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Why Do I Need a Heart Rate Monitor?

You may have seen treadmills and ellipticals described as having a heart rate monitor and wondered why you would want such a thing.

Probably the most common reason someone would want to know their heart rate (pulse) while exercising is to keep it within the ideal cardiovascular training zone. Perhaps you’ve seen the chart that calculates that zone for you. However, current thinking is that high intensity interval training may be more beneficial than lower intensity exercise within this training zone. See Using Your Heart Rate Monitor for more information on interval training.


The most common way heart rate is measured is by metal contacts on the handles of treadmill or elliptical which transmit electrical impulses from your fingers. The machine then calculates and displays your heart rate on the console of the machine. Pretty cool!

Wireless Heart Rate Monitors

It gets cooler. More serious runners don’t want to have to hold onto something to see their heart rate so they buy wireless heart rate monitors. A wireless heart rate monitor is a strap that wraps around your chest and transmits a signal to your treadmill, producing the same result as the “contact” heart rate monitor. See a wireless monitor here:


Many treadmills and ellipticals now come with “Heart Rate Control” programs built in. These programs adjust the incline and other resistance provided by the machine according to the heart rate reading produced. Thus, for example, if you set your desired heart rate zone in the program and you fall beneath the minimum rate, the resistance of the machine will increase, making it harder to use and increasing your heart rate.

Heart rate monitors are also used by those who have been advised by their physicians to raise their heart rate to a certain level or not to exceed a certain level.


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