Top Pulse Monitors

Read Your Pulse While You Workout

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 Amazon

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 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, with 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 Plus
Scosche Rhythm Plus. Courtesy of Amazon

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 Fuse
Mio Fuse. Courtesy of Amazon

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 Bluetooth 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.

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4
Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Charge 2. Fitbit

The Charge 2 is an update to the Fitbit Charge HR. It continuously monitors your heart rate throughout the day, allowing you to 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. It also has inactivity alerts each hour, guided breathing sessions, and call and calendar alerts. Best of all, it has interchangeable bands so you can easily switch up the look.

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5
Azumio Instant Heart Rate App

Azumio Instant Heart Rate App
Azumio Instant Heart Rate App. Azumio Screen Capture by Wendy Bumgardner
Publisher's Site
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 ©

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
Sportline Duo 1060 Heart Rate Monitor and Pedometer Watch

Sportline 1060 Duo Heart Rate Monitor
Sportline 1060 Duo Heart Rate Monitor. Courtesy of Amazon.com

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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8
Apple Watch

Apple Watch Heart Rate
Apple Watch Heart Rate. Wendy Bumgardner ©

You can check your pulse rate at any time with the Apple Watch. While that may not be why you bought one, it is one of the many features that can be used during a workout. The Apple Watch now shares the heart rate data with a variety of workout apps.

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9
Garmin vivosmart HR

Garmin vivofit HR
Garmin vivofit HR. Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Garmin vivosmart HR tests well for pulse rate accuracy compared with other wrist-based pulse monitors. It uses Elevate wrist-based heart rate technology and monitors your pulse all day and night. The band does everything else you'd want a fitness monitor to do. It  displays steps, calories, distance, heart rate, floors climbed, intensity minutes and time of day, plus notifications from your smartphone.

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