December 17th, 2009
06:15 PM ET

How do I choose a heart rate monitor?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From the Paging Dr. Gupta blog, Terry asks:

"I would love some advice on choosing a heart rate monitor."


Well, it turns out, Terry; our folks at CNN.com gave some great advice on this. Advice that I paid attention to since I’ve been working hard this year to get in better shape and am now training for a triathlon as a part of CNN’s Fit Nation Challenge.

As I train, something I've been focusing on is heart rate target training. It's actually pretty simple to do. First of all, calculate your maximum heart rate. The way that you do that, you subtract your age from the number 220. So, mine would be 180. Now, you calculate a range between 60 percent and 70 percent of that number. Mine would be from 108 to 126. Try and keep your pulse rate in that range while you work out. A heart rate monitor is a simple device to help you calculate your target heart rate and keep track of your workouts so you can measure your progress.

So Terry here is a rundown of heart rate monitors depending on what you’re looking for and how much you want to spend. There are a lot of monitors out there. New monitors are equipped with GPS, speed calculating shoe sensors and data analysis tracking every detail of your performance over time.

So, the experts CNN.com quoted said the new Garmin Forerunner 310XT is the optimal choice, but it is very expensive. It's almost $350. It does work anywhere in the world and you can get your heart rate, measure movement, elevation, distance and speed. Now, if you're looking for something more affordable, like a lot of people, Nike offers a slim watch size unit called the Nike Plus Sport Band. It runs about $59 and displays your distance, pace and calories burned. It holds about 30 hours worth of workout data. Check out more options at CNN.com/technology.

Keep in mind the longer your keep your body at that target heart rate I talked about, the more efficient your cardiovascular system will become, and overall, the fitter you will be. Good luck Terry hopefully tracking your heart rate will help you make your workouts even better.

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Buck Willis, MBBS, PhD

    Exercising at the appropriate target Heart Rate is key to achieving different goals. For instance our research has showsn that exercising within one's aerobic threshold is easier, low intensity exercise but achieves significant pure loss of body fat.

    Abstract link is below.
    Cheers, Buck >


    December 29, 2009 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Praveen meka

    Definitely exercising in the target heart rate range trains your heart better. Depending on what part of the spectrum you are, you can generally change from weight loss to cardio.
    A useful indicator is, if you cant complete a sentence without taking a breath, you are around the mid range.
    happy work out.

    January 7, 2010 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Charlie

    That target heart rate calculation has a wide range of variability. I'm 60 and I regularly exceed my supposed heart rate of 160 during average workouts. There are times when I hit 180 or so when giving max effort.

    Isn't there any other way to get one's real max heart rate ... or should I just keep pushing harder until I have a heart attack and then quickly check my rate during the attack to be sure what the max is? Or was?

    January 12, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Isabelle

    Charlie: Schedule an appt. with your pcp or cardiologist to address your concerns. Bottom line: Don't over do it. I purchased a monitor, the "old fashioned" wrist band/chest strap model. When I began my 3 1/2 mile walk/run, my heart rate, according to the wrist band, was dangerously high intermittently... Four months later, I am able to complete the 3 1/2 mile workout with ease. I began focusing on body signals rather than my monitor and eventually stopped wearing my monitor all together. My ultimate goal is to RUN the 3 1/2 mile course but until then, I will take it one step at a time, gradually building up to a COMFORTABLE yet challenging running pace. Be well.

    January 18, 2010 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Dave Steger

    Certainly exercising within the target heart rate variety trains your heart far better. Based on what component with the spectrum you're, it is possible to typically modify from weight-loss to cardio.

    July 8, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.