Best Fitness Trackers with a Chest Strap And Why Do You Need It?

The best fitness trackers with a chest strap belong without a dought to the veteran brand – Polar.
With the new and improved Polar’s adapted H10 chest strap, the Polar V800 GPS watch, and the wonderful Polar M400 GPS smartwatch are the best options for extra accurate fitness trackers with a chest strap.
If you find these 2 a bit expensive, I added another cheaper, basic fitness tracker with a chest strap by Polar in the list below.

Polar M400 – Best fitness tracker watch with a chest strap

The type and number of activities that people can indulge in to keep themselves fit and healthy are so profoundly numerous that you can even have preferences.
Some people like to run to keep themselves while others hit the gym for weight training.
Some people take yoga or Zumba. Some just dance. No matter which one of these seems like your cup of tea, they are all guaranteed to help you lead a healthy and fit life.
Now, to get the most out of your fitness regime, you should have some data and information to help you keep track of these things.
An app needs to be initialized each time and it becomes an unwelcome chore when you have to unlock your phone at the gym after every 15 minutes or having to punch numbers into an app while you’re on the treadmill.
To convenience fitness enthusiasts and also provide them with data that they can use to further better their lifestyle; the fitness trackers came to be.
These tech toys simply latch themselves on to the wearer and silently data from their activities.
They can tether themselves with smart devices and then share that data with them to make further use of it.

Best Fitness Trackers with a Chest Strap

This convenience was so huge that fitness trackers rolled out in the form of watches, wristbands and chest straps.

The latter, however, was introduced because it offers more accurate heart rate readings when compared to the other two.

The chest band added to the fitness watch/band is obviously making it more expensive

It is also much less convenient and requires you to wear and carry another device although, there are chest straps(see the list below) with internal memory so no phone or other device is needed during your workout session, this brings up the next question.

Why Do I Need A Chest Strap?
Isn’t A Watch Or A band With An Optical Wrist Sensor Enough and What is the Technology Difference between them?

So let’s start with a brief explanation of the difference between the technology of the chest strap and the optical wrist-based HR sensors installed in the new watches.

The chest strap has a rigid part attached to the body, with electrodes that capture the electrical activity of the heart.

This is the same principle of ECG testing, and so the exercisers receive the pulse data, which is usually very close to the most accurate measurement.

A fitness watch with a built-in heart rate monitor works in a completely different way.

Inside the wristwatch, there is an optical screen with sensors and pulse data are obtained through a process called photoplastymography, which is an optical measurement principle.

This technology uses light projected to the tissue area (on the skin of the wrist for that matter), the light is absorbed by the red blood cells and radiates back to the tissue surface where it is measured using a sensor.

At each heartbeat, the blood flow and volume change, leading to another dispersion of the amount of light, and the heart rate is a function of the reflected light.

Sounds complicated, but this method proved to be absolutely accurate as long as we are in a state of rest.

According to many tests conducted in the United States and in many Internet sites abroad, it is found that the resting heart rates are identical between the measurement methods.

The problem starts with movement and gets worse as the movement gets faster.

It turns out that the sensors in the optical meter (a gauge built into the watch) are sensitive to any movement, and this may cause a deviation of tens of percents even, or if we translate into beats – of 20-30 beats per minute.

Of course, such a deviation does not allow proper training for those whose training program requires observing an accurate pulse.

The differences between the different watches or what makes one of them more accurate than the other are probably due to the quality of the sensors installed by the manufacturers within the watches.

But in any case, if you ask the senior runners they will tell you that it is very hard for them to rely on the watch data only.

The simple conclusion is that to date no watch is known that can provide an accurate pulse rate data at runtime just by using its wrist-based HR sensors.

It is possible to count on technological progress and to expect that this may be the next thing and that within a few years, everything written here will not be relevant.

But as of the summer of 2019, if it is important for you to get a pulse data that you can rely on then you have to use a chest strap.

Otherwise, it can be said that you are simply “fooling yourself.”
On the other hand, it is certainly possible to rely on the pulse data at rest provided by the watch or in a medium heart rate pace, and it will not hurt to look at it every morning before running.

