Heart Rate Sensors, How Do They Help?

As you may have noticed, the majority of cross trainers come fitted with heart rate sensors. They are those shiny bits of metal that are often found on the handlebars. To make them work you have to hold onto them while they detect the pulse in your hands. They don’t work instantly and sometimes take around about 30 seconds to produce a reading.

Some of the more expensive elliptical cross trainers also come with chest strap sensors which tend to be more accurate such as the NordicTrack Elite 12.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer.

NordicTrack Elite 12.5

There are a number of benefits of knowing what your heart rate is during a workout as you can check to see what intensity you are working out at is. This is done by calculating your heart rate zones which uses your maximum heart rate and resting heart rate. There are 4 main “zones” which target different aspects of your training and they go as follows:

4 main “zones”

60% to 70% – Recovery Zone (When training endurance)

71% to 80% – Aerobic Zone (Improve cardiovascular performance)

81 % to 90% – Anaerobic Zone (Increase anaerobic threshold)

91% to 100% – Red Line Zone (Used mainly for interval training)

heart rate monitor

How to calculate your heart rate zones?

Firstly you have to calculate you maximum heart rate which is very simple and goes as follows:

220 – (Age) = Maximum Heart Rate

Secondly you need to know your resting heart rate. The best way of doing this is to lie down in a quiet room for 20 minutes and just unwind until you are completely relaxed. Then you take your two inside fingers and press them gently against the inside of your other wrist until you can feel a pulse. Then start counting the pulses while you wait for a minute to pass on the clock. However many beats you count in that minute is your resting heart rate.

Now you have your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate we can calculate the zones. I shall use myself as an example to demonstrate as it easier to understand if you see it worked out.

To begin with you minus your resting heart rate from the maximum which gives you your reserve heart rate. Which for me goes as follows:

187 – 62 = 125 (Reserve Heart Rate)

The next step is to multiply your reserve heart rate by the percentage of which zone you are targeting. I want to improve my cardiovascular performance, therefore I aim for a target of 75%.

125 x .75 = 94

You then add this figure to your resting heart rate again to give you your target heart rate for that zone/ percentage.

94 + 62 = 156 bpm

Therefore I now know that in order to improve my cardiovascular performance I should aim to have my heart rate at about 156 bpm. This figure will slightly change as I exercise more as my resting heart rate will decrease as my heart becomes stronger and more efficient. Therefore I normally check my resting heart rate monthly to see if it has changed.

I hope this has helped you understand how useful heart rate sensors can be and how to use them. I would recommend that for the first few times of trying this method out you should start off with a low percentage until you get the confidence to push yourself further.

One point to make note of is that often that although some of the cheaper models of cross trainers do have heart rate sensors, they aren’t always very accurate. Therefore instead of emptying your bank balance on an expensive model you can find a wide range of heart rate sensors that would give you an accurate reading without costing an absolute fortune such as the Polar FT1.