Wrist-based heart rate monitors are useless. USE A CHEST STRAP.

  • Creator
    Topic
  • #39487
    Scott Semple
    Keymaster

    Thanks for coming to the Uphill Athlete forum! We’re happy to have you here, and we look forward to answering your questions.

    But… with the rise in popularity of activity trackers, wrist-based heart rate monitors are becoming more popular. We are seeing more and more forum posts with confusion about strange heart rates and inaccurate threshold tests.

    The reason for the strangeness is that wrist-based heart rate monitors are useless for proper endurance training. They are neither accurate nor precise enough.

    In order to start structured endurance training, you will need to use a heart rate monitor with a chest strap.

    When posting in the UA forum, please only include heart rate information if it was recorded with a chest strap. Without reliable heart rate data, we won’t be able to offer any helpful advice.

Posted In: Alpinism

  • Participant
    mgflatt on #39828

    Scott,

    Do you have a brand / model that you recommend? I’ve been training with Suunto watch or Apple watch. I haven’t noticed any irregularity but without a comparative would really have no way to know either.

    Participant
    Reed on #39830

    I think you’ll probably be OK with any chest strap heart rate monitor – Polar, Suunto, Garmin, etc. One study I saw suggested that chest straps are >99% accurate relative to lab ECG leads, vs. 80-90% accuracy for optical wrist monitors (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28709155). If you already have a Suunto watch, go with Suunto!

    Keymaster
    Scott Semple on #39857

    Agreed. If your device will pair with a strap, then you’re all set.

    I haven’t noticed any irregularity but without a comparative would really have no way to know either.

    This is exactly the problem. Lots of folks have written in saying that they haven’t noticed anything unusual in their wrist-based monitors. It always shocks me that they make that conclusion without any comparison to something that is known to be accurate…

    Participant
    Jim Prager on #39904

    I use a chest strap whenever possible and definitely get better data. The main exception is ski touring, where one cannot wear a chest strap with an avy beacon. I’ve noticed that my measured heart rate on ski tours can be off wildly. My approach has been to focus on my breathing and then eyeball my TSS to see if it seems plausible and adjust as needed. Any other strategies that you employ?

    Participant
    Alan Russell on #40036

    I’ve been using a Mio Alpha wrist-based HRM with my Suunto Ambit 3 Sport and Peak for the last few years. I almost always find it as accurate as a chest strap.

    I used to use a chest strap, but stopped when I was getting skin irritation.

    Keymaster
    Scott Semple on #40045

    Have you worn both the Mio and a chest strap during multiple workouts and then compared the recordings? If so, can you post screenshots of both?

    It’s common for folks to make the assumption that their wrist monitors are accurate without checking them against something with proven accuracy. I don’t know why.

    Participant
    Alan Russell on #40060

    Yes, but I did it years ago, prior to me using TP, or even Movescount. I can show you recent outputs from TP, but I’m not sure that would show you what you want. This review on DC Rainmaker may be more helpful: https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2013/02/monitor-bluetooth-smartant.html.

    It’s a discontinued device (it’s the Alpha you want rather than the Alpha 2 as it has a longer battery life), but you may be able to get one on ebay – I got a back-up one last year for less than £20. It’s not the most physically robust (I’m on my second (taped-up) one in 4 years) but it’s the best value I’ve found if chest straps cause you the skin irritation I had.

    I’d be interested to hear of anyone’s experiences with the Garmin/Suunto watches with built in optical HR e.g. Fexix 5/Forerunner 935/Fexix 3 HR/Spartan Sport/Spartan Trainer/Suunto 9.

    Participant
    keomacao on #40066

    It’s a discontinued device (it’s the Alpha you want rather than the Alpha 2 as it has a longer battery life), but you may be able to get one on ebay – I got a back-up one last year for less than £20. It’s not the most physically robust (I’m on my second (taped-up) one in 4 years) but it’s the best value I’ve found if chest straps cause you the skin irritation I had. http://keobong88.com/fb88/

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