Health Nut: Heart Monitors

Follow Your Heart to Gauge Exercise Effectiveness

By Kelly Turner

The effectiveness of your workout can be determined by answering one simple question: how hard are you working?

You can ask your head, but your head is a liar. Your head will tell you you’re working so hard you may collapse when you have so much more to give. Get out of your head, it knows nothing.

To find the answers you seek, you must ask your heart. Not in an introspective, follow your dreams kind of way, but there is a direct correlation between how hard your heart is working and how hard your body is working as a whole. You just have to speak its language.

The most accurate way to gauge exercise intensity is by measuring how many times per minute your heart beats. Here’s why: oxygen is what your muscles use as fuel. Sure, your lungs breathe it in, but your heart is the organ that delivers that oxygen to your exercising muscles. The harder your muscles are working, the more oxygen they require, and the faster your heart beats to meet that demand.

Maximize your workout

For an effective workout, you want to work within 60–85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To oversimplify, your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age, but a heart rate monitor can give you a more exact threshold based on your individual stats.

Heart-rate monitors are specifically designed to not only give you your heart rate at a glance, but they will track your heart rate throughout your entire workout, and some may even calculate how many calories you burned (accurately, unlike cardio machines people rely on so much.)

The most basic form of these monitors uses a strap that goes around your chest and transmits to a watch, so you can read the display. But there are numerous makes and models, so you are bound to find something that fits your wants and needs.

If you’re an iPhone addict, try Wahoo Blue HR ( Instead of transmitting to a watch, which is just one more thing to remember (and forget), the Wahoo Blue transmits to an app on your phone which you always have on you anyway, right? Then, you have all your workout stats in the palm of your hand anytime, anywhere.

If you like to pump iron, try Polar FT80 ( Like all other Polar models, the FT80 tracks your heart rate and calories burned, but it also has a unique strength training feature that allows you to set intervals and track progress, so it pushes you to perform your best.

If you prefer to go strapless, try MIO Watch ( I love my traditional heart rate monitor, but I’m not going to lie—it’s torture putting a freezing cold strap on your bare skin first thing in the morning. Skip the strap completely with the MIO watch that reads your heart rate directly from your wrist. Wear it all day long. No one will be the wiser.

Kelly Turner is a Seattle-based ACE certified personal trainer and fitness writer. You can contact her at Twitter: @KellyTurnerFit Instagram: KellyTurner26

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