Written by Lieze

Heart rate measurement: chest strap vs pulse measurement

You're looking for a way to measure your heart rate and are not sure if a watch with a pulse measurement or a heart rate belt is the best choice. A heart rate belt measures more accurately than a pulse measurement, but a watch measures more than your heart rate. We'll tell you which of the 2 is the best for you here.

Measurement: optical versus electronic

Wrist sensor with LED lights

Watch with pulse measurement: measures the effect of your heart rate

A watch measures your heart rate with an optical heart rate measurement. It doesn't measure your heart rate itself, but the result of your heart rate. Every time your heart pumps, it pumps oxygen into your blood. This dilates your blood vessels. A sensor measures these changes in your blood vessels using green LED lights and converts them into heartbeats. Because of this, a pulse measurement always lags slightly behind your actual heart rate.

Sensor heart rate belt

Chest strap: measure your heartbeat

A chest strap measures the electrical activity of your heartbeat. A sensor measures the electrical signals and converts them into heart rate measurement. This means that a heart rate belt registers the beat itself and not the oxygen that is released with a delay. This makes a heart rate belt more accurate than a pulse measurement. If you train often and the reliability of your heart rate measurement is important, a heart rate belt is the right product for you.

Accuracy

Wrist measurement watch

Watch with pulse measurement: less accurate heart rate measurement

A heart rate measurement via your wrist is always slightly behind your actual heart rate and is always less accurate than via a heart rate belt. In addition, a pulse measurement depends on external factors that influence the measurement. Do you exercise for pleasure and do you mainly practice endurance sports where you keep a constant pace? A pulse measurement via your wrist gives a good indication. View our tips for a good pulse measurement.

Polar heart rate belt

Chest strap: very accurate heart rate measurement

A chest strap measures the actual heartbeat. This makes a measurement via a heart rate belt very accurate. Athletes who train based on their heart rate will always opt for a heart rate belt. Maybe in combination with a sports watch. Even if you do a lot of sprinting or doing strength or interval training, we also recommend a heart rate belt. Do you want to measure more than just your heart rate? Keep on reading.

Other functions and measurements

Pedometer

Watch with pulse measurement: measures more than just your heart rate

A sports watch measures much more than just your heart rate. All sports watches measure your steps, distance traveled, and distance according to a GPS sensor. There are also watches that measure more advanced data, such as your VO2 max, step length, cadence, and ground contact time. The VO2 max measurement is a test that gives you insight into the fitness of your body. The other measurements are relevant for fanatic runners to improve their performance.

Chest strap on expert

Chest strap: only measures your heart rate

Most chest straps only measure your heart rate and nothing else. Do you want both an accurate heart rate measurement and extra measurements during exercise? Choose both and connect your heart rate belt to your sports watch via Bluetooth or ANT+. This way, you can view your heart rate on the screen of your watch while exercising and analyze all other measurements afterwards. You can check your average speed, distance traveled, and your cadance. 'Less is more' doesn't apply in this case.

Wearing comfort

Comfort smartwatch

Wrist watch: comfortable

A sports watch is generally more comfortable than a chest strap. It's like wearing a normal watch, only the material of the watch band is taken into account. They're always made of plastic. This material is comfortable during exercise and you can easily clean it afterwards.

Chest strap on Coolblue expert

Chest strap: less comfortable

For women, a heart rate belt isn't always comfortable in combination with a sports bra. For men, the belt can rub over the chest hairs. As a result, a chest strap is generally less comfortable than a watch.

Conclusion

A heart rate belt measures your heart rate more accurately than a pulse measurement, but a watch with a pulse measurement measures more than just your heart rate. How important is the accuracy of the heart rate measurement? If this is the most important thing, a heart rate belt is the right choice. If you want to know more than just your heart rate and an indication of your heart rate is sufficient, a watch is more suitable. For the best of both worlds, choose both and pair them via Bluetooth or ANT+.



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