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How important to you is the heart rate monitor on fitness trackers?

Michael Moseley Trust Me I’m a Doctor recently covered fitness trackers and their HR Monitors, and basically said they are useless. Both the fitness tracker and the HR, likewise with wrist based blood pressure measurement.
I use a HR Monitor with a chest strap and link to my bike computer. Have found the current technology, as opposed to that of less than a decade ago to be very reliable and accurate.
Although the absolute values and their averages are interesting, as a training tool their relative measurement and averages seem to be far more useful, eg, intensity level.
With the current media fad about HIIT, when I say intensity, I’m not talking about maximum intensity, you don’t need a monitor for that, but if you are an athlete training for an event, then the appropriate intensity for the performance change you are seeking becomes far more important. In fact for endurance a far more difficult thing is getting competitive athletes to train at low intensity, eg, try riding or running uphill and maintain only 70%max.

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On the question of accuracy, it is not surprising that there is a lot of variation as some use chest bands and some rely only on contact with the wrist. Of those, accuracy will be greatly affected by how tight the wrist band is. The slim-line wrist fitness trackers have little contact with the skin anyway.
As an active sports person, I have to use a HRM when following my team’s fitness program. (A number of exercises designate a HR zone.) I used to use one with a chest band as I was aware that wrist-only ones were not regarded as accurate. However in the last couple of years I have been using a Tom-Tom which I tested by using it on one wrist while wearing the chest band of the other one and its receiver on the other wrist. I found that they agreed within 1-2 beats per minute. That is accurate enough for knowing which zone I am exercising in. (I did find that the monitor with the chest band was quicker at detecting a change in HR, whereas the Tom Tom took a second or two to react if I slowed down or sped up.)

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Having arrhythmia medicated successfully for 10 years I check my average heart rate a few times most days and sometimes after swimming. I have tried Samsung but it died when they did not update the software and now have a Garmin HR but text is too small and it does not work for swimming.
Thinking of trying Swimmo to count my laps. I swim 68 laps of a 15 meter pool and frequently loose count

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The monitor is nice to have, but once I started using it, I realised that it did not really add to my training. Speed, distance and average more important. Accuracy very important and this varies significantly.

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I bought a fitness tracker with HRM as I was just returning to exercise after a break and wanted to gradually increase effort over time. It was hopelessly inaccurate! I took it back for a refund. I will not buy another one.

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I wanted to track my heart rate… I have arrhythmias, and wanted to show my cardiologist what was happening. Sadly the Holter Monitor I’ve had a couple of times never managed to catch anything. I found that my fitbit blaze was pretty useless. I’ve ended up getting an Apple Watch and currently use HeartWatch as my go-to, it seems to do a reasonable job: it checks the rate every 5 minutes or so and more often if theres some anomaly (like your rate jumping from 60 to 120 in a matter of seconds, whilst you are sitting, reading). I also have a bit of gadgetry called Kardia, from Alivecor. It has two electrodes, and takes the approx equivalent of a one lead ECG. Its not for fitness or checking heartrate whilst exercising. However, its expensive, and its slow because when you detect an arrhythmia, you need to open the app on your phone and take a reading, by which time it may have subsided. There’s a band for the watch as well, and when I can, I will be buying that.

I guess I am saying overall, that the monitor on my watch is something I want and need. The fitbit blaze was useless by comparison.

For those who also want a monitor for the same reason I do, heres a link to the Alivecor site: http://www.alivetec.com/store/alivecor-heart-monitor-for-ios-and-android

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I bought my tracker primarily for the heart rate monitor function, to help to motivate me to work hard enough. Making sure I spend enough time in the training zone by checking my heart rate when cycling, rowing or walking stops me slacking off or talking myself into a feeling that I am pushing myself, when in fact I’m not. It has a chest strap and I have found it to be very accurate. My research prior to purchase indicated that wrist-only models weren’t accruate at all, which is understandable when you think about the intermittent contact a watch has with your wrist and the weakness of the pulse signal on the back of your wrist.

