Keeping tabs on your heart health is one of the best ways to stay in tune with your overall fitness. That’s why so many gym-goers and athletes rely on fitness trackers with built-in heart rate monitors.
These clever devices use optical sensors to track your pulse 24/7 and provide insights into your bpm, heart rate zones, and cardiovascular performance. Whether you’re crushing a HIIT class or recovering from a long run, having a fitness tracker with accurate heart rate tracking can be a total game changer.
But with countless models and features to consider, finding the right fitness tracker can feel overwhelming. To help you zero in on the top options, we’ve done the research and curated a list of the 5 best fitness trackers with heart rate monitoring.
We’ll also dish on how to choose the right fitness tracker for your needs and budget, plus provide answers to some frequently asked questions about HR monitoring wearables. Let’s dive in!
How to Pick the Best Fitness Tracker with a Heart Rate Monitor
All fitness trackers are not created equal when it comes to tracking your ticker. Here are the key factors to consider when selecting a fitness tracker with reliable heart rate monitoring:
Accuracy of Heart Rate Tracking
The first thing to examine is the accuracy of the heart rate monitoring technology. Look for validated sensors from leading companies like Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple that provide precise real-time heart rate data.
Many fitness trackers use photoplethysmography (PPG) which shines light into the skin to detect blood volume changes. Some higher-end models also have multi-path optical heart rate sensors utilizing multiple LED lights for better accuracy.
Brands may discuss clinical studies done to test their trackers against gold standard chest straps to give you confidence in their accuracy.
Ability to Measure Heart Rate Zones
The next spec to check is whether the tracker provides insights into different heart rate zones like resting, fat burn, cardio/aerobic, and max heart rate.
Viewing time spent in zones helps optimize workouts and measure intensity. Look for trackers that break down your heart rate data into at least 3-5 zones.
Consider the display size, brightness, and crispness so your heart rate data is easy to read on the go. Full color OLED or AMOLED displays offer excellent clarity.
Many fitness trackers double as smartwatches so you can get call, text, and app alerts right on your wrist. Handy for keeping tabs on notifications during workouts.
For continuous heart rate tracking, look for 5-7 days of battery life between charges. Longer for basic interval monitoring. Quick charging capabilities are also useful.
Swimproof design (5ATM and above) allows tracking heart rate during pool sessions or open water swims.
Fitness trackers range from $100 to $400+ based on features. Determine how much you want to spend for the functionality you need.
Stick with reputable fitness wearable brands like Fitbit, Garmin, Apple, Samsung, and Polar for the most accurate and reliable heart rate tracking.
By keeping these factors in mind, you can zero in on the best fitness tracker with heart monitoring for your individual needs and budget. Let’s look at our top picks.
The Top 5 Fitness Trackers with Heart Rate Monitoring
Based on extensive research and testing, we’ve selected the following as the top 5 best fitness trackers with heart rate monitoring capabilities:
1. Fitbit Charge 5
The Charge 5 is Fitbit’s most advanced fitness and health tracker with excellent heart rate monitoring.
- Utilizes 3 PPG optical heart rate sensors for accuracy during workouts and rest
- Provides real-time heart rate data and heart rate zones
- Active Zone Minutes feature tracks time in fat burn, cardio, and peak heart rate zones
- Can detect irregular heart rhythm notifications
- Thin, lightweight, and comfortable unisex design
- 7-day battery life with fast charge
- Bright, color AMOLED display
- Built-in GPS, Smartphone notifications, Contactless Payments
Heart Rate Tracking Ability: Fitbit’s PurePulse heart rate technology is highly accurate. The tracker is validated to be within 1 bpm of an ECG chest strap.
- Extremely accurate heart rate monitoring
- Excellent workout and health insights
- 7-day battery life
- Premium, comfortable design
- Expensive price tag
- Limited onboard data storage
2. Garmin Vivosmart 5
For comprehensive fitness tracking with pulse monitoring, the Vivosmart 5 is a top choice.
- Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate sensor with 24/7 monitoring
- Heart rate variety – shows resting, walking, and stress heart rates
- All-day stress, body battery energy, sleep and respiration tracking
- Pulse Ox sensor measures blood oxygen saturation levels
- Thin, lightweight band with easy-to-read display
- 7-day battery life, waterproof design
Heart Rate Tracking Ability: Garmin’s Elevate wrist heart rate sensor provides accurate results on par with chest straps.
- Excellent heart rate monitoring technology
- Robust health tracking metrics
- Long battery life
- Comfortable, swim-friendly design
- Black and white display
- No onboard GPS
3. Apple Watch Series 8
The new Apple Watch Series 8 sets the standard for fitness tracking with meticulous heart rate monitoring.
- Electrical and optical heart sensors deliver precise real-time heart rate
- New temperature sensor for detecting body temperature changes
- Updated motion sensors enable advanced metrics like stride length
- Blood Oxygen app measures SpO2 levels
- Crash Detection system for emergencies
- Top-of-the-line power efficiency and performance
- Beautiful, bright always-on display
- Robust app ecosystem and smartphone connectivity
Heart Rate Tracking Ability: The electrical and multiple optical heart rate sensors provide unparalleled accuracy.
- Cutting-edge health sensors
- Intuitive, seamless Apple user experience
- Hundreds of apps to expand functionality
- Attractive, customizable design
- Very expensive, premium price
- Short 1-day battery life
4. Samsung Galaxy Watch5
Samsung’s newest Galaxy Watch5 offers advanced biosensors for detailed heart health data.
