Heart rate monitors are handy exercise gadgets that help you keep a close eye on your pulse while working out. This helps exercisers and athletes make sure they are hitting their target heart rate and keeping their pulse in the best range to meet their fitness goals. Higher-tech options can provide even more information about the effectiveness of your workout, including keeping track of the distance you have traveled, your speed and how many calories you have burned.
However, a good heart rate monitor will cost you about $100 or more and, for many people, may not be worth the investment. There are two groups of people who receive the most benefits from using a heart rate monitor: athletes in training and exercisers with health conditions that require keeping their pulse in a safe range.
For athletes, using a monitor can make their workouts more effective, provide motivation to reach their training goals and help them gauge their progress over time. For folks with medical conditions that require them to stay within a particular pulse range in order to exercise safely, heart rate monitors are absolutely necessary.
For just about everyone else, heart rate monitors generally are not a necessary investment for a good workout. Of course, monitoring your heart rate during physical activity can help you determine the intensity of your workout and provide you with data you can use to tweak your exercise routine to best help you meet your goals. For folks who are just starting to get active, using a heart rate monitor can also help you become more in-tune with your body and give you a better idea of your physical activity limits.
However, you can also use something as simple – and free – as the talk test to help you determine if you are working out at a safe, effective intensity level. The talk test is great for people with the primary fitness goals of maintaining a healthy weight, improving circulation and cardiovascular health, or improving their overall health and fitness, which means the talk test is usually all that most people need.
To perform the talk test, you simply talk while exercising. If you are able to comfortably partake in a light conversation while working out, you are likely working out at a good pace. If you can gossip and laugh with your girlfriends as easily as you can over coffee, you probably want to take it up a notch. If you are gasping for breath between words or your speech is broken, you likely should reduce your intensity level to stay in a safe, effective zone.
You can also receive a lot of good information simply by listening to your body. You know your body best, and listening to the cues it gives you can help you achieve your fitness goals in safer, more effective manner.