Last Updated on November 4, 2021 by JP
There’s more to a treadmill than a running belt. This much is evident if you look at any of our treadmill recommendations and their features: NordicTrack x9i, Nautilus t616 treadmill, NordicTrack commercial 1750, Weslo Cadence, and NordicTrack C 990.
One of the standard features of a treadmill is a heart rate monitor. This tool provides you with an average or a sample of your heart rate by connecting with pulse sensors on the side rails, chest strap sensors, or other sensors.
This article will help you learn about the different types of heart rate monitors and how best to use them for more productive workouts. So, stick around to learn more.
Types of Heart Rate Monitors
Without further ado, let’s explore the various heart rate monitoring technologies, their advantages, and their disadvantages.
1. Handgrip Heart Rate Monitor
This type of monitoring collects signals through your hand since it’s possible to detect heart rate in the fingertips and palm. Accordingly, a treadmill with this monitoring system has the monitors installed on its handlebars or side grips. And they’re typically metal.
Heart rate detection in the hand area is user-friendly. It’s also compatible with target heart rate programs. Therefore, you can set a maximum speed for your treadmill and a target heart rate for your performance. Handgrip detection is used across various price points in treadmills.
It can be challenging to get an accurate reading with handgrip monitoring because your hands would have to remain in place. Your heart rate is only detected as long as your hands are on the monitors, which can hinder your movement. It makes walking awkward and running extremely inconvenient. Not to mention, it’s outright harmful to your posture.
Also, things like cold hands, rings, lotion, and grip size can play into the heart rate readings. And these monitors may not provide a reading at the gym because they’ve been damaged by an excess of sweat. Last but not least, readouts generally come a bit late.
2. Chest Heart Rate Monitor
An electrocardiogram (EKG) chest heart rate monitor comes in the form of a strap, which you wear on your chest just under the bust line. This strap contains electrodes and a transmitter, which sends signals to the monitor unit. It relies on electric pulses to read your heart rate. As wireless monitors, these are found in high-end treadmills.
It seems to be agreed upon that EKG chest monitors are the best heart rate monitors in terms of accuracy, giving you more trusted readings. Even when you use multiple machines, a chest strap is likely to provide you with a more accurate reading than other monitors.
Moreover, chest straps are the most accurate in heart recovery monitoring. To illustrate, they monitor how fast your heart rate decreases after exercise. Heart rate recovery is a solid indicator of your fitness and health level.
And compared to handgrip sensors, chest straps are comfortable and flexible to wear. Many of the treadmills using chest monitoring can read the output and control incline, speed, and target heart rate with the console.
The main concern with EKG chest straps is that any device with an electric broadcast can interfere with it, including computers, TVs, and even electronic dog collars. These devices’ electromagnetic radiation messes with heart rate readings if you get too close to them.
For that reason, several health clubs resorted to turning off that feature altogether. Of course, in gyms, that means you’ll need to be around 2.5 to 3 feet away from the next person wearing a chest monitor for it to work properly.
Though more comfortable than hand grips, EKG chest monitors still need to be tight around the chest at the sternum. Otherwise, they might wiggle too much. Also, you can’t see chest monitors when wearing them, so they can’t give you any visual feedback. You’ll need a connected tracker for that.
3. Ear Lobe or Finger Monitor
An earlobe or finger monitor relies on infrared sensors beneath a window on the monitor’s surface. In finger monitors, these sensors monitor changes using the pulsing of your blood in the capillaries. This is more or less what ear lobe monitors do, except they’re ear clips.
This detection method is available in wristwatches and handheld units; therefore, it isn’t included in the treadmill equipment.
When it comes to ear lob monitoring, this method stands out in terms of mobility and easy use. But more importantly, you can use finger and ear lobe monitors in gyms.
Unfortunately, readouts may not be very accurate due to the interference of the head or major movements. And it also doesn’t help that your age and circulation impact the finger and ear lobe monitors. Finally, their small wires can be slightly bothersome.
Ultimately, you can choose a treadmill’s heart rate monitor that has hand grip sensors, chest sensors, ear lob sensors, or finger sensors. To make that choice, consider what your priorities are in a heart rate monitor.
If you merely want an inexpensive monitoring system, you’ll find treadmills with hand grip sensors that don’t break the bank. If you’re looking for comfort and accurate readings, chest sensors are your go-to. Finally, earlobe and finger sensors are portable and perfect for gym use.