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Old 06-27-2003, 10:30 AM   #2
David Wood
Departed David Wood is offline
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 3,303
My impression is that it's not that heart rate monitors are bad in themselves . . . it's more that they are ususally used as part of a fallacious idea of fitness.

Most programs oriented around a HRM will identify a "fat-burning zone" of heart rate (usually about 60% or so of a theoretical "maximum" heart rate), and advise you to work out for 20 minutes in that zone. Working out any harder than this is discouraged (you might actually get tired, or sweat, or something).

This idea is so badly mistaken for building genuine fitness that it is staggering that has ever become accepted doctrine . . . but alas, it has. It *might* have some legitimacy as a reasonable goal for cardiac rehabilitation, post-heart attack, or post-surgery. It is not an appropriate goal for any healthy person who desires to be fit, or even to lose weight.

The most recent CFJ covered this pretty extensively, but it boils down to this: almost all fitness (and body composition) goals are better served by exercising harder, and briefer. You need to work at very high heart rates, very close to you anaerobic threshold, as much as possible.

So, if you have a HRM that will track the maximum HR achieved (some do), and the time spent at each HR level, I can maybe see some potential value. But if it's being used to make sure you don't get out of the mythical "fat burning zone" (which means that your training never actually achieves anything), then the HRM is not serving you.

Mostly, they're just a distraction from the real point of real exercise.

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