Heart rate (HR) is a critical physiological variable used for prescribing exercise, assessing fitness level and tracking fitness improvements. Electrocardiography (ECG) stands as the criterion measure of HR. While recent development of HR-detecting mobile device applications (apps) has made evaluating HR more convenient; their degree of accuracy is unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this current study was to examine the accuracy and reliability of two-iPhone applications to detect HR at rest and during low-intensity exercise conditions. Eighteen female and 22 male subjects (26 + 9.5 yrs) were prepped for simultaneous detection of HR via three methods: ECG and two HR-detecting apps. App 1, a camera-based app called Azumio Instant Heart Rate (CAM), was used by placement of a finger over the camera lens of the mobile device. App 2, a microphone-based app called Heart Monitor by Bluespark, was employed via placement of an external microphone over the radial pulse. The participants underwent a series of 5-minute stages: seated rest followed by cycle then treadmill walking at low intensities. HR was recorded concurrently, at several time intervals from the three methods once a steady-state HR was reached. The means of the three devices were compared via ANOVA with the significance level set, a priori, at 0.05. Correlation analysis was employed to investigate relationships between the apps and ECG. No statistical difference was found between the CAM and ECG HR (p > 0.05) during the resting and cycle stages. However, during the treadmill phase, there was a significant difference (p = 0.018) between CAM and ECG. Nevertheless, there was a significant (p < 0.05), positive correlation between CAM and ECG under the resting, cycle and treadmill conditions (r = .966, r = .984, r = .877, respectively). Significant differences (p < 0.05) were found for each condition when comparing ECG and MIC HR. Data also revealed poor correlations (p > 0.05; r between -.004 and -.136) between MIC and ECG. The utility of CAM and MIC-based apps to detect HR remains in question as evidence appears to indicate exercise mode and app specificity. Caution should be shown when using these devices. The CAM-based app may accurately detect HR during resting and seated cycling but not during treadmill activity. The MIC-based app is not recommended for use in any condition. Of note, statistical significance may not mitigate usefulness when considering the accuracy of palpation. Additional research is necessary.



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