Do the Heart Rate Monitors on Treadmills Really Work?

Are those silver sensors accurate or merely decorative?

Ben Greenfield,
November 14, 2011

Perhaps you’ve seen them before: those silver handles jutting out from the treadmill or on the handlebars of a stationary bicycle or elliptical trainer. The basic idea is that you’re supposed to grab that silver area with your hand to get a reading of your heart rate. But do they actually work?

On this type of “hand” heart rate monitor, the sensors pick up your heart rate from your palms and fingertips, but you must have your hand absolutely still to get a proper reading. And if your hands are very dry, you may not get a reading at all. Because you may be bouncing around or moving as you work out, this can present some difficulty.

But provided you can hold still, and you have a little sweat on your hands, you can actually get an accurate reading from the heart rate monitors, and use the reading to make sure you’re able to follow the recommendations in What Is the Fat Burning Zone?

Treadmill image courtesy of Shutterstock