Knowing your body and, more specifically, your heart, will leave you better suited to take the best care of yourself. You can find heart rate monitors that will also tell you several other functions of your body, as well. You can monitor your oxygen levels, or your blood pressure while getting your heart rate read, too. Should the worst happen, you’ll want to know if your resting heart rate is high or if you have any cause for concern. But finding a heart rate monitor that will suit your specific needs can get complicated and you don’t want to make the purchase blindly. You don’t have to stress it, though: we’ve done the homework for you.
We reviewed dozens of heart rate monitors to identify the best of the best. We looked at the heart rate monitors you’ll wear to track your heart rate constantly and those you’ll wear specifically for your workout. We found the heart rate monitors that will read your blood pressure and tell you your blood oxygen saturation, too. No matter what you need in a heart rate monitor, we found the right one for you.
Early in our research we were able to determine there was one heart rate monitor that stood above the rest: the Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor. Not only will it sync to your phone to give you guidance on its Smart Calories app, it comes with a battery that has a 12-month life span so you won’t ever lose track of your heart rate.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Heart Rate Monitors
|Best Overall||Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor||4.2|
|Runner Up||Willful Fitness Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor||4.2|
|Best Budget Buy||Santamedical Generation 2 OLED Fingertip Pulse Oximeter||4.7|
|Best Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitor||Garmin Chest Strap HRM||4.2|
|Best Fitness Tracking Heart Rate Monitor||Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate||4.1|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor
The Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor will continuously track your heart rate so that you’ll be able to monitor your health and fitness at your leisure; not just when you’re in the heat of your workout. Because who likes to stop a workout to check your heart rate? Even if you do check your heart rate while you push through your work out, your body may not be suited to those kinds of multi-tasking. (In other words, trying to operate additional equipment while you’re already operating at maximum physical capability may just cause you to trip up.) This wearable watch will prevent you from needing to ever risk that. If your gym uses GymLink, you’ll also be able to sync this monitor up with that equipment and get a more accurate reading of your workout.
But even beyond the fitness benefits of this watch, you’ll be able to see, concretely, when your heart rate is fluctuating and the easy-to-read display means you won’t even need to stop typing to see clearly that the stressful email you’re writing is making your blood boil. You’ll be better able to determine when you need to step away from something that is effecting your heart in a negative way if you can see it at all times.
With well over 7,000 customer reviews on Amazon, this heart rate monitor certainly has a large following. And with an overall rating of 4.2 stars, there’s more than enough support to suggest that, should you purchase this monitor, you’d be one of the majority of pleased customers.
Polar FT4 Heart Rate Monitor Key Features:
- Includes chest strap for even more accurate readings
- 5 color options
- Water resistant to 30m
Our Runner Up Pick: Willful Fitness Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor
The Willful Fitness Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor will give you a constant reading of your heart rate and keep track of so much more, as well. It will detect your sleep and analyze the quality of that sleep; it will even send gentle vibrations to wake you peacefully without disturbing anyone else. There are 14 different training modes to maximize the results of your workouts, too.
It will also sync with your phone to offer you access to your phone calls and test messages at the touch of your wrist. That means, should you be waiting on an important call, you needn’t put off your workout to physically wait by the phone. And you’ll never need miss an important text while you’re away from your phone again, either.
There are nearly a thousand customer reviews on Amazon for this monitor and with an overall rating of 4.2 stars, you have every reason to be confident in your purchase. After all, when 83% of customers liked it so much they came back to give it a glowing reviews, that builds a strong case for satisfaction.
Willful Fitness Tracker and Heart Rate Monitor Key Features:
- Rechargeable, 7 day battery life
- Waterproof, 0.96″ LCD display
- Sedentary alert to get you moving
Best Budget Pick: Santamedical Generation 2 OLED Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
The Santamedical Generation 2 OLED Fingertip Pulse Oximeter will clearly read your heart rate and also display your pulse oxygen saturation. It also shows the battery life and has a pulse rate bar to present your exact heart rate as it beats, which will allow you to ensure the accuracy of the reading. And it will all be shown on a large OLED display which will make it readable, even in the bright sun. It also features an auto-adjust sensor that will rotate the screen in any of the four directions.
