Best Heart Rate Monitor Reviewed by Science

Posted by Anthony Luke MD, MPH on April 22, 2022

The Starting Line: 

What has research shown to be the best wearable for monitoring heart rate? 

As of 2021, there are many wearables on the market which make up a 47.89 billion dollar market.  Heart rate is an important output to measure since it's used to calculate many formulas related to exercise.  Examples of calculations using heart rate include how hard you're training, calorie expenditure, targets to create training zones, and even recovery status.  

In one study, several wearables were assessed to see how well they calculated heart rate in different exercise situation like running on a treadmill or exercising on an elliptical.  Researchers found that the Polar H7 chest strap monitor had the best agreement with an electrocardiogram (heart tracing) which is the gold standard.  The Polar H7 chest strap had near perfect correlation with the electrocardiogram (rc = 0.996) followed by the Apple Watch (rc = 0.92).  

In another review of wrist wearable tracking devices, for heart rate, the Apple Watch had a Mean Absolute percentage error of less than 10% above or below.  

Finish line:

The Chest strap monitors are still the most accurate heart rate monitors while smartwatches specific the apple watch seems to correlate the second best and also has many popular features.  


1. Gillinov S, Etiwy M, Wang R, Blackburn G, Phelan D, Gillinov AM, Houghtaling P, Javadikasgari H, Desai MY. Variable Accuracy of Wearable Heart Rate Monitors during Aerobic Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Aug;49(8):1697-1703.

2. Germini F, Noronha N, Borg Debono V, Abraham Philip B, Pete D, Navarro T, Keepanasseril A, Parpia S, de Wit K, Iorio A. Accuracy and Acceptability of Wrist-Wearable Activity-Tracking Devices: Systematic Review of the Literature. J Med Internet Res. 2022 Jan 21;24(1):e30791.

Photo Credit: run365 

*Note: This general information is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment or advice. Always consult a professional before making changes to your health and wellness practices. 

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