The World Health Organization says that all adults should be exercising for at least two and a half hours a week, performing moderate workouts -- that number drops to a minimum of 75 minutes per week if the workout is particularly rigorous. No matter how much you're working out, you can track exactly how difficult your workout is with a heart-rate monitor. A heart monitor with a chest strap is the best workout partner.
When it comes to optimizing your workout session -- especially when your sport of choice is a distance-based activity, like overall health and fitness. In other cases, it's a good way to monitor irregular heart rhythms.or -- data can empower you to get so much more out of each workout on a short-term and long-term basis. Even if you aren't super active, knowing your (HRV) helps you stay in tune with your cardiovascular system, which is responsible for regulating your heart rate. Heart-rate monitoring can help you track your cardiovascular and
Gathering metrics like your speed, heart rate, distance,, stride length, cadence, altitude and elevation can help you fine-tune your training plan to reach a specific . That's why using a heart-rate monitor with a chest strap that's comfortable to wear (and pairing it with a on your smartwatch or a like a ) is so essential for your fitness goals and health.
Of all the different types of heart-rate monitors out there, chest straps are some of the best for distance athletes because they tend to get more accurate heart-rate data readings than an armband, wrist monitor or traditional fitness tracker. Chest straps have a reputation for being uncomfortable and chafing, but the best heart-rate monitors make you forget they're even there -- until you check your reading at the end of a workout session.
Below, you'll find our picks for the best chest strap heart-rate monitors. We update this list periodically as new models become available.
Polar's H10 really wowed me, but I have to wonder if it was because I was using a Polar watch as my basis for comparison. The H10 is accurate (as compared to Polar Ignite heart-rate data), reliable, comfortable and compatible. It's iOS- and Android-friendly, using Bluetooth and ANT Plus connectivity to pair with a variety of devices.
The silicon friction dots along the strap minimize shifting and slipping, and the buckle easily adjusts for a good fit. The H10 supports two simultaneous Bluetooth connections, so if you wear a smartwatch and use fitness hardware such as a stationary bike or rowing erg, you can connect to both. If your gym equipment uses ANT Plus technology, you can potentially enable up to three bluetooth device connections at once.
The only negative that I noticed was that the Polar H10 only has enough onboard memory for one training session. No biggie if you remember to sync to your phone or watch after your run, but that data is lost if you forget and go for a run the next day.
The extra-wide heart-rate chest strap on the Wahoo Tickr X makes this chest strap heart-rate monitor extremely comfortable. The fabric feels soft, and the band is easy to adjust. I was able to get the best, snuggest fit with this strap compared to the others I tested, but it's unlikely that'll be the case for everyone. It fits chests from 23 to 48 inches.
In addition to offering extreme comfort, the Wahoo Tickr X also offers comprehensive compatibility. This heart-rate strap connects to just about anything, including iPhone and Android devices, Garmin watches and more than 50 fitness apps.
The updated version of the Wahoo Tickr X supports up to three simultaneous Bluetooth connections, which is convenient if you want to sync your heart-rate monitoring to both a wrist-worn activity tracker and your phone. However, you won't need to cart along your phone while running with the Wahoo Tickr X, because it has 50 hours of onboard memory that stores heart rate, helping to track heart-rate variability, checking for target heart rate and calories burned data.
This heart-rate monitor is small, lightweight and captures six cool running metrics: cadence, vertical oscillation ("bounce" in your run), ground contact time, left/right balance, stride length and vertical ratio (oscillation height-to-stride-length). Wearing the HRM-Run made me feel much more like a serious runner than I am -- or at least than I have been for the last six or seven months.
The Garmin HRM-Run comes with an impressively long battery life: It lasts for an entire year, assuming you run for an hour per day, once a day. For me (and many other casual runners), this chest strap would last much longer than a year. For serious runners, the long battery life eliminates the need for bothersome weekly charging or, heaven forbid, heading out for a run only to realize your heart-rate monitor is dead.
Garmin knew its target audience with this heart-rate sensor product, as it's thin, lightweight and comfortable, too. This Garmin device accompanied me on my longest run throughout the testing phase for this project -- an eight-miler -- and I didn't chafe or feel uncomfortable at all.
Editor's note, Nov. 2, 2022: The Garmin HRM-Run has been discontinued on the Garmin site. We will periodically check Amazon for the most updated purchasing links.
If you're looking for a heart-rate measurement budget buy to take your workout to the next level, this is it. The CooSpo H6 chest strap uses ANT Plus technology and Bluetooth, which allows it to sync and work wirelessly with the devices you probably already have.
This Bluetooth heart-rate monitor only works if you have a compatible heart-rate tracking app or device that can sync with the CooSpo device. For example, if you use Strava to track your runs, you can sync Strava to the chest strap to get your readings. The CooSpo strap also syncs to Zwift, Peloton hardware, Polar devices, Map My Ride, Wahoo Fitness, Endomondo, UA Run, Garmin devices and more.
This chest strap is soft and comfortable, and the battery life is impressive with 300 hours of use. The strap is also waterproof, and while I didn't test it in water or rain, I did test it while running in Louisiana, where the humidity makes the air feel like soup -- and it held up just fine.
If you're a duathlete or triathlete looking for a chest strap heart-rate monitor, I suggest going with the Garmin HRM-Tri, which is specifically designed to accommodate triathletes. This chest strap captures all the data that triathletes need to track and reports it all back to fitness apps on any compatible devices you sync it to.