The two AAA batteries required to operate this heart rate monitor and neck lanyard are included, so you need make no other purchases to begin using it regularly. It will also go into an automatic power-off mode so that you won’t waste any battery life. But with an expected battery life of 30+ hours of continuous use, that won’t come up too often.
This monitor has impressive numbers all across the board. On Amazon, there are close to 1,000 customer reviews on it and they’ve given it a virtually unheard of overall rating of 4.7 stars. And while those are all nice to read, the best part is that even though the risk of your satisfaction is minimal, the initial investment is even smaller. You can get this monitor for under $25!
Santamedical Generation 2 OLED Fingertip Pulse Oximeter Key Features:
- 2 color options
- Lanyard included for portability
- 1-year warranty
Best Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitor Pick: Garmin Chest Strap HRM
The Garmin Chest Strap HRM will store up to 20 hours of your heart rate and allow you to go back and review it with a critical eye. The data will upload to your Garmin compatible device and then to the Garmin Connect app that will allow you to get a complete picture of your health with a free online community, fitness plans, and detailed metrics. You can download the app to your phone or computer and once it’s synced, your heart rate and information will instantly upload.
The battery in this heart rate monitor will last up to an impressive 10 months and when it’s spent, you can replace it with another CR2032 battery. This is perfect for training for a triathlon (as it’s marketed), but it will monitor you carefully even if you’re not training for anything. In fact, there are three separate models included in the listing that are designed to track the three events of a triathlon. This is wonderful for any kind of heart rate monitoring, but for those tracking devices that don’t work well in the water, this heart rate monitor will blow them all away.
Amazon has this chest strap heart rate monitor available with an overall rating of 4.2 stars and well over 300 customer reviews. That’s plenty enough for us to trust its quality and to merit its inclusion in our top 5.
Garmin Chest Strap HRM Key Features:
- Smallest, lightest HRM from Garmin
- 3 models available for triathlon training
- Syncs once out of water
Best Fitness Tracking Heart Rate Monitor Pick: Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate
Is it possible to have a list for heart rate monitors and not include a FitBit on it anymore? Well, for heart rate monitoring, the Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate is the best FitBit of the lot. It will monitor your heart rate the most accurate and will analyze that heart rate to identify what type of heart rate zone you’re operating in for your workout; that means you’ll know if you’re in peak, cardio, or if you’ve reached that desirable Fat Burn zone.
It may not be waterproof and you shouldn’t shower or swim with it, but it is splash-proof, so you won’t need to worry about rain or sweat. You’ll see your calls and text on the display and you’ll even get calendar notifications on a OLED display. You can be woken with a silent vibrating alarm after a night of completely monitored and tracked sleep. The battery will last for up to four days between charges, so you’ll be able to track four days of continuous data before ever taking it off.
Considering there are over 17,000 customer reviews on Amazon for this monitor, we think there’s a very good chance you have some knowledge or experience with a FitBit. And because these ratings have given it an overall rating of 4.1 stars, it’s fair to say you’ll probably like it as much as your peers.
Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Key Features:
- 7 color options
- Interchangeable bands; smartphone notifications
- Sleep and activity tracking
Who Should Buy a Heart Rate Monitor
There are quite a few reasons you may want to monitor your heart rate. The least concerning one is curiosity. You will better be able to determine and describe your health should the need arise if you take a bit of time to be aware of your own body. You’ll want to know what your specific resting heart rate is, versus what your heart rate when you’re walking or doing moderate exercise, too. This will help you determine if there’s something wrong in the future, or just find a workout or sport that suits your body’s needs. Activities like hiking may not raise your heart rate as much as activities like biking, for instance, but it all depends on the intensity of the exercise. (If you’re a hiker, you’ll definitely want to check out our review of the best hiking boots to keep your feet comfortable on the trails.)
