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Heart rate monitoring watches make life easier for anyone wanting to monitor their heart health or track their heart rate for maximum benefit during exercise.

A quick look at 9 of the best heart rate monitoring watches and alternatives

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

A heart rate monitor measures a person’s heart rate in real-time and records the data for the user. It is popular with people who like to measure their heart rate whilst exercising.

The two most common ways to measure heart rate is by electrical and optical monitors.

Electrical monitors use both a monitor or transmitter, usually on a chest strap, and a receiver. The monitor or transmitter detects a heartbeat and sends it to the receiver, which then displays the heart rate on a screen.

Optical monitors measure a person’s heart rate by shining LED light through a person’s skin and measuring the heart rate through a person’s blood vessel. The data is then transmitted to the monitors for viewing.

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  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets.
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  • Ease of use: MNT selects simple-to-use products that have clear instructions. If set-up is complicated, MNT chooses brands that offer a set-up or installation service.
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For runners who wish to track their heart rate, the following watches could be suitable options.

Best for running with music: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music offers accurate heart rate tracking, GPS tracking, and a variety of other features for runners. The device can also store and play music, meaning people can leave their phones at home while running.

According to Garmin, the battery offers 6 hours of continuous music playback. It also logs a range of fitness data for other workouts and can calculate someone’s fitness age via the app.

Price: The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is available online for $349.99.

Best for coaching insights: Polar Vantage V

The Polar Vantage V monitors heart rate and is waterproof,up to 100 meters, making it ideal for swimmers. In addition, the watch can:

  • track VO2 max (the optimum level heart, lungs and muscle can effectively use oxygen as a person exercises)
  • has a calorie counter
  • monitors a person’s sleep
  • offer coaching insights
  • provide GPS tracking

The battery also lasts up to 100 hours.

Price: The Polar Vantage V is available on Amazon with a list price of around $500.

Best for a lightweight watch: Garmin Forerunner 45S

The Garmin Forerunner 45S provides continuous heart rate monitoring. The manufacturer states that this lightweight and water-resistant watch features built-in GPS and compatibility with Garmin Coach.

The battery lasts 13 hours during exercise mode or 7 days in normal mode. It has 80 hours of memory to store data. Additionally, the watch weighs only 32-36 grams.

There is also a smart tracking option to send a user’s location with emergency contacts. A person can also receive their phone notifications on this watch.

Price: The Garmin Forerunner 45S is available online for $199.99.

Best for rural running: Suunto 9 Baro

The Suunto 9 Baro is a GPS-enabled watch that provides up to 120 hours of continuous exercise monitoring. It is also waterproof up to 100 meters.

In addition to on-wrist heart tracking, a compatible chest sensor is also available to buy.

The watch offers breadcrumb tracking, a built-in compass, GPS navigation and tracking, and other features for runners who wish to explore rural areas.

These watches are customizable with the straps available on the manufacturers website.

Price: The Suunto 9 Baro is available online with a list price of $419.

Best for automatically tracking workouts: Fitbit Charge 5

The Fitbit Charge 5 comes with SmartTrack technology, which automatically recognizes and records workouts such as swimming, running, epileptic and more.

The watch has built-in GPS that provides a user with a map tracking their outdoor activity such as running, while the All-Day Activity Tracker tracks other activities such as step counts, Active Zone Minutes and calories burned, throughout the day.

Other features include:

  • skin temperature tracking
  • breathing rate
  • sleep tracking
  • menstrual cycle tracking
  • an alarm system
  • do not disturb mode
  • irregular heart rhythm notifications
  • Electrodermal Activity (EDA) scan
  • daily readiness score

Price: The Fitbit Charge 5 costs $149.95.

Best for iPhone users: Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch Series 3 uses an optical heart sensor to measure a person’s heart rate and provides low, high, and irregular heart rhythm alerts.

Other features include:

  • WiFi and Bluetooth compatible
  • water-resistance of 50 meters
  • built-in speaker and mic
  • GPS
  • Emergency SOS system
  • 3 months free of Apple Fitness+

This watch is compatible with any watch band from the Apple Store and is compatible with the iPhone 6s and beyond.

Price: The Apple Watch Series 3 is available online starting from $199.

The following watches may suit people who wish to monitor their heart rate for health reasons or see how environmental factors affect their heartbeat.

Best for blood pressure monitoring: Omron HeartGuide

According to Omron, this watch is the first to offer a clinically accurate blood pressure monitor. It can also track movements and exercise and measure sleep quality. Additionally, the app can sync with other data for extra health insights.

People can expect to charge the watch 2–3 times a week.

Price: The Omron HeartGuide is available online for $499.

Best for menstrual health tracking: Fitbit Charge 4

Although the Fitbit Charge 4 classifies as a tracker, people wear it on the wrist as a watch. It features GPS connectivity, sleep tracking, and 24-hour heart monitoring. The device also connects to the Fitbit app via phone, tablet, or computer.

