A lot of the best exercise machines for home gyms right now will proudly claim to have pulse sensors built into the machine. The idea here is that the system will take a reading and this will translate to the heart rate monitor on the screen. There are lots of people that will benefit from this approach. However, there are also some potential flaws in the design that could be an issue for some. So, is it worthwhile getting an exercise machine with a pulse sensor?
Why might you find that a pulse sensor is a beneficial tool for your workout?
Let’s start with the potential benefits of this system. Many top treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical machines will have pulse sensors embedded into the handlebars. All users have to do is hold on while they work out and allow the sensors to take their readings. This creates a steady stream of data to the console so you can see any fluctuations in your heart rate.
Those that work out often should be aware of the ideal heart rate for their activity level and their resting heart rate. A constant reading lets you see when the rate has risen too far so you can tone the intensity down and get back to a better rhythm. This is important for all those that are trying to improve their sessions and their results. It is too easy to push too far and put yourself at risk. The sooner you realize this, the better the chances of a quick recovery without having to end the session altogether. If you don’t see the danger signs than this could put you at great risk. The last thing you want is to suffer heart complications just because you decided to ramp up the resistance a bit too much.
What limitations are there to these in-built pulse sensors that you should be aware of?
The first issue lies with the placement of the sensors on the machine. Most have one set embedded into the stationary handrail or handlebars of the machine. This isn’t too much of an issue for those using a treadmill or exercise bike if you remember to keep hold of the handlebars. If you stop holding on, the machine can’t get a pulse reading and there won’t be any accurate data available.
This can be an issue for those that want to keep their hands free or try another position. One of the best as to improve your posture and core strength while using an exercise machine is to sit up straight without holding on. Some people also like to use resistance cords or dumbbells for arm exercisers on bikes and treadmills as they work. This means that there is no way of using the pulse sensors and getting that reading. The problem isn’t such an issue for those that use elliptical machines because the handlebars are such an integral part of the workout. Just make sure that you can use both sets of handlebars on dual-function models where you can switch between moving and stationary arms.
Pulse sensors and pulse belts
One way to combat this possible problem is to use a different heart rate system. Some machines will come with additional chest straps for pulse readings when the other method isn’t convenient. These connect to the console for the same type of data stream. Just double-check that this indeed in the box and not an extra feature sold separately. If not, you might find that this ramps up the overall cost.
Some machines are better than others
Then there is the quality of the sensors. Some cheaper machines are a little inconsistent in their readings because the sensors aren’t ideal. They may be too sensitive and create inaccurate readings or they might not be sensitive enough and require too much pressure. Some also struggle because they aren’t sweat-proof, which isn’t ideal for any high-intensity workouts. Another possible flaw to consider is the quality of the reading on the console. The sensors may be just fine but the console could be a little temperamental or difficult to read.
Does this mean that pulse sensors are more hassle then they are worth?
This all makes it sound as though it is a bad idea to get a machine with a pulse sensor. This isn’t the case at all. These features can be a great aid and there is no harm in having them built-in. It is, in fact, better to have it and use it occasionally for those really tough sessions than to not have it and hold yourself back. The point here is that you have to be careful about how you use them and to get a machine where the sensors are of a decent quality.
That is why it is so important to check the features of your chosen exercise machine to know exactly what you are getting. Where are the sensors located on the product? Does this mean that they will be easy to use consistently or a little too awkward? Is it possible to get that continual reading with ease or will you have to plan your workouts a little better? Also, is there a chest strap to help you diversify your sessions and still get the best reading?
On top of that, take the time to read users reviews to see what they have to say about this feature. If more than a handful have struggled to get consistent or accurate reading then there might be something wrong with the software or the design of the sensors.
Find the best approach for your needs
A pulse sensor in a treadmill or any other fitness machine can be a great tool when it is accessible and reliable. If you find a machine that has this function, and you know that users have no problems with it, it could turn out to be a very helpful tool. Think about your needs and preferred style when working out and find the approach that suits you.