Top Pulse Monitors

Pulse monitors took a big leap forward in convenience. Many now use LED lights on the wrist to measure your pulse, rather than the older tech of pressing sensor buttons with one or two fingers. The technology is improving, although biometric expert Steven LeBouef says it still lacks the accuracy of a chest strap heart rate sensor. They are an improvement on stopping to take your pulse using your fingers and watch the old-fashioned way. You pay a premium for an LED pulse monitor, so it is important to test drive any pulse monitor to make sure you can take your pulse accurately with it.

1
Mio Alpha and Mio Alpha 2 Continuous Pulse Monitor

Mio Alpha 2
Mio Alpha 2. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

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Biometric expert Steven LeBoeuf says the Mio Alpha is the most accurate wrist-based pulse monitor. If you step up the Mio line to the Mio Alpha, you get a stylish continuous pulse monitor with alerts for your chosen heart rate limits. It uses light sensors to track your pulse continuously, you don't need to press your finger on a a sensor. It transmits its data via Bluetooth or ANT+ to mobile apps such as MapMyWalk, Endomondo, Wahoo Fitness, etc. You can use the apps to track your heart rate throughout your workout and save your workout data. On the Alpha itself you can see your heart rate beats per minute, a colored light to indicate if you are in the right zone, a stopwatch, and the time of day during your workout. The Mio Alpha 2 adds more memory for 25 hours of workout tracking, built-in accelerometer for speed, distance, pace and calories, and timers for countdown, count up and repeat.

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2
Scosche Rhythm+ Heart Rate Monitor Armband

Scosche RHYTHM +
Scosche RHYTHM +. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

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You'll need an ANT+ heart rate monitor display or a Bluetooth-capable smartphone to check your heart rate with the Scosche RHYTHM+. It integrates with popular apps, including: DigiFit, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness and Strava. But it also earns to honors for accuracy from biometrics expert Steven LeBoeuf. You need to wear it farther up your forearm rather than right on your wrist. It only tracks heart rate, so any further data comes from the app or device you link it to.

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3
Mio Fuse Heart Rate and Activity Tracker

Mio Global Fuse Heart Rate and Activity Tracker
Mio Global Fuse Heart Rate and Activity Tracker. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

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The Fuse is an all-day activity tracker (steps, calories, distance, pace) as well as a wrist pulse monitor and workout tracker. Like the Mio Alpha 2, you can use the Fuse instead of a chest strap heart rate monitor to link to your other Blutetooth fitness apps, bike computer, GPS fitness monitor and any ANT+ monitors. That is a great advantage if you have been using a Garmin for speed/distance. You can customize the heart rate zone and get both visual and vibrating alerts for in-zone and out-of-zone. It can track 7-10 hours of a workout with the display on or 20 hours off. The battery life is 6-7 days with 1 hour of workouts a day, and it stores up to 30 hours of workout data and two weeks of activity data.

4
Fitbit Charge HR

Fitbit Charge HR
Fitbit Charge HR. Fitbit

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The Fitbit Charge HR continuously monitors your heart rate throughout the day and you can view it on demand. It tracks total daily minutes in three heart rate zones:moderate-intensity Fat Burn zone (50-69% of maximum), in the vigorous-intensity Cardio zone (70-84% of maximum), and the Peak zone (85% and above). You can track individual workouts and see a chart of your heart rate throughout the workout. You can set a custom heart rate zone. It indicates visually which zone you are in with an icon. In addition to heart rate, you track all of your other Fitbit stats - steps, distance, calories, sleep, stairs.

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5
Azumio Instant Heart Rate App

Azumio Instant Heart Rate App
Azumio Instant Heart Rate App. Screen shot by Wendy Bumgardner © 2011
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Turn your iPhone, iPod touch or Android phone into a pulse monitor with this handy app. It uses the camera and LED flash of your device to read the pulse from a fingertip placed over the camera. It works well for devices that have a flash, otherwise you need to be in bright light. The paid version includes saving your readings and viewing charts. If you carry a compatible device on your walks, this is a great app to use for on-demand heart rate.

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6
Fitbit Surge - Fitness Super Watch

Fitbit Surge Super Fitness Watch
Fitbit Surge Fitness Super Watch. Wendy Bumgardner ©

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The Surge reads your pulse via LED lights on the back of the watch like the Fitbit Charge HR. It also uses three simplified heart rate zones for both all-day cardio minutes and workout tracking. Zones are indicated by a change in the icon but it has no audible or tactile alert. Is has built-in GPS for speed and distance, so you can track workouts even when you leave your phone at home. It also includes standard Fitbit data of steps, distance, calories, stairs, sleep and a visual representation of active time throughout the hour.
 

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7
PulseOn Heart Rate Wrist Band

PulseOn
PulseOn. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

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This heart rate wrist band communicates with a phone app via Bluetooth. You can wear it like a watch and the LED lights on the back of the face read your pulse. You can view it on demand and you can track it through a workout. Heart rate zones are indicated by five dashes, but it doesn't have any audible or tactile alert for when you are in zone and out of zone. The app provides a detailed analysis of your workout and tells you the number of hours until you are fully recovered. It also recommends your next workout. You can view a summary of your workouts, including graphs of the intensity, calories burned and distance (when using the GPS on your phone).

8
Sportline Duo 1060 Heart Rate Monitor and Pedometer Watch

Sportline Duo 1060 Heart Rate Monitor Speed and Distance Monitor
Sportline Duo 1060 Heart Rate Monitor Speed and Distance Monitor. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

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This multi-function watch lets you view your heart rate by using a finger pulse monitor, or you can use the chest strap sensor. I had no difficulty in getting an accurate pulse with the finger pulse function. But wait, there's more! It has a built-in pedometer to count workout steps (not total daily steps) and estimate distance, speed, calories burned. It includes a timer, stopwatch, interval training timing, and alarms. It also works well as a watch, with night light.

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9
Omron HR-500U Continuous Pulse Monitor

Omron HR-500U Strapless Heart Rate Monitor
Omron HR-500U Strapless Heart Rate Monitor. Wendy Bumgardner © 2013

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Like the Mio Alpha, the Omron HR-500U continuously reads your pulse using light sensors on the back of the wrist unit. You don't need to press your fingers against a sensor, you can see your heart rate throughout your work9out. It automatically determines your heart rate zones and displays your pulse and a colored light indicator of which zone you are in while you workout. It also displays your pace and distance for the workout you are tracking, and uploads the totals to the Omron Fitness Dashboard if you plug it into your computer after your workout. However, you only see your totals after the workout, not a full minute-by-minute display. And it doesn't have Bluetooth or ANT+ integration like the Mio Alpha.

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10
Gaiam Touch ECG Strapless Heart Rate Monitor SE338

Gaiam Touch Strapless Heart Rate Monitor
Gaiam Touch Strapless Heart Rate Monitor. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

This button-free strapless pulse monitor watch is easy to read and easy to use. The watch has a soft silicone strap and big number display. Touch the bezel when you want to take a heart rate reading. You can set heart rate zone alerts. It also times your exercise session and gives you a calorie readout. It does not come with a chest strap heart rate monitor belt.

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