This tracker monitors several health metrics, such as heart rate, steps taken, and a person’s menstrual cycle.

The battery lasts up to 7 days, while the watch features secure contactless payment technology. This means a person can pay for items with the device without needing to take out a bank card or cash.

Price: The Fitbit Charge 4 is available on Amazon with a list price of $149.95.

Best for a range of outdoor activities: Garmin fēnix 5

A monitor for those looking for style and features within a watch. The fēnix 5 offers built-in GPS, accurate heart rate tracking, and a range of activity trackers, such as running, golfing, cycling, swimming, and outdoor recreation.

It comes in 16 different styles and colors.

According to Garmin, the battery lasts for up to 24 hours in heart rate and GPS mode and up to 60 hours in GPS-only mode. In smartwatch mode, the battery could go as long as 2 weeks.

Price: The Garmin fēnix 5 is available online for $499.99.

There are several other heart rate devices available to buy online, including:

Best for a long battery life: Polar H10

The Polar H10 is a budget watch and accurate heart monitor, suitable for people who do not need additional features.

This chest strap can connect to its custom app or other fitness apps. People can also wear it while swimming, and it offers up to 400 hours of battery life.

It comes in 4 colors.

Price: The Polar H10 is available online for $89.95.

Best for replaceable batteries: Lezyne HR Flow

The Lezyne HR Flow is another budget option for those looking for a basic but accurate heart rate monitor.

The HR Flow comes without GPS or features that other heart rate monitors might include. However, this device is among the cheapest monitors on this list.

It has Bluetooth enabling it to connect with most mobile phones, and it pairs with a flexible chest strap.

Additionally, this monitor uses a replaceable CR2032 coin cell battery.

Price: The Lezyne HR Flow is available online for $44.99.

The table below summarises the main features of some of the best heart rate monitoring watches.

List priceBattery lifeWater-resistancePlays music?Exercise and health profilesSleep tracking
Garmin Forerunner Music$349.99 up to 24 hours with GPSup to 50 metersyes• running
• cycling
• swimming
Polar Vantage V$499.99 up to 40 hours with GPSyesno• running
• swimming
Garmin Forerunner 45S$199.99up to 13 hours with GPSup to 50 metersno• running
• cycling
Suunto 9 Baro$499up to 170 hours with GPSup to 100 metersno• running
• cycling
• swimming
Fitbit Charge 5$149.95up to 7 daysup to 50 metersno information available all exercisesyes
Apple Watch Series 3$199no information availableup to 50 metersyesall exercisesyes
Omron HeartGuide$499up to 2 daysnonomonitors blood pressureyes
Fitbit Charge 4$149.95up to 7 daysup to 50 metersyesall exercises and menstrual healthyes
Garmin fēnix 5$499.99 up to 60 hoursup to 100 metersno• running
• cycling
• outdoor activity
• golfing
• menstrual health
Polar H10$89.95up to 400 hoursup to 30 metersnocompatible with other devices that track fitness metricsno
Lezyne HR Flow$44.99uses a replaceable batteryno information availablenono information availableno

While variations in heart rate are typical, especially when a person is exercising, consistently high or low heart rate may require contacting a healthcare professional.

Additionally, people should seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of a heart attack:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • shortness of breath
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, or arms

Here we answer some common questions about heart rate monitoring watches.

What is the best way to track heart rate?

Chest strap monitors provide the most accurate results when measuring heart rate. Other devices, such as smart watches, can also track and measure heart rate.

If a person does not have access to any devices, they can track their heart rate manually. According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, the best way to measure heart rate manually is to find the pulse in the wrist or neck.

To find the pulse at the wrist, people should place their index and middle finger at the base of the thumb on the inside of the wrist. To find the pulse in the neck, people should place their index and middle finger at the side of the throat, underneath the jaw and beside the windpipe.

Then, they can set a timer for 60 seconds and count the heartbeats. Alternatively, they can count the heartbeats for 30 seconds and multiply the number by two.

Are wrist heart rate monitors accurate?

Wrist heart rate monitors are reasonably accurate.

One study found that these devices are 80-90% accurate in their data findings. However, chest straps that use electrocardiography are more accurate than wrist heart rate monitors.

What is a good resting heart rate by age?

The American Heart Association states that the target resting heart rate by age is as follows:

AgeTarget resting heart rate (bpm)
20100 – 170
3095 – 162
4090 – 153
5085 – 145
6080 – 136
7075 – 128

Many smartwatches can track heart rate at rest, during exercise, and at night. While there are many options and styles, people may wish to choose theirs based on personal preference and the features they want, such as long battery life, GPS, and water resistance.

Runners and exercise enthusiasts may wish to consider more expensive watches that can track various physical activities. In contrast, people who simply want to monitor their heart health may opt for a simple watch they can wear every day that tracks their heartbeat.

Please note: Medical News Today does not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse any of these applications. Nobody at MNT has evaluated these apps for medical accuracy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.