To go along with that, monitoring your heart rate can also help your fitness regiment. If you’re monitoring your heart rate to make sure you’re pushing hard enough, you can make sure you’re getting as much as you can from your work out. And while no workout is a waste of time, optimizing each session by achieving your goal heart rate will help you maximize effects. You can also make sure you’re not pushing too hard. Keeping your heart rate in your targeted window means you’ll be able to be realistic in setting your overall health or fitness goals and in actually achieving them.
As a more important matter of need, those with a heart or health concern can benefit from a heart rate monitor. That means anyone with heart problems, anxiety, circulation, or even breathing problems can help control their actions based on what their heart rate is tracking. You may not want to make this your primary source of health monitor, but if you choose the proper monitor, you can certainly minimize your trips to the doctor or even emergency room. But if you need to keep an eye on your blood pressure or your oxygen saturation, a combined heart rate monitor and blood pressure cuff or pulse oximeter can be especially helpful for those at risk of high/low blood pressure or those with lung disorders; COPD or asthma, for example.
Important Features to Consider
A heart rate monitor should do several things well. Here’s what to consider when selecting a heart rate monitor:
- Blood pressure. There are roughly 75 million Americans with high blood pressure. Your heart rate changes will definitely show the beginnings of ill effects from such a condition and monitoring your heart rate can certainly come in handy for keeping yourself healthy. Even better for this worry, though, is the fact that blood pressure cuffs will give you an accurate heart rate reading, as well. So you’ll be able to determine all you need from such a monitor and if you’re one of the 29% of adult Americans that have this concern, it’s well worth the investment. Beyond that, you’ll probably be able to identify patterns with elevated heart rate and high blood pressure after regularly monitoring them both form a while.
- Fitness. If you’re trying to lose weight, or get into shape, you’re going to want to make sure you’re reaching an elevated heart rate. In fact, there is an optimal heart rate for each of us that will maximize your fat-burning. It’s different for each person, of course, so you’ll need to determine your resting heart rate and what your maximum heart rate should be. You maximum heart rate can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. Your “fat-burning heart rate” will be 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. So for example, a 35-year old will have a maximum heart rate of 185, and 70% of that is roughly 130. It may seem like a bit more math than you’re interested in doing, but the main component to achieving your fitness goals will be making the most of your heart rate. And you can’t do that if you don’t know exactly what your heart rate is.
- Fingertip. Placing a monitor on your fingertip or your fingertip on a sensor will identify the pulse you have located there. You’ll need to place your finger appropriately each time you’re ready for a reading, so you won’t have continuous readings, but you will get the added benefit of ease of use. You can usually put these monitors on your finger without placing carefully, or waiting too long for an accurate read-out. Often they’ll have detailed read outs that will allow you to save settings or even track your readings. They’ll mostly be battery powered, so you won’t have to worry about cords and that will make them especially portable and if you struggle with constantly wearing some sort of monitor like a wrist or chest strap, this is a wonderful alternative.
- Pulse oximeters. You will most often find a heart rate monitor on your fingertip will also read the pulse oximetry in your blood, as well. Because of the location of the monitor, it can read your heart rate and use lights to detect how much oxygen is in your blood. (Which can help identify any problems should you have concerns about your oxygen saturation. And if you don’t, why waste the opportunity?) Should you have problems with your circulation or your breathing, hypoxemia (or a low saturation of oxygen), becomes a concern and monitoring that in relation to your pulse will help maintain your well-being.
- Tracking. If you want to have your data laid out in convenient charts or graphs, you’ll want your data stored so you can track where you’re going and where you’ve been to both tweak your training regiment and to take the opportunity to pat yourself on the back. While the tracking may be best for the former, don’t negate the importance of the latter. When you track your extended heart rate readings and see how well you’ve done to reach the heart rates you want, then you’ll be better motivated to do what is needed to keep seeing those results.
- Bluetooth. The easiest way to keep track of your heart rates, particularly for those which you will continuously wear, is to find one that will import your data via Bluetooth. This will be necessary for a chest strap, as they don’t usually have any interface to speak of, but also the vast majority of watches, as well. A larger screen means easier readings and if you plan on taking this data to your doctor, then a screen bigger than your chest strap or watch will certainly be beneficial.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a heart rate monitor and what does it do?
