Heart Rate Monitor FAQ’s
The idea of this section of the website is to give our visitors a small taste of what a heart rate monitor (HRM) can be used for and the benefits of using one. We originally wrote this FAQ sheet in 2004. The core principles remain the same, however the TECHNOLOGY has moved on in leaps and bounds.
We are sorry to say we cannot give PERSONAL training advice as that would be irresponsible without a FULL knowledge of your medical background etc. However, we can give general tips, hints and advice. If what you wanted to know if NOT featured in these FAQ’s please contact us for more information and help. Thanks for looking
PS >> When browsing the website, please remember to check the prices with our online shopping partners. Our preferred International Shopping Partners deliver worldwide including the UK, Europe, USA, Japan and Australia. Just click the “Price Checker” links to get the lowest prices from our global partners
Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic
- Important, please read first!
- Why use a heart rate monitor?
- What can a heart rate monitor tell me?
- SWIMMING can I swim with a heart rate monitor on?
- Can a heart rate monitor help me lose weight? (and increase fat loss)
- Chest straps, do I have to use one and do all monitors come with one?
- Can I have a strapless heart rate monitor, taking HR from the wrist?
- Can a heart rate monitor help me avoid injuries?
- How do you calculate maximum heart rate (MHR)?
- What are my “training zones“, target heart rate zones?
- Can a heart rate monitor help me to develop my aerobic system?
- Can a heart rate monitor help me to develop my anaerobic system?
- Can I get more help and advice?
- Can I just start exercising now?
Why use an HRM?
- A heart rate monitor let’s you really know what the most important muscle in your body is doing
- A heart rate monitor will let you know when you’ve done that bit too much, or too little, exercise
- Heart Rate can be used during exercise to monitor when a athlete has (or has not) recovered during an interval session
- Your heart rate is one of the most reliable indicators of fitness level
What can an HRM tell me?
- Most heart rate monitors can tell you the time of day!
- They can tell you your current heart rate
- They can tell you when you are, or are not, training within your predetermined training zone
- Some can tell you your average heart rate during your current session
- Some even tell you your current heart rate as a percentage of your upper limit.
i.e. 82% (as opposed to 175 bpm, for example)
- % of upper limit allows you to control your warm up progressively and your cool down progressively
- Doing so is a key factor to wise training and will help to reduce the risk of short term and long term injury
- Warming up and cooling down are an integral part of correct training.
- Once you get in to your body’s heart patterns, you will recognise signs of illness and over-training
- Many models also act as activity trackers with internal accelerometers ensuring you keep active throughout the day
- Many HRM will tell you HOW DEMANDING a session was and what time it will take to recover
Do I need to use a chest strap?
Do all monitors come with one?
Yes and No ?
There are now, thanks to some brilliant work from MioGlobal, a range of heart rate monitors for several brands that take a highly accurate heart rate from the wrist WITHOUT the need for a chest strap. We have these strapless heart rate monitors on this section of the website here. These models use VERY HIGH POWER light sensor to monitor the blood flow in the veins. They work BRILLIANTLY and we are certain to see this technology in Polar, Garmin and Suunto in the next couple of years.
UPDATE – for all heart rate monitors that do NOT need a chest strap, please visit our strapless HRM page
Most HRM that need a chest strap will come with it included, however, some of the TOP END models like the Polar V800, Suunto Ambit range of Garmin Forerunner models have the heart rate strap as an optional extra. PLEASE CHECK before buying that you have what you need.
Can an HRM help me lose weight? (aid fat loss)
Yes, it can help you lose weight (aid fat loss) when used in conjunction with a sensible eating plan and exercise programme
The ideal training zone for weight loss (fat loss) is, approximately, 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate. Programmable Training zones help you ensure that you spend most of your training session in the correct “zone”. A heart rate monitor accurately controls the intensity and duration of your sessions
Can a heart rate monitor help me avoid injuries?
Yes, it can. A high percentage of illness and injury is due to over-training
A heart rate monitor will let you know when your body has recovered properly
Following a marathon, an athlete’s resting heart rate may not settle for as much as a couple of weeks days. It is certainly true that your resting HR will be elevated for several days following even a medium distance race (as full race pace), like a 10K.
