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What is a Heart Rate Monitor Watch?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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A heart rate monitor watch is a tool designed to determine a user's heart rate while exercising. It looks much like a regular timekeeping wrist watch, and most have extra features in addition to heart rate monitoring such as a clock or a stopwatch, among others. A heart rate monitor watch is an excellent way to monitor physical fitness, determine whether one is exercising in the target heart rate zone, and stay safe while exercising.

A heart rate monitor watch may be designed in one of two ways. The first type of heart rate monitor is simply a watch without any additional accessories; the user must stop and place his or her fingers on the watch in order to determine heart rate. This design is the simplest and least expensive, but may not be completely accurate. It also requires the user to stop exercising to check heart rate, which may not always be ideal. When choosing this type of heart rate monitor watch, search for one with large buttons that are easy to press with sweaty fingers.

The second type of heart rate monitor watch also includes a chest strap, which often connects wirelessly to the watch. The chest strap monitors the heart rate consistently while exercising, usually delivering very accurate results, which are then displayed on the wristwatch. This heart rate monitor design is more expensive, but is a better choice for athletes or those who exercise frequently and at higher intensities. Either type of monitor should have a display with large numbers that are easy to read.

In addition to its timekeeping and heart rate display capabilities, a heart rate monitor watch may also be able to connect to a computer and transfer the readings onto it. The user can then view heart rates on various days, as well as track improvement, or even print out results to give to one's doctor. In addition, they watch may also be able to track calories burned if the user enters his or her weight and age first. Some may also be able to tell the user if he or she is in a specific heart rate "zone."

Zones often refer to the percentage at which one is exercising. For instance, maximum heart rate is considered to be 220 minus the person's age; so, for a 20-year-old, maximum heart rate would be 200. Exercising at 50 percent of that target heart rate, for instance, means that heart rate would hover around approximately 100 beats per minute. Exercising at 80 percent, the heart rate should be approximately 160. Determining heart rate like this is an excellent way to keep the body in a proper heart rate zone, to avoid a dangerously high heartrate, as well as to tailor workouts for weight loss or just physical fitness.

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