The 7 Best Heart Rate Monitors to Buy in 2018

Get the most out of your workouts with one of these smart gadgets

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Whether you’re an exercise newbie or regular at the gym, a heart rate monitor can help you hit your fitness goals. The gadgets track how hard your ticker is working, providing useful feedback about your intensity level. For people who are just starting to get in shape, it’s a great way to safely kick off a workout routine, and for fitness fanatics, monitoring your heart rate can help you determine when to push your pace.

Never tracked your heart rate before? Here’s how it works: First, calculate your estimated maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. (For example, if you’re 30-years-old, your maximum heart rate would be 190 beats per minute.) For moderate exercise intensity, work out at a level where your heart rate is 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate—so between 95 and 133 beats per minute, for a 30-year-old. For vigorous intensity exercise, aim for 70 to 85 of your maximum heart rate.

Heart rate monitors used to be clunky and often tricky to use, but today’s gadgets are sleek and smart. Some strictly measure heart rate while others are equipped with additional features that can help you maximize your workouts. Read on to find out which style is best for you.

1

Best Overall: Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband

Fitness trackers are popular for good reason: They give you an around-the-clock look at your health, from how much you’re exercising to how well you’re sleeping. The Fitbit Charge 2 is a fan favorite (it has over 9,000 five-star reviews on Amazon) thanks to its do-it-all features.

Not only does it continuously measure your heart rate via pulse points on the wrist, but it also tracks all-day activity (like how many steps you walk and calories you burn), provides feedback on sleep, gives you reminders to move if you’ve been spending a little too much time on the sofa, and even walks you through breathing exercises when you’re feeling frazzled.

Reviewers say that the heart rate feature is easy to use, accurate, and has helped them improve their workouts. The tracker comes in multiple colors (such as black, purple, and blue) and the bands are interchangeable so that you can match them to your outfits.

2

Best Chest Strap: Polar H7 Bluetooth Heart Rate Sensor & Fitness Tracker

Heart rate monitors worn around the chest are more accurate than wrist-worn trackers, but they can sometimes be a bit more difficult to use (they can slip and slide around). Luckily, many reviews of the Polar H7 say that the adjustable, soft fabric strap is comfortable and that slipping isn’t an issue, especially if you wet it slightly before exercising.

The monitor transmits to compatible devices (like iPhones, Polar watches, and certain gym equipment) via Bluetooth, allowing users to track their heart rate in the moment and also analyze their workouts after. The gadget comes in both black and blue and includes a limited two-year manufacturer's warranty.

3

Best Budget: Letsfit Fitness Tracker with Heart Rate Monitor

Although some heart rate monitors can cost you hundreds of dollars, upping your workout game doesn’t need to mean emptying your wallet. The Letsfit fitness trackers comes with all the bells and whistles usually found on pricier trackers (like activity and sleep tracking) and also measures heart rate via sensors on the wrist. It also hooks up to your phone so you can see any calls or text messages so you'll never miss a beat while you are working up a sweat.

Reviewers love that this is comparable to other higher name brand fitness trackers but still gets the same measurements at a much lower cost. Some have mentioned the tracking isn't always accurate and a few of said it has stopped charging after a few months. 

4

Best Watch: Bowflex Strapless Water Resistant EZ Pro Heart Rate Monitor Watch

If you can’t leave the house without a watch on, then it’s worth considering investing in a timepiece that pulls double-duty as a heart rate monitor.  The Bowflex watch does just that. A traditional digital clock face lets you keep track of time during the day (it can also be used as a stopwatch and a timer). Then, when you exercise, quick touch technology allows you to easily pull up your heart rate reading.

One reviewer says that the watch looks great with workout or casual clothing. It comes in black, khaki, red, teal and white, and is water-resistant up to 30 meters.

5

Best Earbuds: Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

Earbuds that track your ticker? Yes, it’s a thing! The secret is technology that measures your heart rate via the inner ear. For people who love listening to music while they work out, the Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition is a great pick. Not only do the earbuds have passive noise cancellation to shut out surrounding noise (the noisy guy next to you at the gym, say), but they also have enhanced bass to help bring your playlist to life.

Users say that the earbuds stay snugly in the ear while exercising, which means that you won’t have to interrupt a run or set of pushups to push an earpiece back into place. And because they’re sweat resistant, they’ll withstand even your toughest, most drenched workouts.

6

Best for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 235

With so many gadgets geared toward runners available, picking just one can be difficult, but the Garmin Forerunner 235 is a great choice whether you’re training for your first 5K or are a regular marathoner. Not only does it continuously monitor heart rate at the wrist, but it also uses GPS to track distance and pace so that you know exactly how many miles you logged.

The gadget also measures activity (such as steps walked and calories burned) as well as smart notifications, allowing you to view e-mails, text messages, and more without having to reach for your phone. You can even use the app’s wireless connectivity to view the weather forecast (schedule that run for after the rain!). But don’t be intimidated by the numerous features. People who own the Garmin Forerunner 235 say that it’s easy to use and that it finds a GPS signal quickly.

7

Best for Triathletes: TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch With Heart Rate Monitor

If you bounce between a number of different sports, you’re going to want a heart rate monitor that can keep up with you. The TomTom Multi-Sports GPS Watch comes with a chest heart rate strap to give you feedback on how hard you’re working whether you’re running or cycling (you can keep the chest strap on when swimming too, but the heart rate data won’t transmit to the watch).

TomTom Multi-Sports GPS Watch owners say that the device helps them stay within a target heart rate zone when training for races, which gives their performance a tremendous boost. If you’re planning to turn up the intensity on your triathlon workouts, this gadget is a great option for you.

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