Heart rate monitors generally are classed as basic, intermediate or advanced, which you can think of as good, better and best. Not everyone is going to need a top-of-the-line HRM, so consider these points when you’re trying to decide which model level is a good fit for you.
- How often do you exercise?
Although many basic heart rate monitors are of great quality, there are just as many that skimp. If you’re going to be wearing your HRM at least several times a week, then you might want to skip the basic monitors to get something a little more durable and comfortable.
- What are your exercise goals?
If you’re an average Joe who just wants to drop a few pounds or bump your general health up a notch safely, you don’t need a ton of bells and whistles. You’ll do just fine with a basic monitor that shows you your heart rate, target heart rate zone and calories burned. If you’re already fit but really want to fine tune your shape, or if really want to start getting precise with the exercises you’re doing (e.g., measuring your speed or cadence), then an intermediate-level monitor that’s a little more customizable is the ticket. Top-of-the-line models are meant for professional/serious athletes who truly need to analyze just about every aspect of their training. They offer many more features that will help you analyze your performance through a wider range of fitness activities, providing a truly in-depth look at what is going on inside your body.
- What types of exercise do you do?
A basic monitor should work for most types of exercises. Even so, you might want a more advanced monitor based on specific sports you enjoy doing. For example, if you’re a runner, you might want an intermediate to advanced model that can provide information about your location, elevation or how dehydrated you are. Similarly, if you’re someone who adores working out with others in fitness classes, it can be worth it to get a more advanced digital heart rate monitor, as the signal from these types of monitors is coded, thereby eliminating interference or “cross talk” with other monitors or devices. You often have to go a little more higher end for swimming, too, as you need something that’s built to be water safe and that provides the newer digital technology (analog signal won’t travel through water well).
- How often or in depth will you be analyzing your heart rate monitor data?
You can stick with a basic heart rate monitor if you just want to log your calories burned after your workout and glance down from time to time to see if you’re in your target zone. If you’re going to sit down every day and get picky about elements like how long you were working anaerobically, though, you’ll probably need to go intermediate, not just because you’ll get more data, but because the data will be easier to access. Go advanced if you not only want tons of information but want maximum flexibility with it, too, such as the ability to automatically sync with a website or create printable graphs of your progress.
- Do you have other devices you want to use with the monitor?
Most gym equipment can pick up the signal from high-quality analog heart rate monitors like the HeartQ, meaning you can look at your data on the equipment’s main display. This isn’t the same, however, as syncing to devices like Bluetooth headsets or your smartphone. For that, you’ll need a monitor capable of producing a digital signal, which likely will force you into the intermediate or advanced categories.
- What degree of maintenance are you willing to accept?
More basic models can be more efficient in terms of power because they typically have simpler displays and aren’t processing nearly as much data. More advanced models also might need software updates.
- What do you want in terms of aesthetics?
Although it’s not a hard and fast rule, higher-end heart rate monitors tend to be more lightweight and compact because they utilize different materials. They also sometimes offer customization options, such as different colored bands you can swap out.
What pushed you to choose your level of heart monitor? Do you think more advanced models are worth the higher price given their additional features?
Eastern Mountain Sports (n.d.) How to Choose a Heart Rate Monitor. http://www.ems.com/shop/index.jsp?categoryId=3942310
Idealbite.com (2014). How to Choose the Best Heart Rate Monitor for You http://idealbite.com/how-to-choose-the-best-heart-rate-monitor-for-you/