A heart rate monitor will do just as you probably suspect: it will monitor your heart rate. It has a sensor that will recognize each of your heart beats and determine your heart rate so you will know exactly what that rate is. But more than that, you can expect it to do so in relatively specific ways. It will likely have a method of connecting to your pulse so it can read it – either continuously or sporadically when you request it. You’ll find those that you wear either around your wrist to read the pulse there or strapped to your chest that reads your heart beats directly. Most will have the capability of tracking other facets of health and fitness, as well. You can look for those that will track steps, or activity if your heart rate monitoring is needed to help you maintain or gain optimal fitness. Or you can use a heart rate monitor that will be better suited to track some aspects of your well-being; a blood pressure monitor will read your heart rate well, as will a pulse oximeter. If you have problems with blood pressure or breathing, these will be particularly useful.
Are heart rate monitors accurate?
Whether or not your heart rate monitor is accurate is dependent entirely on the quality of your product. If you do the necessary research on your monitor and operate it according to the instructions, you’ll purchase a quality monitor that will give you accurate readings. Unfortunately, there are plenty of heart rate monitors that are not accurate. As such, you’ll always want to check its accuracy before you begin relying on it. You can ask your doctor or nurse for their readings and compare to yours. If the two are the same, consistently, you will know you have a reliable reading. If there are discrepancies between the two, you will want to defer to the professional readings. You can check it yourself if you’d rather not bother your nurse or doctor, and that will give you a decent gauge of accuracy, as well. You just have to make sure you’re getting the same reading consistently with both your own reading and your monitor’s. That is, if you’re getting the same resting heart rate of 80 beats per minute with your own pulse count, then you can trust it. If your monitor is consistently getting the same number over and over and it’s a few beats off from your manual reading, then you can probably trust it. Just keep in mind that the readings may vary in accuracy as the battery dies, and make sure you’re not counting solely on that heart rate monitor for life and death decisions.
Can heart rate monitor detect heart attack?
While a heart rate will undoubtedly be effected by a heart attack, you definitely do not want to rely on it for your decision whether or not to seek emergency medical assistance. There will be more false positives that will show an atrial fibrillation on heart rate monitors than false negatives, but taking the time to make sure you didn’t move or accidentally move the position of the heart rate sensor mid reading will cost you valuable time if you are having a heart attack. In fact, a cardiac event may last for so brief a time, your heart rate monitor may not be able to pick it up before it’s over. One that will track your heart rate continuously will likely have a report that will pick up on a difference but that’s generally better for reading the reports after the fact, not during.
We cannot stress this enough, though: if you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t look at your heart rate monitor, call 911. If you have to wait on the ambulance without further instruction from the dispatcher, then maybe check it, but do not use it to determine medical need.
What is a dangerous pulse oxygen level?
If you have a heart rate monitor that will also read your pulse oxygen level (a pulse oximeter), you’ll be able to monitor when that level reaches a dangerous point, also. The monitor placed on your finger tip will emit a light on one side and the detector on the other side of your finger will determine, based on how much light was absorbed by your blood and how much passed through your finger, how much oxygen is in your blood. These are most commonly presented by percentages but can also be depicted by millimeters of mercury. 100 being the maximum of both – 100% and 100 millimeters. For safe numbers, the higher the better. For a healthy pair of lungs and a normal circulatory system, you will want a level that is no less than 90% and the typical range will be between 95% to 100% or 80 to 100 millimeters. 90% and 80 millimeters is the lowest you’ll want your healthy blood to reach before becoming concerned.
You will want to talk to your doctor to determine what is normal for you, though. Particularly if you do have any lung or circulation issues. For a person with COPD, for example, the normal and goal range is usually 88%-92%.
Other Heart Rate Monitors We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other heart rate monitors. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best heart rate monitors list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for you. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing. We’ve grouped them into the following categories for your convenience:
- Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Monitors
- Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitors
- Fingertip Heart Rate Monitors
- Wrist Heart Rate Monitors
Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Monitors
This blood pressure cuff connects to your phone and its app via Bluetooth to allow you to track your readings consistently.
