You've probably seen people wearing wearable devices to track their heart rate, no matter where they are in their fitness journey. Perhaps you have wondered if these heart-rate monitors are worth the cost. What is the value of these data? Are they really going to make a difference?
We live in a technologically driven society. This means that we have more options and choices for tracking our health information. Some people find the collection of various types of objective data, such as heart rate variability, menstrual cycle patterns and caloric intake and burned, sleep quantity, steps, and sedentary times, informative and educational. Others argue that it is not necessary to quantify health at this level.
No matter what your viewpoint is, it turns out that heart-rate monitoring during exercise can be a valuable metric for fitness novices and competitive athletes.
How to use Heart-Rate Monitoring
Heart-rate monitoring works best when it is done in the context of heart rate "zones", which are custom ranges of different intensities in beats per minutes (BPM). Fitness professionals use a five-zone heart rate system. Zone 1 is the lowest intensity, while Zone 5 is the highest intensity. Your intensity will increase, which means you'll burn more calories per hour, but your percentage of calories from fat will decrease. In Zones 4 & 5, your body burns primarily carbohydrates.
A well-designed cardio or conditioning program will optimize your metabolism, reduce undue stress on the body, and improve your cardiorespiratory fitness. Around 80 percent of your conditioning time should be spent in Zones 1, 2 (building your aerobic base), and approximately 20 percent spent pushing your limits with high-intensity intervals to Zones 3 through 5, which will help you increase your overall fitness.
You can either estimate your heart-rate training zones manually or use a calculation that is available on many heart-rate monitors. However, both options are possible but may not be accurate to your metabolism. An Active Metabolic Assessment (tm) can also be used to measure your zones objectively at Life Time club locations. This uses a mask and a medical-grade device that measures oxygen intake and carbon dioxide exhalation for various intensities.
You can use a calculation or specific data from an Active Metabolic Assessment to determine your heart-rate zones. A heart-rate monitor device can measure your beats per minute during your workout. This will help you understand which zones you are in and how much time you spend in each.
This information will tell you whether you should increase intensity, decrease it or modify your training volume in order to improve your health and fitness.
Use a heart-rate monitor to your advantage
The heart-rate monitor makes it easy to determine how intensely you are exercising.
The majority of people fall in one of these two categories: People who are less experienced with exercise tend to overestimate their exertion (thinking they're working harder than they actually are), and aren't able to measure exercise intensity. This can lead to insufficient challenge which often limits your ability to improve overall fitness, as well as the associated cardiorespiratory and health benefits.
Cardio junkies who are addicted to exercising and seeking an adrenaline rush from pushing their intensity can have their bodies adapt to long periods in higher heart-rate zones. These zones burn most stored carbohydrate and have little effect on body composition and can lead to adrenal imbalances and excess stress.
Heart-rate monitoring can help you work smarter and not harder. It also saves time by making sure that you get the best workout possible. You can significantly increase your productivity by making time for exercise, especially if your heart rate zones are accurately identified.
A heart-rate monitor will also help you to see how your body is changing over time. If you are able to exercise more intensely with a lower heart beat, or if your heart rate recovers faster between high-intensity intervals of the same workloads and speeds, this is a clear indicator that your cardiorespiratory fitness has improved.
If you have evidence that your efforts are paying off, it's more likely that you will continue exercising and strive to be the best version of yourself. It is a great way for you to stay motivated.
Different types of heart-rate monitors
The technology of heart-rate-monitoring devices is ever-evolving, but there are three common categories of devices you'll see most often:RM Bands
They are easy to use and convenient to put on or take off. The downside to these devices is that they can be difficult to use on people with darker skin tones and those who have tattoos. To display your heart rate, they must be connected to an external device. Here are some of our favorites.
Straps for the chest
These devices are often considered to be the best for monitoring heart rate across all skin types. They are a bit more difficult to put on and can be thrown off by a bra with an underneathwire. They will need to be synchronized with another device, similar to arm bands. Life Time's choice is the most economical and compatible with many external trackers as well as several in-club options.
This modality is the most widely used and most convenient to measure your heart rate. It offers the most options depending on what you are looking for. Many of these devices can also measure resting heart rate and steps. Some even allow you to sync with your smartphone, including text messages and calendar notifications. Although the technology is not as precise and accurate as arm bands and chest straps, it has seen significant improvements over the past decade. It is recommended that you find a device that matches your individual features and can program five heart-rate zones onto an easy-to-read wrist display.
Are heart-rate monitors really necessary, then?
Your goals and personal definitions of "necessary" will determine whether you rely on or not a heart-rate monitor.
For those who are looking to maximize the impact of every minute they spend exercising and therefore save time, heart-rate-monitoring devices provide a precise method to do so, particularly when using accurate heart-rate zones.
A device is not necessary if you are simply looking to exercise for the enjoyment of exercising, and have no goals or body composition.
This may not be the best option for people who obsess over their health or have a history of a negative preoccupation with calorie burning or other metrics that could add stress to your mental health. Note: Most people, except for competitive athletes, are better off not worrying too much about how many calories they burn during exercise. Read more: "Straight from the Coaches: All Your Health and Fitness Questions Answered"
You can make a difference in your health and wellbeing by exercising more often than being sedentary, whether you are starting to exercise or just getting started. You don't have to use a heart rate monitor to exercise regularly. You can use a heart-rate monitor to help you exercise when it is convenient for you.
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