Heart Rate Monitor or Activity Tracker — Which One Is Right For YOU?

Wearable trackers are all the rage right now — and for good reason. They can completely transform your health and exercise routines. However, is a heart rate monitor or activity the best option for you? Be sure to read this post comparing the two options, as well as read about how my heart rate monitor improved my health and fitness!

Wearable trackers are all the rage right now — and for good reason. They can completely transform your health and exercise routines. However, is a heart rate monitor or activity the best option for you? Be sure to read this post comparing the two options, as well as read about how my heart rate monitor improved my health and fitness!

this is NOT sponsored in any way. Oh, and I am not a health care professional, so don’t take any of this as professional advice!

For the past few months, I’ve been following some healthy living/fitness bloggers on Instagram and a few of them have been very inspiring. I’ve found myself following some of their tips and making their recipes, and I love to read their stories.

After awhile, I started noticing that several of them really seemed to like their wearable fitness trackers. I was sent a Misfit Shine back in November to talk about on the blog, but I hadn’t done much with it since. However, after seeing how people seem to swear by them, I decided to brush of the dust and start using it again. In addition, I decided to get a Polar FT7. I’ve seen a lot of of bloggers really liking the FT4, and since the FT7 was the newer version, and only about 10 dollars more…that’s what I went with, and I’m so glad I got it.

I’m being a hundred percent honest when I say these two devices have changed my workouts (and maybe even my life!) They both have unique features that I really love, and push me to reach my goals. Obviously, not everyone can have both. Here is some information about each to help you decide if a Heart Rate Monitor Watch or Activity Tracker is the best choice for you:

Benefits of Heart Rate Monitor Watches

  • Very accurate — your heart rate is actually being monitored (as opposed to just steps or activity minutes, which can easily be skewed), so your calories burned is accurate
  • Helps you determine what the appropriate
  • More accurate than heart rate monitors on machines at the gym. Moderate intensity exercise is about 50-75% higher than your resting heart rate.
  • People of any fitness level can use them — if you buy it when you first start exercising, you can still use it when you’re running that first marathon (Ha!!)
  • You don’t have to interrupt your workout to check your pulse.
  • Prevents you from overworking or over training yourself, therefore making your exercise safer
  • Teaches you about your body’s reaction to certain workouts
  • Easy to track progress and provides great feedback
  • Very motivating — pushes you to do better!
  • As long as you are wearing the band correctly, it will track all your activities. I love this for Pilates (which my activity tracker does not pick up)

Cons of Heart Rate Monitor Watches

  • The band you have to wear on your chest might be uncomfortable for some. The one that came with my FT7 isn’t uncomfortable at all, but as I was researching different ones, that seemed to be the main complaint
  • The cost — the FT7 was about $70. The worst part of this was that, if you lost or broke the heart rate monitor part, it was at least $50 to replace it. Might as well buy a new watch!
  • The watch isn’t too bad to wear all the time, but you probably don’t really want to wear the actual heart rate monitor all the time.
  • Kind of clunky — this might just be that thinks this, but I don’t find them to be particularly stylish. However, I’m not really into style…so I guess it’s not that big of a deal!

I’ve really only used one heart rate monitor, but I really am a huge fan of the Polar FT7. It has all the features I need, and I can even upload all the information to my account online to better track my progress. I’ve done a lot of research on heart rate monitor watches, and if you get anything from Polar, you should be pretty happy!

Benefits of Activity Trackers

  • Simple to use
  • Motivating
  • There’s one for just about every budget (anywhere from $35 to $300!)
  • Most of them come with a mobile app to help track progress — the FitBit is great for those wanting to be encouraged by friends and family that have the FitBit as well (it has a great social aspect to it!)
  • Usually pretty stylish
  • Easy to wear all the time
  • Great for people who want to track their health/fitness, but aren’t super, super intense about it.

Cons of a Activity Trackers

  • They aren’t always going to be super accurate — for instance, I will do Pilates for an hour, but it won’t pick it up for some reason, and even though I was being very active, it doesn’t put that toward my active minutes for that day.
  • They work best if you wear them all the time, which might be hard for some people. I don’t mind wearing mine most of the time (though I usually take it off for church)
  • Doesn’t really measure intensity of workouts

There are a ton of activity trackers out there, and I think most of them seem pretty good. I only have experience with the Misfit Shine, but I know that FitBits are super popular, as well as the UP by Jawbone.

Which One Should You Get?

Well, that’s entirely up to you! I think, in general, activity trackers are great for people just wanting to improve their general health and fitness. However, heart rate monitors are great for people really wanting to kick their exercise up a notch, meticulously track the effectiveness of their workouts, and just get a much better idea of what exercise works best…get a heart rate monitor!

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How My Heart Rate Monitor Improved My Exercise/Fitness

As I mentioned, I use both the Polar FT7 and the Misfit Shine. The Misfit is mainly just for fun and pushes me to be more active throughout the day (if I don’t have all my dots lighted by the end of the day, I start jogging in place!) I also really like that it tracks my sleep, which is super interesting to look at. But, as I mentioned, it doesn’t track my Pilates activity, which is lame.

However, I LOVE my heart rate monitor. If you had to pick one, I would go with that. The Polar Heart Rate Monitor Watches are top of the line, not super expensive, and work really well. Here are a few reasons why I love mine.

1) Helps me Focus my Workouts

So, before I started using my heart rate monitor, I thought that running was the best exercise for me…which was unfortunate, because I really don’t love running! However, I love Pilates, but I wasn’t always sure if it was as effective as I wanted. But when I started analyzing the details from my HRM watch, the opposite was true. See, my watch tells me how much of my workouts were fat burning minutes, and how many were just fitness minutes. I found that the majority of my Pilates workouts were fat burning, while running had very few fat burning minutes (I’ll run for 30  minutes, and maybe three minutes would be fat burning.) It not only has helped me feel better about doing more pilates than running, but it’s helped me refocus my running training. Sure, I might be running slower, but it’s a lot more effective than previous!

2) Prevents Me From Overworking

It’s not really good to get your heart rate too high, and my monitor helps me know when I’m reaching that point. While sometimes it feels really good to push yourself to your limits while working out, it not always is going to be the healthier or the most effective way to workout. And to be honest, I’m not the best at gauging that. However, when I’m working out now, I look down at my watch quite often, and if I notice my heart rate is too high, I slow down. Like I really need an excuse 😉

3) Helps Me Set Goals

I love looking at the stats from my different workouts and making goals based off of them. For instance, I’ll make a goal to have my heart rate while running at a certain rate, or to have a certain amount of “fat burning” minutes per day. I’m a very detail/stats oriented person, so being able to see all the details set out nicely for me helps me feel more motivated to meet my goals!

4) It’s Pushed Me Out of My Rut

I have a really hard time losing weight. And since the summer, I’ve gained some weight for some reason (if anything, since the summer, I’ve changed my eating habits for the better, and exercised a lot more), and it’s been incredibly frustrating. Now that I’ve been able to better focus my workouts, I’ve noticed a big difference. I haven’t lost a lot of weight yet, but I have gained muscle and lost fat (according to my scale that measures that…and my pants!) and at a more consistent rate than I have with my other efforts. And because I’m starting to notice a difference, I’m feeling a lot more motivated to keep going. Could I have done this without the help with a HRM? Of course! But for me, having that extra tool has made all the difference.



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