Heart Rate Monitors: Gadget or Fitness Tool?
You have seen athletes training for marathons, triathlons to the guy that has a garage full of every piece of fitness equipment ever sold on TV wearing heart rate monitors at one point or another. But what exactly is their purpose? How is it going to give me the body I want? Should you include a heart rate monitor in your gym bag?
No matter what your goals are, whether it is to lose weight, strengthen your heart, relieve stress, improve your health, or build muscle; wearing a heart rate monitor can help you achieve those goals by helping you find the right intensity and pace. You can’t train the same way each day, and the heart rate monitor allows you to target different energy systems within the body.
On most of the training days, you will focus on maintaining a set heart rate range for a longer duration. This will build your cardiovascular endurance and a heart rate monitor can keep you in that range. Believe it or not, a lot of times the heart rate monitor will tell you to ‘back off’ a little bit as your heart rate is getting a little high for the intended zone you are working on.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults should exercise at moderate intensity (50–70 percent of maximum heart rate) for at least 30 minutes five days a week, or at a vigorous intensity (70–85 percent of maximum heart rate) for 20 minutes three days a week.
Heart Rate Monitors can play at big factor in weight loss – it is recommended to exercise at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes or more per day with short intervals (1 to 2 minutes) of high intensity at 90% of your maximum heart rate which helps to burn stored body fat and increase your resting metabolic rate. We hear this but how do you know you are hitting that rate? Heart rate monitors will keep you in check.
They keep you honest– a heart rate monitor may be effective at helping you work out harder. You can set the alarm to sound when you fall below the target rate. You may THINK you are working out hard enough to reach your goals but only your heart knows for sure.
Choosing the right one: The variety and brands of the different types of heart rate monitors can be overwhelming. There are beginner and basic models as well as sport specific models for running, cycling, strength training, cross training. Some models allow you to upload your workout to your computer to further analyze and customize your training.
The most common complaint that I hear about heart rate monitors is they can be complicated to use. Ask your friends and fellow athletes for referrals. It may be best to purchase in store and have the experts show you how to operate the model you choose.
In the end, if a heart rate monitor gets you off the couch, out of the house, and gets some sweat running down your face…it is definitely a worthwhile investment for your healthy lifestyle!