The 11 Best Heart Rate Monitor Watches of 2021

Stay on track with your fitness goals

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From fitness junkies and health nuts to more competitive athletes, heart rate monitor watches (sometimes referred to as smartwatches) are a popular accessory. Today, many offer a relatively comprehensive picture of your health, with stress, sleep, and heart rate data.

With what feels like an endless number of brands and product lines—many with similar functions and features—it may feel overwhelming to find the right watch for you. For some, music streaming or longer battery life may be more important, and for others, sport-specific functions might take priority. But whether you're on the trails, at the studio, or in an office, there's one to help you reach your goals.

Here are the best heart rate monitor watches on the market.

Our Top Picks
Lets you track your health while keeping you connected to your schedule and messages.
Takes you from resting heart rate to recovery in one smart, reasonably-priced package.
Equipped with a long battery life, it's a great for all-day wear with insights into sleep trends.
In addition to providing incident detection, it offers some of the most comprehensive training data on the market.
A long battery life and waterproofing for pools and open water make this watch a good choice for everyday wear.
Best for Triathletes:
Garmin Forerunner 945 at Amazon
A top choice for cross training, it has an extended battery life and adaptive training plans.
Best with App:
Fitbit Sense at Amazon
It pairs with the Fitbit Premium app to provide full, extensive insights on your health.
Bluetooth and Alexa compatible, you can check the weather, news, and more with your voice.
Best for Seniors:
Apple Watch Series 5 at Amazon
Fall detection, automatic 911 call capabilities, and an intuitive design provide a reliable tracker for older adults.
Best with GPS:
Garmin fenix 6 at Amazon
An altimeter, barometer, and compass let you track workouts and plan routes, no matter how remote your location.

Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Series 6
Pros
  • Stylish and lightweight

  • Variety of colors and bands

  • Extensive health data

  • Connects to iPhone and multiple apps

Cons
  • May require cellular plan

  • Extra bands not included

The Apple Watch Series 6 has everything you need in a heart rate monitor and health-tracking watch. Whether you’re looking to take note of important health data like your heart rate, O2 saturation, or even get ECG data (to keep an eye on some heart problems), stay motivated with exercise via guided workouts, or just stay connected to your messages—this watch does it all.

To top it off, it’s incredibly customizable, meaning you can personalize the bands, the color of the frame, or even the watch face.

Battery Life: Up to 18 hours | Music: Downloadable and streaming with cellular plan | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Blood O2, ECG, steps and activity tracking, high/low heart rate notifications, fall detection

Best Budget: POLAR M430 GPS Running Watch

Polar M430
Pros
  • Reasonable price

  • GPS tracking for running

  • Sleep and activity tracking

Cons
  • Only available in black

The Polar M430 is perfect for the runner who wants to understand more about their training and recovery without too much distracting data. It offers GPS and workout tracking plus a few extras like sleep tracking and recovery status, all in a water-resistant design (because rain doesn’t stop you from running!). 

This watch enhances your training by tracking speed, distance, and route as well as offering interval and lap timers and an auto start/stop feature so you can focus exclusively on your run.

Battery Life: Eight hours of training | Music: No | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Water-resistant | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Indoor running option, tracks training load and recovery status

Best for Sleep: Fitbit Charge 4 Fitness and Activity Tracker

fitbit-charge-4
Pros
  • Lightweight and small design

  • Extensive sleep data

  • Call and text alerts

  • Long battery life

Cons
  • Exercise/activity data limited

  • Short battery life with GPS

The comfortable, slim design of the Fitbit Charge 4 makes it great for tracking health and fitness data all day long. Offering more detailed sleep tracking data than many other watches, the Fitbit Charge 4 improves sleep with insights about how much time you spend in each stage of sleep. You also get an overall sleep score with tips to build better sleep habits. 

Paired with the Fitbit app (which includes a free basic or upgraded premium option), you can track your activity, set workout goals, and get customized performance alerts.

Battery Life: Up to seven days as a smartwatch, five hours when using GPS | Music: No | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep tracking: Yes | Other Features: On-screen pace for running/walking/hiking, interchangeable bands

Best for Running: Garmin Forerunner 245 Running Smartwatch

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Smartwatch
Pros
  • Advanced training features

  • Multiple colors available

  • Heart rate alerts

  • Safety and tracking features with incident detection

Cons
  • Short battery life with GPS

If you’re ready to take your training to the next level, the Forerunner 245 features extensive training data and plans, whether you’re training by heart rate or pace. If you cross-train in the pool or on the bike, you can also take the Forerunner with you. The optional music upgrade allows you to sync your favorite music apps like Spotify to boost motivation.

Beyond training, the watch provides significant other health data, from heart rate alerts (too high or low), incident detection, and data on stress and sleep. It also connects to your smartphone for text alerts and much more.