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I am65 and need to be sure I do not exceed my 85% of my max pulse rate when exercising. A HRM also provides motivation to exercise harder to achieve a sensible rate of exercise. FYI my original HRM was a Polar chest strap, but I found it uncomfortable and battery life was an issue, but it was accurate. I migrated to a Fitbit Blaze, and found it to be wildly inaccurate on many exercises. It also had ongoing failures to sync to both Android and iOS, you have to remove the Blaze from its strap to charge the battery, and the glass is fragile. Not Happy! I returned the Blaze and replaced it with a Garmin Vivosmart HR. Found it to be superior in accuracy to Fitbit though it has an concessional transgression when my wrist gets sweaty, wearing it higher up the wrist restores accuracy. Overall performance of the Garmin is good.

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I have had 3 Fitbit’s now (took each one back as they started to fall apart within the warranty period). The last two had HRM’s. My primary purpose was not to monitor HR but the other stats (steps, floors etc), HR monitoring was a nice to have an of secondary importance to me. I also found it to be less than accurate in measuring HR. For example, I would do High intensity interval training on my exercise bike and record my HR the old fashioned way with two fingers on the carotid artery. The manual way gave me a reading of 160-170 bpm, however the Fitbit would read 125!

I have just purchased an Apple watch and am looking forward to getting some stats out of it (have only been wearing it a few days). Although I’m finding it a bit more challenging navigating the Apple watch and related apps than the Fitbit.

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I have a Fitbit Charge HR. It was not obvious to me when I bought it that heart rate cannot be conitinuously displayed. Even if I get a chance to press the button to display my hr during exercise the display is not visible in bright sunlight. I have found the hr monitor accurate when compared to my polar chest strap. In the Michael Mosley Trust Me I’m a Doctor episode when they tested heart rate watches I noticed non of them were wearing them correctly. During exercise they do have to be 2 or 3 finger width above the wrist bone. They were instead all worn like a normal watch. I don’t want a smart watch to help me loose weight. I want to see my heart rate to make sure I don’t over do it which I am prone to do. The fitbit was advertised as helping you train in the right zone. Well that is not possible if there is not permanent display.

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I’m 70 and do Parkrun every Saturday. I use a Garmin Vivosmart HR which monitors heart/pulse rate in real time. My body tells me when to slow down, my monitor tells me to push harder when I’ve slowwed enough.

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5 posts were split to a new topic: Fitness tracker reviews

Further to my previous comment, I’d also like to point Apple Watch users to an app called Cardiogram, which is (I think) better than Heartwatch. Both are good for different reasons. You can set Cardiogram to record continually. I havent done that, I’m sure it would eat battery.

You can see from the graph that its checking is frequent. The small blue bars are indicators of my pulse dropping under 60. Sometimes it goes under 50. But, I need it to just keep an eye on me. Prior to being treated for my heart issues, I was getting all kinds of crazy readings. That is, heartrate way too fast for good health. For people like me, Apple watch combined with appropriate apps is a godsend.

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Following on from the discussion above, we’ve made this video: Fitness trackers with heart rate monitors – are they accurate?

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I’d prefer an always on HRM that in particular records periods of irregularities. We were early fitbit users, however after they died, we replaced functionality with the mobile’s functionality - when it is on your body!
Very recently have added a Wahoo HRM chest band coupled to the mobile/bike app. It & other accurate HRM’s can monitor heart rate variability (HRV). Have not yet delved to see if that is really useful, however I purchased the Wahoo based on it being accurate enough for the job.

The Kardia device is mentioned above. The electrocardiologist expressed delight when I presented the Kardia results after not managing to get a useful Holtor monitor trace. The one issue I had with the Kardia was dry skin. Really helped to wet, brine, or gel your fingers. Also, although I haven’t had an issue with the 5 androids & an ipad I’ve tried it with, I read it will not work at all with some mobile phones.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Fitness tracker reviews

An article regarding claims that Fitbit and similar trackers are inaccurate in calculating calories burnt.

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For me, I use it to get a rough estimate of my movements and exercise. There’s a sense of accomplishment when you see that.

I’m not that concerned about it not being very accurate.

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I’m usually relaxed during that process :slight_smile:

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If my fitness tracker shows a pulse, then I know I’m good to go. :wink:

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