Polar FT40 Heart Rate Monitor Review


Heart rate monitors are everywhere and they should be – they're an excellent tool for monitoring how hard you working and giving you real-time feedback so you can adjust how hard you're working if you need to.

Polar has discontinued the FT40 model, but continues to provide support. This review covers how the product works.

The problem? There are thousands to choose from, so which one is the right one? If you want lots of guidance during your workouts, the Polar FT40 might be the right choice for you.

The FT40 actually helps you determine the right training intensity for every workout based on how you're feeling that day, taking the guesswork out of confusing heart rate calculations. This type of heart rate monitor might not appeal to every exerciser, but the FT40 has a number of helpful functions for exercisers who want to get fit without complex programs to mess with.

The Polar FT40 Specs

Some of the basic features of the FT40 include:

  • Backlight
  • Target zone indicator
  • Heart rate display – shown as a percentage of maximum heart rate or bpm
  • Adjustable upper limit of heart rate zone
  • Water resistant up to 30 meters
  • Chest strap with transmitter
  • The ability transfer data using the Polar FlowLink (optional)
  • And, of course, it tells time

To set up the watch, you enter basic information including your weight, height, birth date, sex, maximum heart rate and exercise frequency (low, moderate, high or top). The FT40 uses this info to calculate your heart rate zones and calories burned during workouts.

Once you've set things up, you can start monitoring and recording your workout right away with the push of a button. During the workout you can scroll through the screens to view the time, your heart rate, calories burned or the training effect screen, which displays your current heart rate as well as information about whether you're working in your fat-burning zone or in your fitness zone.

After the workout, you can view calories burned, percentage of calories burned from fat, how long you spent in each intensity zone and your average and maximum heart rate. You can also view data files showing daily and weekly summaries of your workouts or use the Polar FlowLink (this is an extra cost) to download your data to the Polar Personal Trainer website.

You can even set up fitness, running or training programs on the website, which is a pretty cool feature.

Stand Out Features

  • OwnIndex - The FT40 includes a fitness test that measures your aerobic fitness based on gender, age, height, body weight, level of physical activity, heart rate and heart rate variability at rest. You wear the watch and chest strap while relaxing for 5 minutes while the FT40 measures your heart rate. The result is your OwnIndex number, a measurement which is comparable to VO2max, often used as a way to measure aerobic fitness. The FT40 saves your latest 60 test results to so you can compare them and see how your fitness is improving over time.
  • EnergyPointer - This function helps determine the right training intensity during each workout based on your current condition. While you exercise, a line appears on the screen showing your current heart rate and your limit heart rate value, which is the heart rate that separates your fat-burning zone from your fitness zone. Keeping your heart rate to the left of the line keeps you at a lower intensity while keeping your heart rate to the right means you're in your fitness zone.

All of this sounds a little bit complicated - Reading the manual may make you want to tear your hair out, but this really is a great feature considering that intensity is probably the most important part of your workout and the hardest to figure out.

Basically, this tool does all the work for you so you don't have fuss with heart rate zone calculations and figuring out how hard to work.

I will give this caveat: In my case, the heart rate zones ran low. During one workout, my limit heart rate value was 114 bpm, which barely equates to a warm-up for me so I would highly recommend you use the heart rate monitor along with Perceived Exertion to find a zone that works for you.

One nice feature, however, is the fact that the limit heart rate isn't the same every day. It goes up when you're rested and can handle a harder workout, and goes down when you're body needs something easier. That's pretty cool.

Pros and Cons


  • Stylish - Yes, it does still look like a heart rate monitor (read: bulky and sporty looking), but the FT40 is a bit more stylish and comes in a variety of colors with light floral patterns printed on the strap, which may appeal to women
  • Easy to use - Aside from a few confusing areas, the instruction manual is fairly easy to understand, set up is a snap and it's easy to navigate the screens during workouts
  • Great for beginners - The FT40 may have more bells and whistles than beginners need, but they'll enjoy the extra guidance the FT40 provides in choosing workout intensity
  • Motivating - Being able to see your progress during and after your workouts and review your training data at any time is encouraging and may help you stick with your workout program
  • Great accessories - The Polar FlowLink which costs an extra $54 makes it easy to transfer workout data to the website. 


  • Can't Change your Heat Rate Zones- My biggest issue with the FT40 is the inability to view my heart rate zones or to change them. While you can change the upper heart rate, you can't adjust the lower limits. This is frustrating when the heart rate zones are too low, as they were for me.
  • The Fat-Burning Zone - Another problem I had was with their promise that staying at a low intensity will help exercisers burn more fat. This is a myth that's been around for decades and exercisers may not realize that, while lower intensity workouts definitely have their place, higher intensity exercise burns more calories.
  • Pricey - At around $155, this is one of the pricier HRMs, but you do get a lot for your money.

Overall, there are many more pros than cons with the FT40, making it a great choice, especially for new exercisers.

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