- Back-lit display
- 4 AAA batteries (included) or wall plug
- Includes carrying case
This blood pressure cuff will store 90 days of your data, allowing you to monitor your readings directly on the device.
- Buy more and save
- Irregular heartbeat detection
- 30-second auto-shut off
This blood pressure cuff will store the heart rates and BP for two users with 120 readings memory recall.
- Storage case included
- Position assistance on display
- 2 AAA batteries included
You’ll get an accurate reading of your heart rate, blood pressure, and more with this adjustable wrist cuff.
- Plastic storage case included
- Requires 2 AAA batteries (included)
- Large LCD display
With this padded and adjustable cuff, you’ll easily be able to get an accurate reading of your heart rate and more.
- Stores 90 data measurements
- 60-second auto shut off
- 2 AAA batteries required
Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitors
This chest strap is waterproof, so you’ll be able to wear it without fear of your sweat or your swim damaging it.
- Adjustable from 65″ to 95″
- Bluetooth compatible
- Connects with Wahoo, Strava, Zwift, Endomondo, IpBike, Nike+ Running, elite hrv app, iCardio and more
This chest strap heart rate monitor will work with any ANT+ receiver, and though you’ll need to double check, that very likely means your phone or tablet.
- Real time tracking
- 2 straps available
With a soft fabric that is adjustable to your body, you can wear this heart rate monitor and completely forget you have it on!
- 23°F–122°F Operating temperature
- Once paired, automatically records data
- ANT+ compatible
With an enhanced battery life, you can use this heart rate monitor for up to 400 hours between battery replacements.
- 2 sizing options
- 4 color choices
- ANT= or Standard compatibility
This heart rate monitor is ANT+ compatible, but will also connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
- Works with Wahoo RunFit + 50 Smartphone Apps including Nike+ Running, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, Strava, Apple Health, Cyclemeter, and more
- Android or iPhone compatible
- Coin cell battery with 12-month life
Fingertip Heart Rate Monitors
With this fingertip heart rate monitor, you can check your heart rate in just 30 seconds.
- FDA cleared
- Heart rate and EKG monitor
- Kardia App compatible for tracking
You’ll easily be able to check your heart rate and pulse oxygen saturation with this monitor that you just slip on your fingertip.
- 2 AAA alkaline batteries required
- Neck lanyard included for portability
- 1-year warranty
You can use a USB cord to connect this heart rate monitor to your computer for a large display and tracking of your data.
- 30 seconds to read out
- Rechargeable battery
- 1.77″ color display
This heart rate monitor will give you a convenient display in the form of both an EKG and an ECG, as well.
- Rechargeable battery
- Touchscreen display
- 30 seconds to check
This fingertip monitor will tell you quickly your heart rate and oxygen saturation level, as well as a pulse graph to ensure accuracy.
- 2 AAA batteries included
- Suitable for all ages
- 1-year warranty
Wrist Heart Rate Monitors
The clock face of this heart rate and fitness tracker will separate from the wrist band to reveal a USB plug to both load your data to your computer and to charge its battery.
- Customizable clock faces
- 3 color options
- 6 day battery life
You’ll be able to wear this watch and monitor your heart rate 24/7 for a full week between charges; which will help you track your heart rate even while sleeping.
- 14 exercise modes
- Bluetooth connect for phone
- 8 color options
This heart rate monitor will connect to your phone and utilize the GPS to accurately record your steps traveled.
- Pairs with your smartphone
- 1 hour to full charge
- 1-year warranty
This no-muss, no-fuss heart rate monitor will display your readings on its large display, making it easy to read, for those of us with poor vision.
- Clock, stop watch or heart rate display options
- Chest strap included
- One button operation
This adjustable arm band will connect to your smart phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to track your heart rate and better equip you to achieve your fitness goals.
- 7 color options
- 8-hour continuous battery life
- Rechargeable battery