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Strapless heart monitor helps you stay in the zone

Strapless heart monitor helps you stay in the zone

My heart rate monitor has been sitting, unused, at the bottom of my gym bag for months. I couldn’t get used to putting on the chest strap that comes with it, especially during winter workouts when that chest strap was ice cold from being in the car all day.

So when I saw that our new tests of heart-rate monitors include a kind, the Mio Alpha, that gives you a continuous heart rate reading without wearing a chest strap, I borrowed it from the lab to give it a try. I wore it while running on the treadmill and doing a cardio class at my gym (it was supposed to be cardio kickboxing, but we had a substitute teacher who had us doing jumping jacks and push-ups–reminded me of high school gym class!).

Unlike other tested models, the Mio Alpha has to be charged using the USB port on your computer. I’m not real tech-savvy, so it took me a few minutes to study the instructions, but when I put the monitor on my wrist just above where I wear my watch, I did find my heart rate quickly. The monitor is a bit bulky on my small wrist, but it fit nice and snug, which is important because it can’t give you an accurate reading if it moves around. I did some quick math to set my target heart rate zone using the buttons on the left side of the monitor. (Check our “How to find your target heart rate” for help on setting your target zone.)

During my first workout, the blue, green, and red lights on the Mio that indicate whether you’re under, in, or above your target heart rate didn’t work, so I called the manufacturer’s customer service hotline. The representative said to hit the button on the right side once (not to hold it down like you do to begin checking your heart rate). That made the timer pop up and the lights start blinking so I knew when I was in the zone. The monitor worked fine during my second workout, which included my least favorite exercise–burpees (a combo exercise that includes a plank, push-up and standing jump).

The convenience of not wearing a chest strap comes with a steep $200 price tag. So I’m torn as to whether I will buy this monitor to replace my old one. I loved not wearing a chest strap and it was easy to use, but I missed the calorie counter that comes on models like the Polar FT7.

Our experts found five chest strap heart-rate monitors that are accurate, versatile (so you can wear it bike riding one day and then in Zumba the next day), and range in price from $40 to $110.

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