotional eating or stress eating. That can happen if you’re pushing yourself so hard during your workouts that it’s stressing you out. Exercising too long and too often can work against you by elevating the stress hormone cortisol. In turn, cortisol can contribute to muscle breakdown and an increased appetite. Switch some of those high-intensity exercise sessions with mind-body exercises like yoga and light stretching to help your body recover from the more strenuous sessions. It’s all about balance. Also, consider taking your workouts outdoors on a sunny day. Exercising in nature is a stress reliever and exercising in natural light will help optimize your biological clock for better weight control. You’ll also get a dose of vitamin D.

The Bottom Line

Now you have a better idea of why you’re exercising and gaining weight or not losing weight. But remember, even if you aren’t satisfied with your weight loss, you’re gaining health benefits and building more strength and stamina. That’s worthwhile too.


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