A heart rate monitor is a device that can be used to measure the heart rate during exercise, and also helps one assess the effectiveness of a workout. The following Buzzle write-up will help you understand how a heart rate monitor works.
Developed by Plessey Semiconductors, the Electric Potential Integrated Circuit (EPIC) biosensor chip can measure even tiny changes in electric fields, measuring bio-electric signals such as ECG, EMG, EOG, and EEG.
The term ‘heart rate’ refers to the number of times the heart beats in a minute. Factors that can influence the heart rate include a person’s age, fitness level, activity level, prolonged use of medicines, body size, body position (whether standing up or lying down), etc. The normal range for resting heart rate, which is heart rate when one is resting, is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). However, it may vary for well-trained athletes, who may have a resting heart rate in the range of 40 to 60 bpm.
Monitoring the heart rate can certainly provide various insights about the condition of your heart. Using a heart rate monitor helps athletes and fitness enthusiasts know when to work harder and when to stop so as to prevent the heart from getting overburdened. Let’s find out how does a heart rate monitor work.
How Do Heart Rate Monitors Work
Heart rate monitors comprise a sensor/transmitter and a receiver. The receiver unit could be in the form of a wrist watch or a smartphone. Let’s start with the chest strap heart rate monitors.
Chest Strap Monitors
In case of the chest strap monitors, the strap has to be worn around the chest. When the sensor on the strap comes in direct contact with your chest, it reads your heart rate, and the data is then transmitted through a radio signal to the receiver unit on your wrist. In some monitors, you can hear the read-outs of your heart rate through headphones instead of reading it on the display of the receiver unit.
Some of the advanced models come with additional features such as GPS receiver capabilities. Unlike the basic models that may not be able to prevent the interference with other wireless heart rate monitors in the vicinity, the issue of interference is resolved in the advanced models due to the submission of coded signals. Some of these devices come with alarms that ring when your heart rate is less or more than your target rate.
Those of you who don’t like the chest strap models can opt for the strapless models that are readily available. Many popular brands such as Reebok, Nike, Mio, Polar, etc., offer watches that come with heart rate monitors. In the strapless models, the electrical activity of the heart is detected from the wrist by the sensor in the back plate of the watch, and the heart rate can be seen on the display. Some of the monitors come up finger sensors, which get activated by touching the unit’s touch-pad sensor.
Heart Rate Monitor Apps
Catering to the needs of the fitness enthusiasts and athletes are the heart rate monitor apps. Here the receiver unit is a smartphone. Apps such as Cardiio and What’s My Heart Rate monitor the heart rate by detecting the minor changes caused by the heartbeat in the facial color. The logic behind these apps is that more blood is pumped into the face with each heartbeat, and this increase in the volume of the blood causes more light to be absorbed. Due to this, less light is reflected from the face. Such slight changes can be detected by the camera. The scope for error can be reduced by ensuring that the phone is held steadily, and the area is well-lit. Head motion must also be avoided. Some apps provide the heart rate readings by detecting the pulsating blood flow through a finger placed over the camera’s lens.
The cost of the device varies, depending on the available features. Besides indicating your heart rate, some of these devices also show the following:
➞ Time and date
➞ Length of the workout
➞ Amount of calories burned
➞ Accumulative calories burned over a number of exercise sessions
➞ Maximum and minimum heart rate during a session
➞ Ideal exercise heart rate
Target Heart Rate Zone Explained
By measuring the heart rate during a workout, you can find out if you are working harder than you need to or need to work harder to attain the level of fitness you seek. If you wish to monitor your heart rate, you should familiarize yourself with the concepts of maximum heart rate and target heart rate zone.
➞ Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Your Age
➞ Target heart rate helps one to judge and train at the right intensity so as get the maximum benefits from the training efforts. You would also need to determine the target heart rate zone.
➞ In case of light exercise intensity, the target heart rate zone is 40% to 50% of the one’s maximum heart rate.
➞ In case of moderate exercise intensity, the target heart rate zone is 50% to 70% of the maximum heart rate.
➞ In case of vigorous exercise intensity, the target heart rate zone is 70% to 85% of the maximum heart rate.
➞ To reap the rewards of your workout, you should be within the target heart rate zone of 50% to 85% of the maximum heart rate. Initially, stay within the lower end of the target heart zone, and build up your strength, and move towards the higher end of 85%.
➞ To calculate the target heart zone for a vigorous workout, you need to calculate the lower and higher range by multiplying the maximum heart rate with 70% and 85% respectively.
When you perform workouts within your target heart rate zone, your heart is getting conditioned, and you are getting the best results by burning calories and losing weight, without burdening your heart. A heart rate monitor can help you assess whether you need to make changes to your workout routine.