February is American Heart Month! If you’re an athlete, you’re probably pretty familiar with the importance of knowing your heart rate before, during, and after you exercise. But did you know that your heart rate can tell you if you have a developing health issue? So knowing how to accurately check our heart rate is something we should all be able to do. Luckily, there are several cool smartphone apps that help you do just that.
Your heart rate—or pulse—the number of times your heart beats per minute, is an important gauge of overall heart health. Heart rate can vary from person to person; athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates than their sedentary counterparts. You can find your pulse on your wrists, on the inside of your elbow, on the side of your neck, and the tops of your feet (who knew?!).1 Or, you can whip out your phone and check out some of the apps below.
You might be thinking: How is an app figuring out my heart rate? Do I touch the phone to my wrist or neck? Actually, these apps use your smartphone camera to capture miniscule changes in light being reflected from your face or even your finger. When your heart beats, the blood flow to these areas increases and more light is absorbed. In between those beats less light is absorbed. These differences in light absorption are registered as your heart rate! Some apps use your front-facing camera to detect these changes in your face, while other apps have you place your finger on your phone’s camera.
Instant Heart Rate
We featured the pro version of this top-rated app on this month’s edition of The Scoop (check it out here). Instant Heart Rate lets you use your smartphone to find your heart rate in less than 10 seconds. Just place your index finger on your phone’s camera and the app will display your pulse. Real-time charts show you your heartbeat. Register for an account and export your data so you can track your data over time.
Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor and Pulse Tracker PRO
The Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor app measures your resting heart rate, pre- and post-work out heart rate, and your maximum heart rate while exercising. The app features graphs so you can track your progress and see if your resting heart lowers over time with regular exercise. Reminds you to regularly check your heart rate.
Heart Rate Monitor
This app gives you two different ways to measure your heart rate – either by looking at your your front-facing camera or by covering your camera with your finger. Calculates your heart rate training zones for moderate activity, fat burning, cardio, or maximum effort. Keeps your heart rate history and allows you to add notes.
$0.99 for iOS
Like Heat Rate Monitor, Cardiio gives you two ways to measure your heart rate. Works with your iPhone or iPad. Gives you a personal dashboard with daily, weekly, and monthy data. This app also comes with a 7-minute high intensity circuit training program to get your heart pumping.
Available for FREE for iOS
Some tips to keep in mind when using these apps:
- Keep yourself and your phone as steady as possible when attempting to measure your heart rate.
- The Cardiio app suggests making sure your fingers are not cold when using that modality to measure your heart rate—this is probably good advice for the other apps as well.
- Don’t press down with your finger too hard on your phone, as this may restrict blood flow to your finger and impede measurements.
- For front-facing camera use, try to center your face in your phone’s screen and make sure you are in well-lit area.
- Make sure your face is not being covered by your hair or anything else.
Remember that these apps and your smartphone are not medical devices. Always consult your healthcare provider before using these apps for medical purposes. Now go out there and get moving so you can track your heart rate!