I love technology. I love that each day there is potentially something new out there that can track, gauge and help us reach our fitness goals more efficiently. And with everybody being time-poor these days, it makes sense to offload some of the guesswork to a bit of fancy tech!
If you are in the market for a new Heart Rate (HR) monitor than I'm going to tell you the difference between the two main types:
Chest Strap Heart Monitoring
A device that pairs/communicates with a chest strap HR monitor is as accurate as you are going to get. This is because the chest strap picks up electrical impulses sent from your heart, making it a 'real-time' portrayal of your heart rate with zero lag between measurements.
You can even get waterproof chest straps for all of you water rats out there! The best chest straps are the ones that a comfortable to wear and use an 'ANT+/bluetooth' signal to communicate between devices (this just safeguards the need to buy another chest strap as I don't believe this type will become obsolete).
Probably the biggest downfall is the fact that they can get a tad uncomfortable and almost restricting but seriously....personal preference, you just have to try one.
Optical Wrist-Based Heart Monitoring
This type of HR monitoring is not so accurate unfortunately. Personally I love not having to wear a chest strap like many other people but when it comes to accuracy the wrist-based HR falls short.
It works by shining those green LEDs into your wrist when worn, then the little optical lense in the middle watches the blood flow through hence giving you a HR reading.
However, not all of us are hardcore runners that need 100% accuracy when training and this is where this type of HR monitor fills the gap nicely.
Recently I did a comparison between the two types, here is what I came up with:
Now what's most interesting (similar to what I've covered in my Calories and Weight Training Blog) is that with the chest strap you can clearly see where my exercise sets have started via the spikes in my HR, where as the wrist based monitor is a bit harder to determine.
Another interesting comparison is my Average HR & Max HR, the difference between the two I'd consider to be MASSIVE. The chest strap records that I was working at 89% of my max HR where as the wrist based monitor only says 75% of my mx HR.
However the funny part is that my calories burnt aren't too dissimilar, being 19 calories apart. I'm assuming this is because the wrist based monitor tends to monitor HR with a much much smaller range and hence when I'm in a higher HR zone, it doesn't drop right back during my rest time like my chest strap does.
Here is another comparison just to be sure:
Having said all of this, it really is personal preference.
If wearing a chest strap is too uncomfortable then a wrist-based monitor is the way to go. But if you value accuracy then a chest strap is the one for you. At the end of the day they are both BRILLIANT tools to help you understand a few things:
Need help finding a HR monitor? Ask Below!