It may be that your pulse is too high at rest, this might turn on some red light for the workout.
You can also use them as a comparison tool that differentiates the level of effort between one workout to another.

If you turn to manufacturers, they will probably tell you that a watch with a built-in heart rate monitor can be more accurate if used correctly.

To use correctly it means first that the watch should be tighter on the wrist.
The more contact, the more accurate it is, so it is best to wear it just above the prominent wrist bone.

Besides, there are also theories that differences in skin colors of humans may affect the same process of photoplastymography, as well as the amount of sweat and hair.

best fitness trackers with a chest strap - polar

What do the studies say about the accuracy of the chest strap?

In a few Studies conducted on heart rate trackers from the biggest brands on the market, it is clear that up to a running speed of 7 Mph both the watches with the strap and those without it were equal and accurate.

When the running speed increased to more than 7-8 Mph(from 7 in some brands and from 8 in others) than big differences appeared and the watches without the chest strap have become inaccurate to the point that it can be dangerous for people with heart problems that might think that they are running in their normal heart rate zone while they are not.

The only watch without a chest strap that was accurate even on a high volume heart rate was the Polar M200 which was involved in these studies.

So If your training requires a high volume heart rate(fast running, spinning, etc.) than it is recommended to use a chest strap.

If you are choosing not to use a chest strap in your fast pulse rate training than choosing the Polar M200 might be a wise choice for you.

Here are 3 of the best fitness trackers with chest strap that will give you the best value for your money.


1.Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch with the new H10 Heart Rate monitor chest band.

Yes, this is a Polar watch again, and I admit that when it comes to a fitness watch with a chest band, Polar is my absolute favorite.

The Polar V800 is also not new on the market and it is with us since 2014, and now comes with a new heart rate monitor in the shape of the H10 chest strap which replaced to old reliable H7.

In opposite to the basic Polar in this list, this one is truly a beast and it is meant for serious athletes, triathletes, swimmers and Cyclists.

This amazing watch from Polar is an interesting crossbreeding between three previous products: the wrist-shaped Loop watch, which transmits daily activity data to the mobile phone, the RC3 GPS running watch, which offers a wide range of running data but is not waterproof and therefore unsuitable for use In all sports and the RCX5 triathlon watch that displays high-resolution data but no built-in GPS.

The V800 is a great tool for runners or triathletes who love data.

It allows a lot of simplicity to see and analyze the data and create continuous monitoring of the training program.

The amount of data the watch offers is almost endless and through the computer, you can decide which data are relevant to you and how to direct it.

The large and clear display is advantageous for those who have difficulty reading data from the watch during activity, and the long battery allows it to be used in very long activities.

This watch is so featured reach, looks great and with a price tag of around 320 dollars, you will struggle to find him a competitor.

I have recently reviewed the V800 as the best fitness tracker for triathletes, you can check it out here.

2. Polar M400 GPS Smart Sports Watch

The M400 is a newer and lighter watch than the amazing triathlon watch – the V800 which is the first watch on this list.

The best place to check out and buy the M400 is on this page on Amazon.

Let’s start at the base Although the watch is waterproof and includes a mode for swimming, when used first, it is understood that it is firstly a running watch.

Built-in GPS (with all the data implied by it – speed, pace, distance, etc.), environmental data before, during and after exercise, convenience on the wrist and lightness make it almost imperceptible and at the same time very present in the training.

The ability to quickly switch between screens and large display, which is also visible in the dark, enables the use in almost all training conditions and receiving the relevant data at that moment.

The side buttons are built in such a way that it is easy to find them even during a quick run, making it easy to navigate between different situations.

Activity tracking during the day

The M400 gives you the possibility to keep track of activities during the day. With these data you can better understand the level of recovery and the daily energy expenditure measures – not just during exercise (it helps, for example, to nutritionally support the body).

The watch accompanies the body throughout the day and so you can compare different days and understand how to adjust the training to your weekly order.

Wireless syncing with the app

In the present age, the smartphone is a person’s best friend, so connecting the data to the designated application is so important.

