How accurate are heart rate monitors during walking/running

I just started using this heart rate monitor, with the strap around the chest and the watch that you wear. I cant help suspecting that its just following my strides on the treadmill though, and also, if this is possible? How accurate are these monitors anyway, and how do they work?
The treadmill speed was exactly 4mph just an average walking speed. I was doing roughly 2 steps per second at this speed, and then I noticed that my heart rate was consistently reading about 110-115bmp, --roughly the same number as my steps per min. Wouldnt a step cause the same amount of vibration that the strap picks up?
 

billy_joule

Science Advisor
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If you stand still does the monitor read 0 bpm?
If you go 8 m/hr does the monitor read 220 - 230 bpm?

If a monitor could be triggered by steps would anyone buy it or use it?
 

berkeman

Mentor
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I just started using this heart rate monitor, with the strap around the chest and the watch that you wear. I cant help suspecting that its just following my strides on the treadmill though, and also, if this is possible? How accurate are these monitors anyway, and how do they work?
The treadmill speed was exactly 4mph just an average walking speed. I was doing roughly 2 steps per second at this speed, and then I noticed that my heart rate was consistently reading about 110-115bmp, --roughly the same number as my steps per min. Wouldn't a step cause the same amount of vibration that the strap picks up?
Do you know how to take your pulse rate with a watch? Are you able to feel your radial pulse? You can take it and compare it to what the monitor is reading to test its accuracy.

http://www.hunterdonhealthcare.org/node/346 [Broken]
(note -- that article says to count your pulse for 60 seconds, but more common is to count for 15 seconds and multiply x4)

It is possible that the monitor strap is picking up "artifacts" from your walking/running steps. Does the documentation that came with the monitor tell you any tips for minimizing artifact issues?

It's worrisome that your pulse rate is 110-115 while you are walking only 4mph. What kind of physical shape are you in? What is your resting heart rate (either taken by you with your watch, or shown on the monitor)?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

f95toli

Science Advisor
Gold Member
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Years ago I was reading a long thread on another forum (cycling) where a member was complaining about the accuracy of heart rate monitors. He had tried several monitors and they all showed that his heart rate was reaching 215-220 bpm when he exercised (a normal person will top out at about 190-200). The thread was updated over a period of weeks as he tried new models etc.
Eventually he gave up and had a proper test done at a hospital. It then turned out this heart rate really WAS reaching 220 and he had a fairly serious problem with his heart.

The moral of this story is that modern HRMs are actually quite accurate, an if one is reporting a high -but sensible (60-200) - value it is likely to be correct. The only problem I've ever encountered was that the HRM was reporting a value that was way too low because the strap did not make good contact to the skin so it was missing beats (hint: be sweaty, or use some water to make sure the skin underneath the sensors is a bit damp); but the value it was reporting was simply way too low to be possible (40-50 bpm while running) so it was easy to spot and correct.
115-120 bpm sounds like a normal value for someone on a treadmill who does not exercise on a regular basis.

Also, a "normal" HRM works by detecting electrical signals, it will not be sensitive to vibrations unless the strap is loose (in which case it will probably indicate en error)
 

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