Aerobic exercise can improve your cardiac fitness and help you lose weight. No matter what your motivation, raising your heart rate is how you reap the benefits of this type of workout. Heart rate monitors, which cost about 80 dollars, are supposed to take the guesswork out of aerobic exercise. Consumer Reports tested nine to see if they do.
Lynn Delancey does some kind of aerobic exercise almost every day. And she always wears a heart rate monitor.
"The heart rate monitor for me makes me know that my workout is effective."
To get the most out of your workout, your heart rate needs to be in a target zone that depends on your age, physical shape and goals. A heart rate monitor tells you if you're in the right range.
Consumer Reports just tested nine heart rate monitors.
A typical monitor consists of a chest strap with a sensor that transmits data to the wrist device. Nine panelists used the different monitors while they exercised.
To check for accuracy, tester Richard Handel
(PRON: han-DELL) also hooked the panelists up to an electrocardiograph.
"We took readings from the monitors about once a minute and then we compared that data to the data from our ECG."
Some monitors didn't do well — with tests showing one out of ten readings could be off. Others were much more accurate.
Panelists also evaluated how easy the monitors are to use. Some instructions were difficult to understand.
"Two other monitors were difficult to use while running. You had to slow down to get a reading."
When the last mile was run, Consumer Reports rated two monitors excellent. The first, the Polar a3 costs 80 dollars. A little more expensive — the Acumen
(PRON: ACK-you-men) Cardio Trainer. It costs 95 dollars. Both are accurate and easy to use.
Consumer Reports says the two recommended heart rate monitors also have a stopwatch and an alarm — so you can set a time for your workout and be alerted when it's up.