Photo of a heart rate monitor (made by Polar) showing chest strap and watch

Photo of a Prevention MF-180 strapless heart rate monitor

This article refers to a device used by laypersons. For the article on the medical device performing a similar function, see Electrocardiography.

A heart rate monitor is a device that allows a user to measure his or her heart rate in real time. It usually consists of two elements: a chest strap transmitter and a wrist receiver (which usually doubles as a watch). Strapless heart rate monitors are available as well, but lack some of the functionality of the original design. Advanced models additionally measure heart rate variability to assess a user's fitness.

The first EKG accurate wireless heart rate monitor was invented by Polar Electro in 1977 as a training tool for the Finnish National Cross Country Ski Team. The concept of "intensity training" by heart rate swept the athletic world in the eighties. By the 1990's individuals were looking to heart rate monitors not only for performance training needs, but also for achieving everyday fitness goals. Today, the same concept of heart rate training is being used by world-class athletes such as Olympic Gold Medal Winner Melanie Valerio as well as everyday people.[1]

The chest strap has electrodes in contact with the skin to monitor the electrical voltages in the heart (see electrocardiography for more details). When a heart beat is detected a radio signal is sent out which the receiver uses to determine the current heart rate. More expensive monitors send a unique coded signal from the chest strap, and this prevents a user's wrist receiver from receiving signals from other nearby transmitters ("cross-talk.") In December 2005, Textronics Inc. introduced the first garment with integrated heart sensors in the form of a sports bra. Special materials in the sports bra sense heart rate from the body and transmit it to a wrist receiver. The garment provides a comfortable alternative to the chest strap.

There are a wide number of receiver designs, with all sorts of advanced features. These include average heart rate over exercise period, time in a specific heart rate zone, calories burned, and detailed logging that can be downloaded to a computer.

List of Heart Rate Monitors[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

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