Heart Rate Monitors – Part 1

The ActiveWatcher often comes across many questions regarding heart rate monitors (HRM).  In this post, I’ll try to demystify the most basic questions of what they do.

Doctors and athletes measure heart rate for a reason.  Harken back to our grade-school health class.  The heart has a extra-special status among our family of ugly organs.  In a nutshell, it’s a muscle that pumps and sends necessary blood — the red stuff that carries oxygen — throughout the body, including other organs.  It sends necessary nutrients and carries away unnecessary waste.  The more energy we exert, the more oxygen-filled blood the body needs.

That last point is key in understanding HRMs.  The more blood the body needs, the faster the heart must work to send the blood throughout the body.  That amount of work is measured and represented by heartbeats or, to be more exact, the number of heartbeats in a given period of time.  HRMs measure just that: the number of heartbeats in a single minute.  Let’s say you see the number 56 on your HRM watch.  That means your heart is beating at a rate of 56 times in a single minute (which, by the way, is on the low end for most people).  The number of heartbeats is often referred to as the heart rate, hence the name “heart rate monitor.”

You may say you know how much energy your body is exerting based on how you feel (a concept referred to as “perceived exertion”).  This is true, and there’s no argument there.  But a HRM is arguably a more accurate biometric indicator of energy exertion.  So think of a HRM sort of like one of the gauges in your car.  When you’re in your car, you can probably tell roughly how fast it’s going or how much the wheels are turning, but the gauges give you actual information.

Another significant point is that your heart rate depends on many factors.  As described above, your level of exertion dictates your heart rate.  But your level of exertion can be affected by a number of factors.  Cue the common culprit: body temperature.  Running in 90 degree heat versus a picture-perfect marathon temperature of 55 degrees will easily increase your heart rate.  Another one is the level of exhaustion your body is feeling: lack of sleep the night before a run equals a slight uptick in your heart rate.

So tying all of this together and in the simplest way, your heart rate represents the amount of energy your body is exerting, as dictated by a number of internal and external factors.

Of course, if you’re interested in purchasing a HRM, visit our website at www.activewatches.com, where you can find an array of heart rate monitors suitable for any activity.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our two-part session on HRMs, which will address the question of why you should use one.

The ActiveWatcher

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2 Responses to “Heart Rate Monitors – Part 1”

  1. medieval clothes Says:

    insightful post

  2. When to Wear a Heart Rate Monitor or GPS Watch « The ActiveWatcher Says:

    […] the ActiveWatcher discusses extensively about the benefits of a HRM watch.  You can find that post here.  Although it hasn’t done so yet for GPS watches, stay tuned!  But to quickly answer that […]

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