Wrist vs. Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitors

Watch-strap displays have changed the way consumers monitor fitness. There used to be the chest strap option in a professional, scientific setting or two fingers on your pulse (jugular or wrist) before and after a run.

A dedicated athlete would jot down the numbers, times, and so on to keep an accurate record. Today, consumers get to choose how they record and even track their fitness over time, setting goals for short- or long-term performance.

Everyone’s Different

Athletes have their preferences and it might surprise you to learn that some people prefer the chest strap heart rate monitor. To them this is the traditional monitoring accessory. Ultimately, consumers have to choose what feels right for them, but keep the following facts in mind.

Optimum Choice

There are loads of wrist-fastened heart rate monitors around. They cost from $70 to $300 and come with numerous features like step counters and calorie counters. These even work as traditional watches and sometimes provide GPS in a stylish format.

Heart Rate Accuracy

For an accurate reading, you can’t beat the chest strap. Ultimately, this gets data from as close to the source as possible. Each type of technology is basing their data on a formula, though, and moisture is needed. In other words, they’re more accurate when you sweat.

Feel

How does it feel to have a strap around your chest? Some people say it’s not so great. You wind up with red marks, even welts or a rash. How sensitive is your skin? If you are prone to flaking and swelling, then stick with a wrist strap. Then again, you might wind up with red marks here too, especially if your skin does not like silicone. Both types of heart rate monitors require a snug fit but, with a chest strap, that can feel really uncomfortable.

Convenience

You can wear your wrist monitor all day, every day, even in the shower with the best ones. The chest strap doesn’t look so nice under your fancy dress or blouse, so you can’t wear it all the time to track movement all day.

Cost

You’ll need a Smartphone or other Bluetooth device to make sense of your chest strap. While the strap is inexpensive, there’s no way around it: sync details to an app which might be free, though, and most people have an iPhone or Android device.

Wrist heart rate monitors can be very inexpensive if you don’t want or need extras like navigation and caller display. But most of the really good ones, if they’re accurate, are more expensive than the chest strap option. Wrist straps are more convenient for live monitoring, but remember: your goal is to accurately follow your heart rate.

Wrist vs. Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitors
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Todd Stohrdahl

Todd Stohrdahl keeps a close eye on fitness topics and will never turn down an opportunity to play competitive sports. He’s a fierce competitor and brings his “hustle and muscle” mentality to our editorial team.