How fast the old ticker beats is a great indicator of how healthy you are, especially when you're resting. In fact, there's plenty of evidence to show that general good health is associated with a low resting heart rate, which is why HR tracking is fast becoming the gold standard for fitness wearables. And consumers are currently spoiled for choice.
The advantage of HR-based activity monitors is that they help you incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine, which has the knock-on effect of lowering your resting heart rate over time. Keep reading to discover which wearables offer the best way to stay motivated and achieve your HR goal in quick-fast time.
Wahoo Tickr X
Color: Black/White | Official site
Despite the marketing spiel of wrist-based heart-rate monitors, nothing beats a HRM chest strap for accuracy, especially if your training regime involves irregular movement (think HIIT workouts involving various exercises in quick succession).
The Tickr X meets these challenges and then some - offering motion analytics and real-time data through its wide compatibility with fitness apps like Nike+ Running and MapMyFitness.
The Bluetooth waterproof tracker on the strap is a plastic pebble that houses a battery which lasts around 12 months, and features vibration alerts and two LEDs to display wireless connection and HR detection.
The strap also tracks calories burned as well as running analytics including cadence and ground contact time that can be synced after your workout. On first wear it feels weird, but it's so light that after a few minutes you don't even notice it. Reasonably priced, discreet, insightful - what's not to like?
Jabra Sport Pulse
Color: Black/Yellow | Official site
The Jabra Sport Pulse headphones track your heart-rate from inside your ear, because science! Basically, the HRM and oxygen consumption tech is packed into the left earbud, where a light sensor reads off the small blood vessels close to the skin surface in your lug and sends it to the Jabra mobile app.
Behind the right bud meanwhile is a USB charging port, with a single charge providing 4.5 to 5 hours' use - not great, but not terrible considering the tech it's powering.
The short cord on these wireless Bluetooth buds sits comfortably behind your neck, and the included clip keeps it raised to prevent it from swinging, while the conveniently placed inline remote offers volume and music playback controls.
Audio-wise, the buds pipe through the soundtrack to your run with punchy clarity, and their noise isolation is pretty decent too. Two years older and £120/US$160 cheaper, the Pulse buds are definitely still worth a punt, especially if you can't get on with wrist- and chest-based HRMs.
Colors: Cobalt, Aqua, Crimson | Official site
Mio was one of the first brands to offer wrist-based HRM and has an impressive track record when it comes to heart monitor accuracy. That reputation continues with the Mio Fuse, which might not be pretty, but offers comfort and security in spades, especially once you've got a sweat on.
The LED screen lies behind a loop of black silicone and displays your stats when tapped. A press-and-hold starts activity tracking, and the LEDs can also show time, goal percentage, steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned.
The band can track sleep too, and gives you a resting heart-rate reading when you wake. Apart from all-day activity you can record specific workouts for detailed stats, but there's no categories to work from. Still, that's the attraction with the Fuse - it keeps things simple and does what it does well.
LifeTrak Zone R420
Color: Black | Official site
The comfy R420 band is another HRM wearable that doesn't try too hard to do everything, and lives up to its straightforward promises running off a replaceable watch battery - a rarity for heart trackers.
Heart-rate accuracy is on par with the big hitters on the market, although it needs to be paired with a Bluetooth chest strap to show a continuous reading. On its own, you can place your middle finger on the crown for an immediate recording, and set your activity goals and clock options using the smaller buttons either side.
Readings for sleep, calorie count and distance covered don't seem out of kilter with the competition, plus the included app is well presented and simple to use. If you're comfortable operating a retro Casio watch, this one's a no brainer.
Colors: Black, White, Teal, Pink | Official site
Three parts make up the Spree. The cap houses a headband and inside that sits a small monitor which sits on the middle of your head. (You can wear the band on its own, but it's going to turn heads for all the wrong reasons.)
The included app uses your phone's GPS to track distance and map routes. In fact, the in-app stats are pretty detailed and offer a handful of training regimes to test yourself against.
Body temperature is also added to the analytics, which Spree claims makes for a more precise calorie count since the monitor knows when you're warmed up and if you're properly hydrated.
As long as you don't mess with the cap's placement, its HRM accuracy is fine. But if you're a fidgeter by nature and crave tracking consistency, you might want to pass this one up.
Colors: Powder White, Charcoal Black, Sorbet Pink | Official site
The waterproof Polar A360 is a comfy silicone band with an oblong watch face and a big old touchscreen LCD. The A360 measures heart rate during specific exercises as well as on demand, and offers typical activity stats like step count, distance travelled and calories burned, alongside the progress to your pre-specified goal.
Stats and times are displayed boldly across the screen, especially the pulse changes across heart rate zones, and notifications can be routed from your phone with a discreet vibration of the band.
A micro USB port sits under the band beneath a flap that's a faff when it comes to charge, but once you've worn the A360 and gazed at that screen, you'll be eager to wear it again as soon as possible.
Garmin Vivosmart HR
Colors: Black, Imperial Purple, Midnight Blue | Official site
The chunky yet sleek Vivosmart HR has a five-day battery life and shares the same heart rate monitor tech as the company's flagship Forerunner 235, offering all-day HR tracking, resting rate, and workout presets via its touchscreen LCD, which shows the time, all the time, making it a decent watch replacement, too.
The band also supports phone-forwarded notifications, delivering a buzz as it shows the message on the screen.
The Vivosmart packs an altimeter to track stairs climbed, and gives you distance in steps as well as a record of your sleep patterns. It also makes a point of letting you know how sedentary you are, tracking your stillness by negatively affecting your motion stat – a smart way of keeping you challenged and moving.
All your analytics can be viewed in the accompanying Garmin Connect app, whose options and graphs are legion. If you like your metrics broken down and delivered to your brain in every possible way, look no further than the Garmin app. Just be ready to learn the mental gymnastics.
- Want to track more than just a heart rate? Check out our guide to the best fitness trackers