To a fitness enthusiast in training, fewer metrics would mean as much as one's heart rate. Keeping track of our heartbeats per minute can tell us when to prioritise rest, before moving on to the next set. This prevents us from overworking in sessions in the gym and undermining the much-needed recovery period. If you want to train smartly and effectively without straining your body, a heart rate monitor can be a valuable fitness tool for you.
Wearable heart rate monitors can go around the wrist (much like fitness trackers), the chest or the arm. They're quite versatile as standalone devices, but the same technology can be found in most smartwatches today, as well. Athletes, in particular, like to keep a close eye on their heart rates.
Dannish Walker-Khan, a Dubai-based professional sprinter and an award-winning personal trainer, told Gulf News: "A heart rate monitor is for anyone who exercises - whether they're just starting out or training to compete. Once you know your maximum heart rate, you can check which heart rate zone you're working in to see the level of effort you're putting in."
Find out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, says Walker-Khan, who is a three-time recipient of the personal trainer of the year title, awarded by The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) UAE.
This 'red zone' then becomes your reference point for recovery. For example, if your beats per minute are still teetering in the red zone after a workout, you'll know to prolong your rest period, before the next exercise. Over time, you should be able to build endurance with consistent training and take on strenuous sets, with a lower heart rate.
Walker-Khan added: "Your heart rate also tells you how well you're recovering between sets. If it's unusually higher, which means your body is working that much harder on a certain day, then it's your sign to take a break or reduce intensity."
Poor sleep, work stress and caffeine intake can alter readings, too, so you can factor in these variables to optimise training. Our fitness expert keeps track of his heart rate through the Apple Watch, the latest model of which, takes real-time electrocardiogram (ECG) readings.
Check out the best-rated heart rate monitors below, along with expert picks. Make sure to shop as a Prime member for free, same- or next-day delivery.
1. Best Overall: Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor Chest Strap
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors
- Easy-to-use monitor
- Connects to gym equipment and smartwatches
- Makes training without your phone possible, with built-in memory
- Water-resistant in up to 30 metres
- Chest strap can be uncomfortable
Polar's most accurate heart rate sensor, yet, is installed in the Polar H10 chest strap. Its built-in memory lets you record data from one training session, after which, the readings can be viewed on the Polar Beat fitness app. If you already own a fitness tracker or exercise with smart gym equipment, the device can connect to up to two Bluetooth or ANT+ devices for real-time tracking. The replaceable battery sees you through 400 hours of multiple sessions, but do note that it's not rechargeable. Swimmers will also appreciate the 30-metre water resistance they'll get with the heart rate sensor. Reviewers commend the precise readings and like how uncomplicated and instantaneous the pairing is. Walker-Khan does add that some people can find chest straps uncomfortable, over extended periods of time.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh23 and two years for Dh33.
2. Best All-In-One Tracker: Apple Watch Series 8 (GPS, 45mm)
- ECG readings on your wrist
- Real-time tracking of your heart rate zone
- Enhanced Workout app that customises exercise sessions
- Get three months of Apple Fitness+ free
- Water-resistant in up to 50 metres
- Needs an Apple ecosystem
Walker-Khan uses an all-in-one smartwatch to monitor his heart rate, along with other crucial metrics, such as calories burned and blood oxygen levels. His choice of wearable fitness tech, the Apple Watch, only highlights the metrics you want to see, mid-session. In the latest Series 8 model, there is a dedicated ECG app for accurate readings of heartbeats per minute. The large always-on display also points out the heart rate zone you're in, with colour infographics for easier reading at a glance. Besides heart rate monitoring, track your sleep, skin temperature, irregular heart rhythm and more. Our pick comes with the sports band, and it's swimproof, too.
Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh127.17 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh91 and a two-year extended warranty for Dh150.
3. Best Budget: Powr Labs Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor Armband
- Super soft band for the arm
- Straightforward controls for pairing
- Pairs with gym equipment and fitness trackers via Bluetooth or ANT+
- Rechargeable 60-hour battery life
- Not compatible with swimming
A screen-less wristband that doesn't go around the abdomen, the Powrlabs heart rate monitor pairs with your device using a single button. Connect the armband via Bluetooth or ANT+, and sync readings across popular fitness apps and equipment, from Peloton to Garmin. Unlike the Polar chest band, this monitor has a rechargeable 60-hour-long battery, but it's not suitable for swimming, only carrying a sweatproof rating. Those who use Peloton bikes and treadmills leave five-star reviews. Others mention receiving accurate readings when the monitor is linked to their fitness tracker. They do note that the sensors work better right below the elbow, but it still proves to be more comfortable than chest bands.
4. Best Chest-Based Monitor: Garmin HRM Pro Plus Heart Rate Monitor Strap
- Tracks steps, calories and intensity, besides heart rate
- Pairs via ANT+ and Bluetooth
- One-year battery life
- Swim interval heart rate statistics
- Water-resistant in up to 50 metres
- Works better with Garmin smartwatch
Get one-year of nonstop battery, with Garmin's HRM Pro Plus. Especially beneficial for Garmin smartwatch users, the chest strap records your running form, too, including stride length and ground contact time. You don't need the watch to track steps, calories burned and intensity minutes, because the monitor does it all for you. It stores the data and forwards it to ANT+ and Bluetooth devices and equipment. Reviewers say the band sticks on well and doesn't shift mid-training. They also like that they can choose not to wear their fitness tracker during intensive sports, like basketball, tennis and more, when they have the monitor on. Battery replacement is simple and tool-free.
Bonus: Buy with zero per cent instalments and pay Dh41.72 for 12 months with select banks.
5. Best Versatile Monitor: Polar Verity Sense Optical Heart Rate Sensor
- Detachable heart rate sensor for added wearability
- Records heart rate, heart rate zone, calories and workout duration
- Swimming stats with pace and distance
- Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity
- Built-in 600-hour memory for standalone exercises
- Setup can be complicated
Another armband to consider is Polar's Verity Sense, which can either go around the upper/lower arm or clip onto your swimming goggles. View your heart rate in real-time on connected devices to adjust the intensity as you go. You can also take advantage of the 600-hour internal memory, and let the monitor transfer data post-workout. Similar to others on our list, Verity Sense pairs over Bluetooth and ANT+ technology. The best part about this monitor is the detachable sensor - it can be tucked anywhere close to the skin for accurate readings, without the strap. Swimmers even have the flexibility of attaching it to the temple, so their arms and chest are free of distractions. Reviewers find the band soft and comfortable against the skin, even when they're engaged in contact sports, like jiu-jitsu. They also attest to speedy connectivity with both iPhone and Android devices.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.