The athlete may feel like they are OK to start training again, but an HRM will tell them they should continue to rest or at least follow an active recovery plan
Can I swim with my heart rate monitor
We have updated the answer to this question elsewhere. For the latest information on HRM and swimming, please visit this swimming information page
Most Heart Rate Monitors are water resistant to 20, 30, 50 or 100 metres depending on the model. We recommend in most models that you should not press. any buttons under water. See user’s manual for details. Heart rate measurement in a water environment is technically demanding for the following reasons:
Pool water with a high chlorine (or bromine) content, as well as seawater, may be very conductive and the electrodes of a transmitter may get short circuited and ECG signals cannot be detected by the transmitter unit. Jumping into the water or strenuous muscle movement during competitive swimming may cause water resistance that shifts the transmitter on the body
to a location where it is not possible to pick up the ECG signal. The ECG signal strength varies depending on the individual’s tissue composition. The percentage of people who have problems in heart rate measuring is considerably higher in a water environment than in other use.
In the watch industry the water resistance is generally indicated as metres of water pressure, meaning a static pressure of water at the level in question. Most manufacturers’ apply the same indication system, as it is well known and water resistance is an essential feature of the heart rate monitor.
However, it should be noted that when performing any underwater activity, the dynamic pressure generated by movement through the water is greater than the static pressure. Generally, all the HRM’s we sell are fine for use while bathing, swimming and showering, BUT, not under water activity like scuba diving.
How do you calculate maximum heart rate?
To make it easier for you we have added an easy to use MaxHR Calculator
As a rough guide to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) is :
- Male 220 – age = MHR in beats per minute
- Female 226 – age = MHR in beats per minute
It is important to calculate your MHR as it is used when calculating intensity of effort. i.e 65% of MHR for 20 minutes.
You should note that your current fitness level does have an impact on your actual MHR.
People new to exercising should avoid trying to reach their theoretical MHR.
The only accurate (and safe) method of measuring MHR is through a clinical graduated exercise test. If you do NOT have access to a clinical test, please make use of our calculator for determining Maximum Heart Rate.
Site owners comment: We find that the 220 – age method of zone calculation are “OK” but generally provide “safe” limits that may not stretch relatively fit exercisers, especially older people, who the 220 – age formula gives very “conservative” HR values. We would recommend a heart rate monitor training guide book to get the very most from your HRM
What are my “training zones”
Training zones are guides to help you achieve the desired affect of your exercise plan. To help you get the most from your HRM we have our own online heart rate training zone calculator
A body builder trying to gain muscle mass, does not want to follow the same programme as a long distance runner.
A heart rate monitor helps you to stay in your correct zone, with regard to your training goal.
There are roughly 5 zones (depending on what you read).
These zones start at 50% of MHR, for conditioning/recovery) and go up to 95%-100% of MHR for maximum intensity training. Someone new to heart rate monitors, but with a foundation in exercise, would normally start a programme at about 60%-70%MHR. This is a safe “maintenance/weight” loss intensity. This would be repeated 3 or 4 times a week for 30 minutes per session
Site owners comment: We find that the 220 – age method of zone calculation are “OK” but generally provide “safe” limits that may not stretch relatively fit exercisers, especially older people, who the 220 – age formula gives very “conservative” HR values. We would recommend a heart rate monitor training guide book to get the very most from your HRM or please make use of our MaxHr online calculator tool
Can a HRM help me to develop my aerobic system?
Yes, your aerobic (with oxygen, endurance events) zone is approximately 70-80% of MHR
Setting your upper and lower limits to 80 and 70 respectively will let you know how much time you are spending in the aerobic zone.
It will help you to avoid under-training, exercise with no gain
It will also help you to avoid over-training, exercising in the anaerobic zone will not improve your aerobic performance.
Can a heart rate monitor help me to develop my anaerobic system?
Yes, your anaerobic (without oxygen, short, explosive power events)zone is approximately 80-90% of MHR. Setting your upper and lower limits to 90 and 80 respectively will let you know how much time you are spending in the anaerobioc zone.
Your HRM will help you to avoid undertraining, exercising in the aerobic zone.
It will also help you to avoid overtraining, going beyond 90% for too long can result in fatigue
Can I get more help and advice?
Yes, please use our feedback form. Please note. We cannot answer personal questions about training plans etc. We can only give general advice.
Before you start….
No-one should start an exercise programme without undertaking the necessary health checks.
All the information given on this website is intended to provide a guideline for apparently healthy individuals.
We recommend consultation with a doctor or other professional if you believe you have any contraindications to exercise.