Fitness wearables have been popular since they first came out. Initially, they were just used to monitor daily activities such as tracking steps and sleep. However, the latest models have been developed to monitor the heart rate as well.
Heart rate monitors have been around long before the public had access to commercial fitness wearables. These traditional heart rate monitors require you to wear a chest strap designed to pick up the heart rate.
The modern wristband heart rate monitor is unlike its predecessor. Instead of measuring the heart’s electrical activity through signals transmitted through the heart and detected through the skin, a wrist heart rate monitor uses optical technology to measure the pulse.
Photoplethysmography (PPG) is the process of using light to measure blood flow. Wrist heart rate monitors are commonly equipped with LEDs underneath that shine a green light onto the skin. This light contains different wavelengths that interact with your blood while it flows through your wrist.
When light reflects off your flowing blood, a separate sensor detects the changes in your blood volume every time your heart beats and pushes blood throughout your body, collected data is processed to and translated into understandable pulse readings.
This way of measuring the heart rate has raised questions regarding the accuracy of the readings. This is due to the fact that people move around when they are active, especially when they exercise, and ambient light may also have an effect on the readings. These factors may possibly interfere with how the measurements are made.
Nevertheless, companies are continuously developing algorithms that help cancel out this noise generated by people’s movements and their environment. In general, these wrist heart rate monitors are designed to be used by people who want to keep track of their heart rate for health and fitness goals and not for medical use.
Basic Features of a Wrist Heart Rate Monitor
Standard models of heart rate monitors will time your workout and provide you with information regarding your average, continuous, high and low heart rate. During your workouts, you will also be provided with data regarding the high, low and target heart rate reached.
Other features are also added for more advanced models, but in general these are the most common features that you need to know to be able to read and understand your wrist heart rate monitor.
- Target zones. Usually, standard models offer 3 target zones. Multiple target zones will enable you to set several target zones in advance for different workouts. In case your heart rate monitor does not offer multiple target zones, you need to reprogram the device every time you change the parameters.
- Stopwatch and lap times. This feature lets you record each time you complete a lap. By hitting the “lap” button displayed, you can keep track of your pace for the whole workout and review it after.
- Recovery heart rate mode. This data is a good indicator of your cardiovascular health. It monitors how long it takes for your heart rate to return to its normal rate or the resting rate.
- Time in target zone. This feature keeps track of how long you exercised within your target zone.
- Calorie counter. This contains the estimated amount of calories you burned during your workout. It’s a useful guide when you are following a weight loss program.
- Speed and distance. This feature calculates the speed and distance you covered in a session. For outdoor use, a GPS receiver is utilized while a foot pod is used for indoors or in outdoor areas with limited satellite reception.
- Digital interface. This feature will let you connect your wrist heart rate monitor to another device such as your laptop or smartphone so you can gain access to information such as your training statistics and analysis as well as store data.
- Wireless pairing. Tethering with your smartphone allows you to gain access to some of your phone’s functions such as text messages, music, social media apps, etc. through your wrist heart rate monitor so you don’t have to take out your phone in your pocket.
- Other useful information a wrist heart rate monitor display include alerts for intensity levels that go below or beyond the specified training zone. The device can also encrypt transmissions from your device to ensure that your signals will not get mixed up with signals from other wireless heart rate monitors that may be near you.