I’ve had the displeasure of testing several wrist/optical heart rate monitors including those found on the Apple Watch and the Garmin Forerunner 235. I could go into detail and tell you how they only seem to work when you aren’t doing anything physical, how they are terrible for running intervals, how they work ok some days and not at all other days, or how they magically seem to always add +10 to +20 BMP to your heart rate (+10 or +20 anything would be great if this was a video game). But instead I’ll just leave you with these two heart rate graphs from very similar workouts.
Wrist/optical HR monitor (Garmin Forerunner 235):
Chest strap HR monitor (Garmin Premium):
If you need more convincing that the wrist/optical HR monitors aren’t they way to go, see my breakdown below.
- Much more convenient than a chest strap
- Works well for resting HR and easy activities like walking
- Can’t adapt to quickly to changing HR
- Always reads higher than actual
If you are a serious runner/biker/etc. you need a chest strap HR monitor, period. Your HR is an extremely valuable piece of data and it shouldn’t be left to an inaccurate device. Unless you only sleep and walk, do yourself a favor and skip wrist/optical based HR monitors.