Why A Chest Strap Monitor?
There is no doubt wearable fitness trackers are hot items these days. From FitBit, to Phone Apps, even the Apple Watch is in on the action. I think that is a good thing, because anything that helps keep us accountable and motivated is a step in the right direction.
But that doesn’t mean they are the best or most accurate way to measure fitness or more importantly, improvement.
The most important question before making a purchase is “What do I want to track?”
We use heart rate monitors in our gyms because they allow us to track effort, intensity, and recovery through one simple to use tool. Put the chest strap on and you are done. In real time you are able to look up and see how your body is working. The accuracy of a heart rate monitor is unparalleled – it is still the gold standard of fitness tracking. If you want to see if you are improving, using your heart rate monitor is a must. Otherwise you are just guessing.
But what about the other tools out on the market? Our friends at MyZone (who obviously are biased toward heart rate monitors, especially their own) break down four of the major types of wearables.
The wrist tracker – Wrist trackers count your steps then estimate your calories burned. More recently, these devices attempt to measure your pulse. They shine a light into the blood vessels in your wrist to detect the changes in blood volume that occur each time your heart beats. Two of the major problems found in this method are 1) wrist trackers are not skin-tight, thus movement of the band up or down the arm result in inconsistent readings and 2) ambient light is able to leak in between the tracker and your wrist to throw off its light-based readings.
The fingertip monitor – These types of monitors are most often used in the hospital setting. While typically spot-on when measuring the BPM of the body at rest, many have been unable to accurately keep up with the BPM of the body in motion. So a fingertip monitor can not accurately track your heart rate during a triathlon, a Crossfit class, or a HIIT bootcamp.
The phone app – While a good first step in the right direction, a simple step counter is an antiquated (an not incredibly accurate) means of physical activity measurement. Step counting alone can not push you to meet your fitness goals. Some new phones feature heart rate detection by placing your finger on a sensor near the camera. Though this method can only be used to measure the heart rate while at rest, it was not made to track your BPM during physical activity.
The chest strap – A chest strap heart rate monitor is able to closely emulate an actual EKG machine by measuring the electrical pulses emitted by the heart–during almost all forms of exercise! Studies have shown the chest strap monitor to be among the most accurate wearable tracking devices during a wide variety of intense exercises.
A chest strap monitors your heart rate so that you are able to maintain the intensity required to meet your fitness goals. And it helps to strengthen that life-sustaining muscle located in your chest. A wrist tracker nor a phone app is able to accurately take into account the number of pushups and squats you did, or how many kettle bell swings you churned out. But with a chest strap heart rate measurement, you can know when to push yourself harder or when to slow down based on the real-time feedback coming straight from your heart. If you want an accurate reading during traditional and non-traditional exercise, the chest strap is the clear choice. (source: MyZone.org)
The message is clear: Wearing a heart rate monitor while training is an important part of making sure you are training appropriately, effectively, and getting great results.
And why wouldn’t you want that?