Understanding Heart Rate Monitors

We’ve started the New Year and with that, many of us create goals to become healthier and happier. Being active and having a commitment to a fitness plan is a great start, but what if there is something that you could know/learn that could make your progress a bit quicker?

That’s where a heart rate monitor comes in. Heart rate monitors (HRM) are great tools that help find your ideal target zone of heartbeats per minute. A HRM tells you how to pace your workout. It is that personal coach that tells you when to speed up or when to slow down in order to reach the maximum benefits you want.

There are many HRMs out there, so how do you know what is the best one for you? There are two major types of HRMs out there: chest strap models and strapless models. Chest strap models have wireless sensor attached to the chest that sends heart rate information to a receiver (usually a wristwatch) that will display the data. Most models will give you a total workout time, as well as your high, low, and average heart rate. Strapless models have the sensor built into the watch’s wristband. These models tend to be less accurate in detecting actual heart rate and usually do not show speed or distance. The up side to these is their comfort level compared to wearing a chest strap.

Here are a few quality HRM’s:

1. Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch

  • Easy to use watch with multiple features, featuring GPS, heart rate, activity, and sleep tracking
  • Known for convenience and does not require a chest strap

2. Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate Monitor

  • Entry-level watch with data-tracking and fitness management features
  • Requires chest strap

3. Garmin Vivofit Fitness Band

  • Tracks activity 24hr/day with GPS function, includes sleep tracking
  • Ability to track heart rate with purchased chest strap

Heart Rate Target Zones

The American Heart Association offers the chart below as a general guideline. (Note that some medications can affect your target rate zone.) Note, it is always best to have a stress test done under the supervision of a physician to determine your actual maximum heart rate.


A maximum heart rate at different aerobic zones provides specific results:

Endurance (60%–70%): Considered ideal for endurance and weight-loss programs. Develops cardiovascular and muscular efficiency. The body learns to use stored fat as fuel.

Aerobic (70%–80%): Ideal for overall cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and weight management. The body burns mostly fat and carbohydrates in this zone.

Anaerobic (80%–90%): Used for interval workouts or consistent speed. At this zone, your breathing will be heavy and your muscles tired. Enhances lung capacity and increases lactate tolerance.

VO2 Max (90%–100%): Helps enhance speed in athletes (who exercise at this level only for short periods as muscles quickly go into oxygen debt).

Many of our members at Arizona Training Lab use HRM’s. If you have any questions, just ask! We are here to help!

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