Battery Life: Up to seven days as a smartwatch, six hours with GPS and music | Music: Yes | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Sync with Spotify, advanced running data, incident detection, connect to smartphone for additional data/features, health monitoring

Best Waterproof: Samsung Galaxy Watch3

Samsung Galaxy Watch3
Pros
  • Waterproof

  • Long battery life

  • 50,000+ watch faces

  • Advanced health monitoring

  • Training plans available

Cons
  • Expensive

If your workouts are completed in the pool, the waterproof Samsung Galaxy—featuring one of the longest battery lives of GPS with music watches—stands out against competitors. It’s incredibly comprehensive with training plans, workout tracking, and additional fitness activities. It can also track important health factors like sleep and stress while offering meditation and deep breathing guidance. 

When paired with your smartphone, you can leave your phone behind during a workout and still have access to music, apps, and more—lightening up your load while you stay fit.

Battery Life: 56 hours (45mm), 43 hours (41mm) | Music: With cellular connection | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Compatible with Android/ios, multiple sports, meditation, stress tracking, fall detection

Best for Triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 945

Garmin Forerunner 945
Pros
  • Comprehensive sports data

  • Chest strap option available

  • Long battery life

  • Strong GPS signal

  • Adaptive training plans

Cons
  • Expensive

For serious, data-obsessed athletes, the Garmin Forerunner 945 offers a top-of-the-line training experience. The long battery life allows for endurance training across multiple sports, and it offers helpful training insights for triathletes, whether you’re going for a sprint tri or an ironman.

With all the best features of Garmin watches, like adaptive training plans, health insights, and connection with your smartphone, plus a strong GPS signal and colorful on-screen maps, there’s really not much this watch can’t do in the water, on the road, or on the trails.

Battery Life: 14 days in smartwatch mode, 35 hours GPS only, ten hours GPS and music mode | Music: Yes | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Adaptive training plans, Garmin pay, pulse oximeter, running form analyzer

Best with App: Fitbit Sense

Fitbit Sense
Pros
  • Scan for body temp insights

  • Heart data monitoring

  • Fast charging battery

  • Extensive data via Fitbit app

Cons
  • Limited color options

  • Some features require app subscription

The Sense is Fitbit’s advanced health smartwatch that can track extensive health data. With the premium app (you get six months free with watch purchase), you receive access to unique features, including daily stress scores, as well as heart rate patterns, skin temperature, and oxygen saturation levels. You can also track your sleep patterns and set a smart awake alarm to wake you up during the optimal sleep stage.

Enhance your fitness routine with goal-based workouts, heart rate zone training, and all-day activity tracking. The data in the Fitbit premium app offers a full picture of your health and fitness.

Battery Life: Six days | Music: Yes | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Built-in Google assist and Amazon Alexa for access to news and other info, voice assist, stress management, fitness tracking, Fitbit pay

Best with Alexa: Fitbit Versa 2 Fitness Smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 2
Pros
  • Extensive health data via app

  • Quick news and info via Alexa

  • Long battery life

  • Bluetooth compatibility

Cons
  • Some features require app subscription

For those with a “smart home” and a love of connecting all devices, invest in the Fitbit Versa 2. It not only connects to your smartphone—allowing you to use apps like Spotify and Pandora—but it also comes with a built-in Alexa to help you control your home devices straight from your wrist.

Plus, you get all of the other benefits of a Fitbit watch, including access to their premium app (which comes along with extensive health and fitness information), 24/7 heart rate and steps tracking, menstrual health tracking, sleep data, and more.

Battery Life: Six days | Music: Store up to 300 songs, connect to music apps | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 50m | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Built-in Amazon Alexa, sleep score, stress management score, on-screen workouts

Best for Seniors: Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 White
Pros
  • Comprehensive heart health data

  • Fall detection

  • Emergency SOS

  • Larger screen

Cons
  • Features may be overwhelming

  • Expensive

For older adults, monitoring heart health can be top of mind, and the Apple Series 5 provides helpful monitoring and data to share with your medical team and loved ones. The fall detection connects to the emergency SOS system and if the watch notices you’ve been immobile for one minute, it can automatically call 911. 

Beyond these additional features, the series 5 and up also comes along with all of the other benefits of an Apple watch, like connecting multiple apps, tracking sleep, steps, and fitness, and GPS capabilities.

Battery Life: 18 hours | Music: Streaming with cell connection, store music with Apple Music | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Fall detection, heart rate monitoring, O2 saturation, electrical heart sensor, fitness and steps tracking, connection to iOS apps

Best with GPS: Garmin fenix 6

Garmin fenix 6
Pros
  • GPS, compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter

  • Training performance data

  • Sunlight-readable display

  • Safety tracking

Cons
  • Large design

  • Must sync with phone for music

The Garmin Fenix uses multiple navigation satellite systems for the best chance of GPS tracking in challenging places. It also offers the unique ClimbPro ascent planner to get the gradient, distance, and elevation gains on current and upcoming climbs. Pair that with its “ABC features” (altimeter, barometer, and compass) for the ultimate outdoor watch with a rugged design. 

The Fenix also boasts all of the typical benefits of a high-end Garmin watch, from safety features like incident detection, heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, and more. 