Like the HRM-Run, the built-in accelerometer on the HRM-Tri measures cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time data while running, and when you're in the water, the strap sensor stores heart-rate data, which it sends to your device later. (The heart-rate tracker can't actually transmit data while in the water.)
In terms of comfort, the Garmin HRM-Tri is extremely lightweight, so much so that I barely noticed it while running. I didn't wear it to swim, but I noticed that it seemed to soak up less sweat than the other chest straps I tried, alluding to substantial water resistance.
How we chose
High intensity activity: I ran with several heart-rate monitors to find the best chest strap monitors for runners. I wore each chest strap on every run for two weeks straight, which came out to six runs per monitor.
Comfort: I rated them on how comfortable they felt and breathability during workouts.
Features: I considered the function of various features, like connectivity and whether other metrics are captured in addition to heart rate.
Compared it to a trusted heart-rate monitor: I looked at the battery life and accuracy as compared to my Polar Ignite watch, which captures my heart rate throughout runs. While this might not be the best method of testing for accuracy, it's what I had available to me, and the Polar Ignite is very consistent, so it served as a good comparison.
Factors to consider
- Determine what type of activity you will be doing while wearing a chest strap heart-rate monitor. Most are suitable for a range of cardio activities from running to cycling, but not all would work for swimming, for example.
- Decide how much you're willing to spend on a chest strap heart rate monitor. You can find reliable ones for under $100 or if you want all the bells and whistles, you can expect to spend over $100.
- Figure out how important battery life is to you and how often you want to charge or replace it. Some chest strap heart-rate monitor batteries can last over a year while others can last around 500 hours. This will vary per device and how often you use it.
- Decide if you will be connecting the heart rate monitor mainly to your smartphone or if you plan on connecting it to other devices. This will influence whether you want it to have ANT+ or Bluetooth connectivity.
How to choose a chest strap heart-rate monitor
When it comes to choosing the best heart-rate monitor chest strap for your workout, many of the factors in your buying decision will be based on personal preferences and your workout regimen. Here are a few factors to keep in mind while shopping.
Strap width: Before you buy, consider whether you'd be more comfortable with a heart-rate tracker that uses a slim strap or a wider one.
Module size: Some chest straps use tiny modules (the plastic puck-like part) that don't extend over the edges of the strap. Others, however, use larger monitors to measure your heart rate. Which style you choose to track your workout depends on your comfort preference, as well as how tight your running shirts are.
Internal memory: If you don't like to hold your smartphone during your workout, opt for a heart-rate training monitor that can store your heart-rate data in its own built-in memory. You can later transfer your heart-rate reading to your apps via your monitor's companion app.
Metrics: Consider what you want your monitor to, well, monitor during your workout. Higher-end models capture real-time data covering everything from run cadence to stride length, as well as things like blood pressure, calorie burn and heart-rate variability to help you reach your fitness goal, while more basic models might track only your heart rate.
Battery: A wearable chest strap monitor can have all kinds of power sources. Some have a rechargeable battery. Others may have super-long battery life, but the battery isn't user replaceable or rechargeable. A longer battery life is always convenient -- no one wants a monitor to peter out during a run -- but there are lots of options. Make sure to check the description for battery life before purchasing a monitor.
Chest strap vs. wrist-worn heart-rate monitors
Chest strap and wrist-worn heart-rate monitors are both used to measure heart rate, but they use different methods to provide readings. Below is a breakdown of what to expect when using either heart-rate monitor.
Electrical heart-rate vs optical heart-rate sensors
Electrical heart-rate sensors, found most commonly in chest strap heart-rate monitors, can detect electrical currents produced by your heart -- similar to what is done at a doctor's office with an most accurate heart-rate readings because the electrical sensor can handle measuring your heart rate even during rigorous activity.. These are considered the
Optical heart-rate sensors use an LED light to track your pulse rate in the arteries as blood pumps through them. Optical heart-rate sensors are found in smartwatches and are useful to read your heart rate while at rest or walking, but are less reliable for high intensity activity because the readings can get distorted.
ANT+ technology vs. Bluetooth connectivity
Most wrist-worn heart-rate monitors like the Apple Watch use Bluetooth, which only lets you connect to one device. For example, if you're recording an outdoor run you can connect your Apple Watch to your iPhone.
ANT+ technology, however, lets you wirelessly connect to multiple devices at once. This is a good option for athletes who are trying to track data from multiple sources. You can find this form of technology on devices like chest strap heart-rate monitors, indoor or outdoor bike computers and some smartwatches.
However, if you're planning on using a device that uses only ANT Plus technology and want to connect it to your smartphone, know that some Androids have ANT Plus technology capabilities, while iPhones do not. To find out if your device is capable of connecting to your Android, you have to find the ANT+ Plugins app in the Google Play store and browse its compatible device directory. If you have an iPhone or an Android that does not have the capability to connect to your ANT Plus device, you will need an adapter to add to your phone.
Most people prefer the Bluetooth option because it connects faster and it's easily found on most devices. The good news is there are many heart rate monitors that include both ANT Plus technology and Bluetooth connection to make the user experience easier.
Are chest strap or wrist-worn heart-rate monitors more accurate?
Studies have found chest strap heart-rate monitors tend to be more accurate, but some wrist-worn heart-rate monitors like the Apple Watch are improving their software and may eventually be as accurate.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.