Men's Style (Australia) - - Contents -

Are heart-rate mon­i­tors all they’re cracked up to be?

The right shoes, the lat­est play list and high tech wear­ables – work­ing out re­quires a lot of stu these days. How important are heart rate mon­i­tors? Some sports sci­ence ex­perts re­gard them as es­sen­tial. If you’re try­ing to lose weight, for ex­am­ple, know­ing that you need to spend most of your work­out at around 70 to 80 per cent of your max­i­mum heart rate (MHR) keeps you on tar­get.

Old-school hold­outs main­tain that your un­di­vided at­ten­tion should be fo­cused on your body dur­ing a work­out, free of the dis­trac­tion of gad­gets. When heart rate mon­i­tors first hit the mar­ket in the Noughties, they had a valid point. It was tough not to be con­stantly aware of a strap around your chest at ster­num height. Newer mod­els like the Mio Fuse Heart Rate Wrist­band, how­ever, are only a shade more com­plex than a Fit­bit Surge.

Why is track­ing the heart so important dur­ing ex­er­cise? It tells you how hard you’re work­ing. In­ten­sity is diŠcult to judge and if you’re ex­er­cis­ing out of habit, you may be go­ing through the mo­tions. An ac­cu­rate read­ing of your heart rate is ob­jec­tive and doesn’t lie. It’s also a lot eas­ier than stop­ping to take your pulse all the time.

There’s a myth that you can cal­cu­late your MHR by sub­tract­ing your age from the num­ber 220. More of a close guessti­mate, the sim­ple sum can cause many men, es­pe­cially over 35, to be too cau­tious when judg­ing their MHR. Once a per­son is fit, they have to lift their game to get the most out of reg­u­lar train­ing and ex­er­cise, and that can mean push­ing be­yond the av­er­age MHR for your age.

One of the draw­backs of a heart rate mon­i­tor for fi t men is once your MHR goes higher than the nor­mal cal­cu­la­tion for your age, it will warn that you are over- ex­tend­ing your­self. Con­stantly look­ing at a heart rate mon­i­tor could hold you back from reach­ing the re­quired ex­er­tion in­ten­sity needed to get to the next level of fit­ness, or what’s termed “tol­er­a­ble dis­com­fort”. Less fit ex­er­cis­ers or those just start­ing a new ex­er­cise pro­gram, on the other hand, should take no­tice of a heart rate mon­i­tor to avoid at­tempt­ing too much too soon.

It’s important to have a work­ing idea of anatomy be­yond know­ing that the heart is the ma­jor mus­cle in­volved in ex­er­cise. When you go for a run the heart rate tends to in­crease even when you are run­ning at the same speed. Why? Be­cause the body is deal­ing with a heat/loss chal­lenge through two ma­jor meth­ods – as your core tem­per­a­ture rises, sweat­ing is the most ob­vi­ous way the body tries to cool it­self. At the same time, blood is redi­rected to the skin in a sec­ondary mech­a­nism that also gets rid of ex­cess heat. The heart has to work harder to di­vert the blood and oxy­gen to the skin to keep your core tem­per­a­ture un­der con­trol.

The heart needs a good work­out just as much as the body and stay­ing in your com­fort zone does nei­ther any favours. Gen­er­ally, if a heart rate mon­i­tor sticks at 65 per cent of your MHR, you have to put in more work.

The pop­u­lar­ity of heart rate mon­i­tors has ex­ploded on the back of a fl ood of new apps. It’s now pos­si­ble to check your ticker us­ing the cam­era and flash on a smart­phone. The only thing com­pli­cated about the process is its cor­rect tech­ni­cal name – pho­to­plethys­mog­ra­phy. Each time the heart pumps, tiny cap­il­lar­ies in the skin ex­pand. A smart­phone flash il­lu­mi­nates the skin and the cam­era records the tiny colour changes that oc­cur ev­ery time the heart beats. You have to hold pretty still and heart rate apps don’t provide the con­tin­u­ous data that wear­able tech heart mon­i­tors do, but they have be­come so pop­u­lar that the mar­ket leader – the Azu­mio In­stant Heart Rate App – boasts 25 mil­lion users.

Most men check their heart rate for fit­ness rea­sons, but changes in your rest­ing heart rate can in­di­cate health prob­lems. An in­ex­pen­sive or free app is a bargain. The fun as­pect of Azu­mio’s app is that it doesn’t just record the heart rate, it la­bels ac­tiv­i­ties ac­cord­ing to ex­er­tion from “just woke up” to “ex­er­cis­ing”. Spend a few more dol­lars for the paid ver­sion which al­lows you to store more than fi ve of the most re­cent mea­sure­ments.

An­other top app is the Run­tas­tic Heart Rate Pro, which al­lows you to fil­ter data us­ing the rest­ing, be­fore or af­ter ex­er­cise, or MHR tags. Like Azu­mio’s app, the clear di­rec­tions point out that the app is only for fi tness, not de­ter­min­ing whether you are hav­ing a heart at­tack.

The heart needs a good work­out as much as the body … stay­ing in your com­fort zone does nei­ther any favours.

Azu­mio In­stant Heart Rate App.

Run­tas­tic Heart Rate App.


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