Heart-rate monitors tested by Consumer Reports

Cheap-strap or wrist-strap?

CLEVELAND - Vigorous exercise can help keep you healthy, and using a heart monitor is a good way to check exertion during your workout.

But how do you choose the best one for your fitness level? Consumer Reports put them to the test.

Personal trainer Sam Koph works out six times a week, and she always tries to monitor her heart rate.

"I wear a heart-rate monitor to keep myself honest, to make sure I'm working out at the appropriate level," said Kopf.

Consumer Reports tested heart-rate monitors ranging in price from $35 to $110.

"We looked at several different kinds of heart-rate monitors. The most common are cheap-strap monitors, which measure your heart rate via a sensor that's on a strap that you wear around your chest and then transmits the results to a wristwatch that you wear while you exercise, so you don't ever have to touch anything," said Jamie Hirsh with Consumer Reports.

With wrist-strap monitors, you have to touch the device with the fingers of your other hand to get a reading.

Also tested -- a ring monitor from LifeSpan.

Panelists wore the devices while working out a treadmill. This electrocardiograph confirmed the accuracy of all the monitors. All proved accurate, except for the LifeSpan ring.

Hirsh said most of the monitors also have convenient features, like a watch and a stopwatch.

"With many of them you can also program in the maximum and minimum heart rates that you want to reach while you're exercising," said Hirsh.

Those monitors alert you if you go outside your zone.

Panelists also evaluated how easy the monitors are to use. The $50 Timex Personal Trainer chest-strap monitor rated excellent for both accuracy and ease of use.

Chest-strap monitors are best for working on a treadmill or when running or biking, but a wrist-type can be fine for walking.

Consumer reports said a good choice is the Sportline Dup 1010, which can be used either as a chest strap or a wrist monitor. It costs $60.

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