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Current fitness recommendations include participating in moderate intensity activities for at least 150 minutes or vigorous intensity exercises for at least 75 minutes each week. In order to determine if such fitness standards are being met, many individuals have turned to various heart rate monitoring applications to monitor their intensity levels during exercise. The accuracy of these applications, however has not yet been evaluated. PURPOSE: This study sought to determine the accuracy of three most positively reviewed, free heart rate monitoring applications available at rest, and during submaximal and maximal exercise. METHODS: Fourteen individuals (age: 22.9 ± 4.1; height (m): 1.8 ± 0.1; weight (kg): 83.0 ± 20.8; VO2max: 42.8 ± 8.1) participated in the study. Before the test began they were equipped with a heart rate monitor and connected to an open spirometry metabolic system. Participants then rested for five minutes before beginning a warm up phase for three minutes. A graded maximal exercise test was then administered in which resistance started at 50 Watts and increased by 50 Watts every five minutes until 200 Watts had been reached. After the 200 Watt stage, resistance increased by 25 Watts every minute until volitional exhaustion was reached. Heart rate was continually monitored using a heart rate monitor. Additionally, heart rate was taken with each of the three applications during the last two minutes of each submaximal intensity stage and again after volitional exhaustion had been reached. One-way ANOVA was used to compare each heart rate application. If statistical significance was found, Bonferonni post-hoc test was used. Statistical significance was set to p ≤ 0.05.RESULTS: Average percentage of VO2max at 50, 100, 150 and 200 Watts were 31.8%, 47.6%, 61.5%, and 71.2%, respectively. There were no significant differences among the three applications and the heart rate monitor during rest and at each submaximal exercise intensity. Statistically significant differences however, were observed at maximal exercise and post-hoc analysis revealed that the heart rate monitor was significantly higher compared to each heart rate application. CONCLUSION: The results show that in this group of young participants, the selected free heart rate applications are accurate during submaximal intensity exercise, but not during maximal exercise. This could be due to the phone camera’s inability to register the increased pulse rate. Further research, however is needed to examine the accuracy of the same heart rate applications using a newer phone with higher resolution camera.

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