Heart Rate Monitor

What for?... Which One?...and How Much?

Why bother with a heart rate monitor?

No matter what your exercise target, working out at the "right intensity" means reaching your goals with more efficiency - ie...less wasted time.

Aerobic exercise done too hard presents the risk of injury or burnout. I don't know about you but when I over-do it, I hurt and pain is a pretty powerful negative motivator.

If you exercise too easy, chances are you will never get where you want to be. Working out at the right intensity, called your "Personal Target Zone" is the key to success.

When you increase your intensity, your heart rate goes up and when you slow down, it drops. Well...duh!

You can't gauge intensity by how you feel, or how much you are perspiring. Accurately knowing the exercise intensity is the only way to ensure your hard-earned time and efforts are paying off. To measure this accurately and continuously, some technical wizard invented the heart rate monitor.

Heart rate recovery time:

This is the amount of time it takes for your heart rate tocome down to your pre-exercise heart rate. The quicker your heart rate recovers afterexercise the better shape your heart and lungs are in. As your fitness level increasesyou will discover, your heart rate will recover more quickly at the end of yourexercise routine.

Length of Time To Reach Your Target Zone:

This is how long it takes you to getinto your target zone during your exercise. As your fitness level improves, it willbegin to take you longer and longer to get into your target zone. This is a greatindicator that your heart and lungs are working more efficiently and your fitness level is improving.

Resting Heart Rate:

Resting heart rate is the level your bodymaintains during rest. As your fitness improves, you will notice your resting heartrate will gradually decrease over time. A high resting heart rate is an indicatorthat your body is being overworked in some form. Any one of a number of factorscould result in a higher than usual resting heart rate such as illness, medical condition or over-training. Always consult your doctor before undertaking a rigorous exercise program or if you are experiencing a wonky heart rate.

Use the following chart to determine the 'Target Zone' heart rate for your age and the intensity of your workout.

Effective aerobic conditioning requires that you maintain your heart rate at the proper intensity level for at least 20 minutes per workout.

If your heart rate is too high, your activity can become counter productive. For most people, as your heart rate exceeds 85% (the upper limit), your workout causes the body to become anaerobic and produce lactic acids which can cause a burning sensation and strain within the muscles. This also burns less fat. Its important to reach a level of intensity (Target Zone)that is productive for you.

A heart rate monitor will tune you into your body's internal activity level and help prevent injury.

Using a heart rate monitor can help you make sure your exercise intensity is at a level that burns fat optimally and keeps the body working aerobically (not anaerobic).

A regular exercise program performed at the proper heart rate levels can help increase your metabolism. Its important that beginners do not push themselves too hard. Exercise should be fun and enjoyable! For maximum benefit to your heart and for losing weight, the most important factor is the duration of the exercise. So find your 'Target Zone' heart rate and maintain it for at least 20 minutes.

A wireless heart rate monitor is comprised of a wrist receiver (like a watch) and a transmitter attached to a chest strap. Both the wrist receiver and transmitter are run via batteries that will eventually need to be replaced.

Innovations in monitors have brought about many cool features.

Heart Rate Only Models: These monitors are the simplest, cheapest and probably the most durable.

Programmable Hi-Low Heart Rate Zones: These models allow you to set specific target zones into the reciever. The monitor beeps when you reach your target zone. These models are the most popular.

Memory or recall features: These models allow users to recall certain readings such as the time taken to reach and time spent in your target zone and calories burned.

Stopwatch and lap features: The stopwatch and lap feature lets you recallinformation during a specific lap or interval.

Calories burned during exercise: A popular feature used for weight management is a built in calorie counter.

Computer download models: Many models are available which can allow you todownload your workout information stored in memory to a computer for further storage and analysis. Some of the newer models use sonic link and near infraredlight for downloads

User replaceable batteries: The transmitter and receiver of heart rate monitors use lithium watch batteries for power. When the battery needs replacing some models require you to send the unit for battery replacement while others have user replaceable batteries. The obvious choice is one with user replaceable batteries.

As with any of todays electronics, heart rate monitor features are constantly being improved and you will find some that have too many features to list here.

Perhaps the most popular and best known heart rate monitors are made by Polar. They range in price from $53 and up depending on the features you want. The best pricing and variety I could find seems to be at Amazon.com and you will find the complete range of Polar heart rate monitorshere.

You can also check out monitors from Bowflex, Timex, Cardiosport, Acumen and Garmin at Amazon.com

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