As soon as the training is complete, the data can be transferred and displayed on a larger screen.

It is convenient and allows to analyze your workout immediately. Especially after training that includes many laps, it is more convenient to see them in the mobile application, which i updated and improved consistently.

The battery of the M400

The thinness of the watch does not indicate its impressive battery capacity. Almost one week of training on a single charge.

For anyone who once ran out of smartphone/watch’s battery while training, he can certainly identify with the frustration of the experience.

The powerful battery is certainly a significant point in the context of running watches and it is clear that Polar continues to progress and improve the user experience.

If you’re an endless triathlete and enthusiast, the V800 is a better choice. It is designed for triathlon and provides a complete solution in each and every area, but on the other hand, its price is higher.

If you are just running and more the lightness of the watch on your wrist, simple operation and low price is more important to you Than the M400 is definitely your watch.
It will offer all the relevant data in a convenient and simple way.

Battery life: Up to 8 hours of training time (when both GPS and HR are used), 24 days in a time-tracking mode for daily activities

What I like more in the M400

Light and slim, large display, simple operation, wireless data synchronization, battery

What I like less in the M400

Too bad that there is not the option to change the screen by touch as you can on the V800.


3. Polar FT7 Heart Rate Monitor – cheap, basic and very accurate

The old and awesome Polar Ft1 was one of my first watches, the FT7 is the newer version in this series.

If you are looking for a basic watch with a chest strap that will give you a very accurate heart rate monitoring and will warn you when you are pushing too much than this bundle is perfect for you.

The Ft7 watch is reading your heart rate from the Polar H1 Chest strap and will show you your heart rate on the big screen of the watch.

This way you can easily know your rate while training and avoid exceeding your predetermined heart rate zone.

Yes, Other brands and versions will offer you cool looks and many fancy features that might be worthless to you but these versions will be much more expensive.

I truly recommend the Ft7 for people who are looking for a very basic and accurate watch with a chest strap with an amazing price tag.

The best place to view and get it is from this page on Amazon.

The Polar H10 Chest band

If you are looking for a simple chest strap with an amazing accuracy that will record your training summary without the need to carry a watch or a phone(watch an explanation video below) with you then you really should check it out.

The H10 chest strap comes in a bundle with the V800 and the M400 that I mentioned on the list above.

The Polar H10 is widely recommended in the sports and fitness forums on account of how it is deemed to be one of the most reliable sensors to be found in a fitness tracker.

The entire thing is very comfortable and has silicon friction dots which help in keeping the strap in place for strenuous activities like running, cycling or swimming.

Speaking of swimming, it’s also waterproof. The strap features onboard memory as well so you are able to store a training session on the device to access later or just to have a backup of your session.

It is fully compatible with iOS and Android, featuring phones like the iPhone 4Sand above as well as Android 4.3 and later.

The Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility makes data sharing a real breeze for the PolarH10. It has a battery life of about 400 hours and the battery is replaceable.

The only con to the Polar H10 or chest straps, in general, is the fact that they’re activity specific and you can’t wear them everywhere much like you could with a fitness tracker watch or a wristband.

One really cool feature of the Polar H10 is the fact that it’s GoPro compatible which means if you’re a vlogger or simply like making films, you can connect the device to your GoPro and send the stream of data directly to your camera and get an overlay of your heart rate on your recorded video

Watch this video on the Polar H10 chest strap which you can buy in a bundle with the V800 and the M400.

Conclousion

If you are training in a medium pulse range zone then a heart rate monitoring watch without a chest strap from one of the known companies is certainly enough.

Those who base their workout on precise heart rate or target competitions (where they try to reach their full potential) should run with a chest strap, preferably the H10 chest strap with the watches in the list above or choose the Polar M200, which is the most accurate among the watches tested without them.

In my point of view as a trainer, sticking to fitness watch during training is not always necessary – and it is important to listen to the body, be aware of parameters such as fatigue, training load, sickness, etc. – points that may affect your pulse.

I hope that I helped you to find the best fitness trackers with a chest strap for your needs and to understand why you need them.

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