Battery Life: Nine days in smartwatch mode, up to 25 hours in GPS mode, 20 hours in expedition GPS activity mode, 34 days in battery save watch mode | Music: Yes, requires cell connection | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Advanced navigation, fitness tracking, performance metrics, ClimbPro ascent planner, trail navigation, safety tracking

Best with Blood Pressure Monitor: Omron HeartGuide

Omron HeartGuide
Pros
  • Fast blood pressure reading

  • Helpful blood pressure insights

  • Fitness and sleep tracking

Cons
  • Large and heavy

  • Not water resistant

The Omron Heart Guide is specifically designed for those that need to monitor daily blood pressure, anywhere, anytime. While there is yet to be a watch that completely replaces a traditional blood pressure cuff, this one comes very close, as most customers note accurate readings.

It also gives you a bigger picture of your heart health, with sleep and lifestyle insights and heart rate monitoring.

Battery Life: Two days | GPS: No | Music: No | Waterproof: No | Sleep Tracking: Yes | Other Features: Wrist blood pressure monitor, track fitness and steps

For the most in-depth health and fitness tracker on your wrist, reach for the Apple Watch Series 6 (view at Amazon). It offers more data and connectivity than most watches, which means that it's likely to meet all of your needs. The watch is a great option for both the everyday health and fitness enthusiast and those looking to take their training up a notch.

For athletes looking to level up their training even more while also tracking other health data, the Garmin Forerunner 245 (view at Amazon) is also a great option, given the comprehensive training insights and guidance.

What to Look for in a Heart Rate Monitor Watch

Battery Life

If you’ve ever headed out for a workout only to realize your watch is dead, you know how important a long battery life (and quick charge) can be. Beyond this, “many devices learn to adapt to your specific body metrics as more data is collected. The more consistently you wear the device, the better the watch will be able to detect trends,” says Laney Morse, NASM Certified Personal Trainer.  


Water Resistance

Whether you’re running in the rain, hopping in a pool, or just want to keep your watch on in the shower, having a watch that can stand up to a little moisture takes the worry out of wearing it all the time. 


Sport-Specific Settings

If you’re using your watch as a training tool, the ability to track data for different sports is key.  But even for exercise enthusiasts who want access to activity-specific data and guided workouts, this can be a nice feature to have. “Many watches will offer different training types, such as swimming, indoor or outdoor cycling, indoor or outdoor running, weightlifting, or HIIT to name a few,” says Morse. 


Recovery Heart Rate

“Watches that can detect how long it takes your heart to recover back to what is considered a ‘normal’ heart rate for you can help track aerobic fitness,” explains Morse. This also gives the watch the ability to track stress levels and suggest recovery times post-workout. 


Accompanying App

Most watches come with an app that provides additional data beyond what’s available on your wrist. However, many of the watches will require a premium monthly app membership to access some of the features, so make sure to check what’s free and what requires an upgrade.


Cellular Connectivity Requirements

Some features, like streaming music, texting, or access to certain apps require a cellular plan or a connection to a phone that must be within a certain distance of the watch to work. While many of them offer basic capabilities without this cellular connection, it could be worth looking into if you're looking for a do-it-all watch.


Optional Heart Rate Strap

If you’re looking for the most accurate heart rate data, you’ll want to go with a watch that also has an accompanying chest strap to detect your heart rate.

FAQs

Are heart rate monitors accurate?

“Heart rate monitor watches are not as accurate as the ones you wear around your chest, especially as heart rate increases,” says Sabrina Sarabella, MS, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor. “The wrist is actually considered one of the worst places to use a heart rate monitor, due to the high amount of optical noise created from muscle, tendon, bone, and constant movement of the hand,” adds Morse.

So while the watch can be a good estimate, for the most accurate data, look for one that has a chest strap if the accuracy of the heart rate monitor is essential to your health or workout.

How should I wear a heart rate monitor watch?

“Wear it just above where your wrist connects to the base of your hand. The watch can be worn either inside or outside the wrist, and it should be snug enough that it doesn’t move or slide around, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation," says Morse.

For the most accurate information, you want to wear it as often as possible (even if you’re primarily using it for training purposes). “During rest, it will give you good information on your resting heart rate, which is a good indicator for overall health. It will also detect any irregularities in heart rate when resting,” adds Sarabella.

Can a smartwatch detect heart problems?

“Most watches will be able to tell you if your heart rate is lower or higher than it should be at times of rest, and this can be important for understanding heart health,” says Sarabella. Some watches are now offering additional data, like oxygen saturation, which may sound like a good thing to know. However “it only works if the watch is placed correctly and there is very little movement,” says Morse.

“While this monitoring might not be the most accurate, many smartwatches are taught to understand the individual, so it could detect a significant change in heart function,” adds Morse. Of course, if you think you may have heart dysfunction, talk to your doctor immediately and don’t rely solely on a smartwatch for monitoring.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian, indoor cycling instructor, runner, former triathlete, and overall fitness enthusiast. She uses heart rate monitor watches to support her own health and training, as well as to help many of her clients improve fitness.

She currently uses both an Apple Watch (view at Amazon) for everyday use and the Garmin Forerunner 245 (view at Amazon) for training, but has tested out and enjoyed several other products and brands included on this list.

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