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.
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