Heart Rate Monitors - How do they work?

A heart rate monitor consists of two parts - a transmitter attached to a belt worn around the chest, and a receiver worn on the wrist like a watch.

As the heart beats, an electrical signal is transmitted through the heart muscle in order for it to contract. This electrical activity can be detected through the skin. The transmitter part of the heart rate monitor is placed on the skin around the area that the heart is beating, and picks up this signal. The transmitter then sends an electromagnetic signal containing heart rate data to the wrist receiver which displays the heart rate.

Simple heart rate monitors may only show you the heart rate at a given time. More elaborate monitors are available that not only shows the heart rate, but can be set to record time, calculate average and maximum heart rate for an exercise period, and can sound an alarm when a runner reaches or exceeds a pre-determined target heart-rate zone. For more information, see the article Features of Heart Rate Monitors.

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