- BioActive optical heart rate sensor provides precise tracking
- Can detect irregular heartbeat notifications
- Fitness tracking during 90+ exercises automatically
- Body Composition Analysis measures metrics like skeletal muscle mass
- Premium AMOLED display with Sapphire Crystal protection
- Robust health monitoring through Samsung Health app
- Up to 50 hours of battery life depending on usage
Heart Rate Tracking Ability: Samsung’s BioActive sensor provides accurate heart rate monitoring similar to an ECG chest strap.
- Sleek, lightweight curved design
- Long battery life
- Deep integration with other Samsung devices
- Advanced health tracking
- Limited third-party app support
- Occasional software glitches
5. Polar Ignite 2
Polar Ignite 2 provides excellent heart rate tracking and training features for athletes.
- Uses Precision Prime heart rate sensor technology
- Nightly Recharge recovery measurement
- FITSPARK workout guidance provides daily training suggestions
- Sleep Plus Stages monitoring with Sleep Score
- Serene guided breathing exercise
- 17 preloaded sports profiles and GPS tracking
- Bright color touch display with always-on option
Heart Rate Tracking Ability: Polar’s wrist-based heart rate tracking outperforms compared to many optical sensors.
- Specifically designed for athletes’ training needs
- Accurate heart rate and advanced training features
- Attractive, lightweight minimalist design
- Good value for the price
- Interface can be less intuitive than competitors
- Mediocre smartphone notification system
Frequently Asked Questions about Fitness Trackers with Heart Rate Monitoring
How accurate are the wrist-based heart rate monitors on fitness trackers?
The latest optical heart rate sensors from reputable companies like Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, and Apple provide very accurate results when worn properly, often within 1-2% of an ECG chest strap. They use multiple LEDs and advanced algorithms to measure pulse from blood flow changes.
Why does my fitness tracker’s heart rate reading sometimes differ from a chest strap monitor?
Factors like improper wearing position on the wrist, tightness of band, skin tone, tattoo coverage, and movement during exercise can affect optical sensor accuracy. Chest straps remain the gold standard for accuracy, but fitness trackers still provide very good results.
What are the different heart rate zones and their meaning?
Resting heart rate: 60-100 bpm Fat burn: 100-134 bpm, light intensity for burning fat Cardio: 134-170 bpm, moderate to vigorous exercise strengthens cardiovascular system Peak heart rate: 170-220+ bpm, intense training and intervals
Knowing your zones helps optimize workouts and measure intensity/exertion.
What’s the best way to wear my fitness tracker for the most accurate heart rate reading?
Wear the band 1-2 finger widths above your wrist bone and ensure a snug fit on your skin. Avoid wearing on bony areas of the wrist. The closer it sits to blood flow in the veins the better reading it will get.
How often does my fitness tracker record and measure my heart rate?
Most fitness trackers either measure continuously or at periodic intervals like every 10 minutes. High end trackers record real-time heart rate data with high frequency. Check specs to understand how your tracker samples for heart rate.
Will my heart rate measurement be impacted if I exercise vigorously?
High intensity exercise can sometimes impact optical sensor accuracy. But brands use proprietary algorithms to maintain accuracy even with high bpm. Chest straps can provide the most precise data during intense activity.
How long will the battery last with continuous heart rate monitoring?
Expect 5-7 days of battery life with continuous HR tracking, less for advanced smartwatch models. It varies based on features and specs. Disable continuous HR if you don’t need 24/7 monitoring to extend battery.
Can I track my heart rate accurately while swimming with my fitness tracker?
Most fitness trackers are waterproof enough for swimming and provide accurate enough underwater heart rate data. Look for a 5ATM or higher water resistance rating. Swimming-specific HR chest straps are more reliable.
Can I pair external heart rate monitors like chest straps to my fitness tracker?
Many fitness trackers allow you to connect an external Bluetooth heart rate monitor like a chest strap for added accuracy and better tracking during intense exercise. Check your device’s compatibility.
Are fitness tracker heart rate measurements reliable enough for medical purposes?
While today’s fitness trackers provide good insight into heart health, doctors still recommend clinical-grade ECG monitors for detecting and diagnosing medical conditions. Seek medical guidance rather than self-diagnosing with consumer wearable data.
Get Rolling with Reliable Heart Rate Tracking
Whether you’re an athlete looking to optimize your training or just want to improve overall health, choosing a fitness tracker with accurate pulse monitoring is a smart move. Paying attention to your heart rate zones provides valuable insight into your workouts, recovery, sleep quality and more.
We hope our rundown of the top 5 best fitness trackers with heart rate capabilities as well as advice for picking the right one for your needs offers helpful guidance. Investing in a quality wrist wearable that fits into your budget can take your training to the next level.
Test out some of these awesome options to start tracking your heart health. Impressing your workout buddies with your snazzy new fitness tracker isn’t a bad perk either. Just remember to wear it correctly and use the data as a helpful guide, not a complete diagnosis.
Did we leave off your favorite fitness tracker with stellar heart rate monitoring? Let us know in the comments your experiences using these clever devices while training! We’d love to hear your insights. Your experience may help someone else pick the perfect heart rate tracking wearable. Now go crush that workout!