A heart rate watch is one type of wearable technology that not only makes everyday life easier, but also helps you keep track of important aspects of your health. Often doubling as fitness trackers, these useful accessories can provide information about your heart’s activity.
“Smart watches and heart rate monitor watches report your heart rate, or how many times your heart beats per minute. They use technology that can detect pulsatile changes in blood volume under the skin,” explained Dr. Nicole Harkin, a board-certified cardiologist at Whole Heart Cardiology.
In other words, thanks to a small optical LED sensor on the watch’s underside that can measure the change in blood flow to your blood vessels, and in conjunction with data about how you move, can determine your resting and active heart rates.
“Both [rates] have implications for your heart health as they are a reflection of your cardiorespiratory fitness ... as well as the status of your autonomic nervous system,” Harkin said.
An elevated heart rate and a fluctuation in the time between heartbeats are both associated with a greater risk of heart conditions. Tracking this information with a smart watch is a great way to generally monitor your heart health on a daily basis, even if you don’t regularly engage in intense exercise.
There are a couple things to keep in mind to get the most accurate reading from your watch, according to Dr. Hafiza Khan, a board-certified clinical cardiac electrophysiologist at Baylor Scott and White Health.
“If worn too tightly, the band can interfere with blood flow. Even if the optical sensor can pick up a signal, it won’t be accurate because blood cannot flow through your wrist naturally,” Khan said. “But if worn too loosely, space and air can prevent the optical LED monitor from capturing your heart rate at all.”
Below, we rounded up five highly-reviewed heart rate watches, each of which can be great to add to your everyday routine, according to promising reviews.
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Apple Watch Series 7
With detailed health features like notifications about irregular heart rhythms, sleep tracking, blood oxygen monitoring and fall detection, this watch can just about do it all. And if you’re looking to upgrade your fitness routine, it even has special sensors that track exactly how you move. Plus, your purchase will come with three free months of Apple Fitness+. You can also work out with peace of mind thanks to the watch’s crack-resistant crystal screen and water resistance. Get it in blue, red, green, black or champagne.
"Battery lasts all day under normal use. Very quick to charge if I do need to. My favorite features are the fitness monitoring and the ability to take an ECG. As someone with a heart condition, the peace of mind from being able to take an ECG, check blood oxygen levels, and monitor heart rate has been awesome. Pairs well with my phone and new data syncs up almost instantly. I had held off on an Apple Watch for a long time but now that I have one I wish I hadn’t waited so long." — Andrew Joyce
Fitbit Charge 5
This smartwatch connects the dots between your activity, sleep and stress to help you live a healthier life. Its health dashboard measures your heart rate, oxygen saturation, skin temperature and other important readings. The watch also records and monitors your pace as you walk, jog or run and keeps up with how far you go without having to rely on your phone, thanks to the built-in GPS.
"I purchased this for my dad that likes to walk. My dad has had a heart surgery and he finds it very helpful to watch his heart rate while walking. He wears it all the time and says it works great and is comfortable." — Ashley Fitzpatrick
Calling all outdoorsy wanderers: This is the watch you need for your future excursions. It has thermal, shock and water resistance to withstand tough environments and has a built-in axis compass and barometric altimeter so you don't get lost while you're out. You can also monitor your heart rate, activity while you're moving and stress levels. Promising review:
"Perfect to keep track of my sleep patterns, watch my heart rate while on hunts due different elevations, and having the ability to re trace my steps and get back to camp is perfect. Batteries usually last me about 10 days between charges." — Taira Goy
Fitbit Versa 2
If you want to get a better idea of your sleep quality and heart health, this Fitbit is the watch for you. It tracks how long you catch Zzz's and your heart rate while you're slumbering to give you a sleep score to understand your sleeping habits. But even when you're not sleeping, it monitors your heart rate 24/7 (or as long as you wear it), the number of steps you take, distance, calories burned and more.
"Got this for my girlfriend to help her track and manage her anxiety. Between the heart rate monitor and built-in breathing/relaxing exercises, she says it has been a huge help and has enabled her to see when she is becoming anxious before she even realizes it and helps her to calm herself down. Lastly, it makes her more excited to work out because she likes seeing/tracking her progress. Definitely a great purchase!" — Pierce Carnell
Samsung Galaxy watch
For a truly intuitive option that knows your body, look no further than this Samsung watch. It gives you readings on body fat, skeletal muscle, body water, body mass index and more. And of course, it gives detailed information on your heart health. One feature you'll want to use immediately is the accurate ECG monitoring, which provides insight on irregular heart rhythms that you can discuss with your doctor. To use it, a Samsung Galaxy smartphone
with Android 7 or later is required.
"It looks good with high definition, battery life approx 40 hours after a full charge, tracks exercise quite accurately as well as measuring heart rate. It is light weight, can't feel any heat on my wrist, and bands does not seem sticky. During walking and running, it measured multiple datas including almost real-time heart rate. It's been fun to exercise with this watch. In my opinion, there's no doubt if you own a Samsung smartphone, this is the best watch on the market." — Spoly