Written by Jonna

Heart rate chest strap versus integrated heart rate monitor

Measuring your heart rate while working out? I don't need to convince you that this is important, of course. You're faced with the choice between a heart rate chest strap and a sports watch with an integrated heart rate monitor. Well, I'll help you with that. In order to support you well in your choice, we tested this for you.

What's your preference?

When faced with the decision between a heart rate chest strap and an integrated heart rate sensor, first ask yourself: what do I enjoy wearing? For women, a heart rate chest strap doesn't always fit well when combined with a sports bra, whereas for men, the strap may grate across chest hair. Some athletes complain the chest strap feels to cold to them, whereas others aren't bothered by any of these points. That is: everyone has their own preference. We can't decide that for others. What we can do, is compare the results of both parties' measurements to each other.

Tip: Before making your choice, test a running buddy's chest strap, then decide if you enjoy wearing one.

The test

In the video below, our vlogger Martijn answers the question 'Which measures more accurately, wrist measurement with a sports watch or via a heart rate chest strap?' In order to give the best possible answer, he underwent a sports medical examination, during which a sports doctor measured his heart rate to make a comparison.

How does it work, actually?

wrist heart rate

Integrated heart rate monitor

On a sports watch with an integrated heart rate monitor, you'll notice a green LED light on the back. This light contains a sensor measuring the blood that passes by. How does it do that? The sensor measures how much green light is refracted. When your heart beats, your blood is sent pumping around in small pumps. When one of these pumps of blood passes by the light sensor, less light is refracted than usual. The sensor counts this as a heartbeat. Now you know why it's important that your watch should fit well, too.

In doubt about how tightly you should wear your watch exactly? Place the watch behind your wrist bone and tighten it. Make sure your index finger only just fits under the strap.

heart rate chest strap

Separate heart rate chest stap

Every time your heart beats, a small electric signal generated. A chest strap registers those signals. It might sound scary, but that's exactly how they measure your heartbeat at the hospital. Ever watch Grey's Anatomy or another hospital series? In that case, the image of those shocks must be familiar to you. The strap registers the signals and passes this information on to your sports watch via Bluetooth or ANT+.

When does a chest strap like that fit well? The band should be right below the sternum (that hard bone in the middle of your chest). It should feel comfortable, yet be tight enough not to slide during running.


Which measures more accurately, a heart rate chest strap or a wrist sensor? The answer to this question is a heart rate chest strap. However, the test showed that the average measurements of a wrist sensor and those of a heart rate chest strap don't differ that much. That means it's equally important to pay attention to what you like.

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