Which heart rate monitor do you use?

  • Community Moderator

    Using a heart rate monitor was a game changer for me for managing PEM. I’ve had the same HRM for the past five or so years (MIO Alpha 2), and it’s been great (after a false start with a different HRM which shall remain nameless, which died after only a few months).

    Sadly, my MIO has now gone to HRM heaven, and I need to find a buy a new one. I’ve not been keeping up with which ones are good, and have forgotten just how overwhelming it was to research them all last time. 😱

    So, I’m turning to the brains trust on here, and wondering which HRM you use and what you like about it? I’m only interested in wrist monitors, even though chest straps are more accurate, because I can’t tolerate wearing a chest strap all day.

    I do have a Wahoo Tickr for measuring HRV (which has a chest strap), which has been terrific and was very inexpensive, for anyone interested in HRV!

  • I use the Garmin Vivoactive 4S (it comes in two sizes, so it's one the few round watches that actually fits my tiny wrists). While not among the most accurate on the market, it's better than certain brands which shall remain unnamed 😉 and the features and app are excellent. It has the ability to set alarms for heart rate zones, fully customise your zones, and customise the data shown while running activities on the watch. I made a very detailed instruction document on how to set it up with the most useful features for pacing, which I'd be happy to share with anyone interested in trying this model.
    Garmin has their own version of HRV built in, though as it's not a chest strap one should take the data with a grain of salt. Garmin calls it "stress"; their "high stress" is low HRV, and "low stress" is high HRV. They also have a feature called "body battery", which is meant to estimate how much energy you have based on your sleep quality, HRV and heart rate. Mine is almost always bottomed out, lol.

    Edited to add: my document on setting up the Garmin watch probably needs updating, as a few things have changed with how it works since I wrote it.

  • Community Moderator

    Thanks so much, @river! I’ve heard good things about Garmin! Thanks for sharing your doc!

  • I'm really glad to hear that heart rater monitoring has helped you @Simone_Em_Aus . I'd love to hear your story of how you did it. I've used heart rate monitoring in the past using a polar chest strap and my mobile phone, but I also tried with a Garmin vivosmart 4 watch. I could never work out how to set an alarm that would let me know when my heart rate was too high. (I'm so not tech savvy). I also found that some days just standing and cleaning my teeth put my heart rate over it's maximum and so I found no wriggle room with what I could or couldn't do. I also found that some days I would still crash even though my heart rate remained under the max. I ended up more confused than when I began!!!

  • @SandyAtHome I feel the same! I had a Garmin vivosmart but couldn't work out how to change the alarm so it alerted me at the time I went over a set HR. And it almost seemed irrelevant because even if my HR went too high on tasks like getting food, I had no choice but to still get food, or brush my teeth or any of the other daily tasks I need to do. I keep wondering if I should try again...but I'm not convinced the effort it worth it.

  • Hi. I just bought a Fitbit charge 4. It seems pretty good.
    I can get a read out of my heart rate during the day as well as anytime I check the unit.
    Also has a sleep analysis.
    This is all I know as I haven’t used any other wrist ones.
    Good luck

  • Community Moderator

    @SandyAtHome Pacing with a HRM is something that definitely takes time. It’s not magic, and it doesn’t prevent PEM (at least it didn’t with me). I guess if you’re super strict about it, maybe you could prevent PEM entirely, but for me balance and quality of life are important too, so I wasn’t ever that strict.

    I don’t know how the Garmin works, so can’t help with setting an alarm. My Mio has an alarm, but I ended up not using it. It also had a flashing light which changed from green (below my AT) to red (above my AT), and I became really good at noticing the change in my peripheral vision, sand found it less jarring than an alarm.

    For me, it wasn’t about eliminating PEM, but minimising it. I’m mostly bedbound and my HR goes above my AT if I get up to go to the toilet. On bad days, it goes up if I just sit up in bed. So I didn’t try to keep my HR below my threshold 100% of the time, just most of the time. And I tried to keep the time above the threshold in short bursts. Sometimes that’s not possible (especially on bad days). And POTS makes it harder too.

    I also found that the HRM helped me to know when to stop doing something, even something cognitive. I would find my HR would start creeping up as I was getting tired, but before I was even aware that I was getting tired. So I would try to stop my activity before I got to my threshold (I found if I waited until my HR got to threshold, it was often too late and I was later crash).

    I also found it helpful to look back at the graph of my HR over the day, to see how much time I’d spent over my threshold that day. I knew when I’d gone over too much that I’d probably have some bad days coming.

    Finally, I found that measuring morning resting heart rate was a great way to have a gauge of how my body was that day and whether I need to be careful and rest, or whether I could do some activity. I tend to overestimate what I’m able to do, and underestimate how much rest I need, so having something objective which tells me I need to take it slow, really helps!

    We can start a thread on using HR monitors for pacing if that would be helpful? I’m sure others would have useful tips they could share too!

  • Community Moderator

    @Coggles77 It’s not worth it if the tech is too much of a pain to use. I think the hard part about using HRM for pacing is realising that it’s almost impossible to stop our HR from going over the threshold. But, for me, that wasn’t really the goal. For me it was about minimising PEM where I could.

    Using a HRM can help you notice what activities (or duration of activities) push your HR over your threshold and track changes you might make too. There are some things that you just have to do regardless, but for most of us there are probably some things we can tweak to reduce the impact of those activities on us, whether it’s breaking a task down into small chunks, or doing it sitting or with elevated feet etc. The HRM gives objective feedback on how much difference those tweaks make.

    It’s not magic and it doesn’t eliminate PEM, but it can help. That said, it isn’t for everyone, so I’m not trying to convince you to try it again. I can understand why you’re not doing it. I stopped wearing my monitor for a while, too.

  • Community Moderator

    Thanks, @Chris. That’s really helpful!

  • I use a Fitbit Versa. You can choose from hundreds of watch faces, most have HR as a feature. You can study graphs of you HR in the app, and there are different colours for different HR zones. But I would be wary of buying a Fitbit. I’ve had five in the last five years, and none have lasted more than a year. They have a 12 month warranty and have been good about replacing the watches that have broken down, but they should be making units that will last.

    Personally though, I found it too draining to constantly monitor my HR. I’m more focussed on knowing my limits and sticking to them.

  • Community Moderator

    Thanks to everyone that's posted 🙂 Getting a HRM for pacing is something that's been "on my list" forever, and I've never gotten around to, but it's very close to the top and is something I'm very interested in, and all of this information is very useful.

    @Simone_Em_Aus said in Which heart rate monitor do you use?:

    We can start a thread on using HR monitors for pacing if that would be helpful? I’m sure others would have useful tips they could share too!

    I think that's a great idea - I'll start one now 🙂

  • @Coggles77 it seems like we both have the same experience using the heart rate monitor. I'm too not sure if I'll give it another try.

  • Thanks @Simone_Em_Aus. I was using it to prevent PEM and became frustrated because it wasn't working. I thought that if I could monitor my HR then I could stop the crashing before it started.
    One thing I did find interesting was that my HR increased by at least 10bpm during and after eating even when lying down.

  • Thanks @Daffy_Dave .

  • I'll throw my hat in the ring for a garmin. I ended up getting the instinct because there was a video of someone throwing it against a boulder and it was unscathed. I'm tough on gadgets. I do not want to worry about forgetting it in the shower or scraping it against something in the garden. It's not as accurate as a chest strap but I found I wasn't disciplined enough to do morning HRV readings regularly enough. I find the body battery function super helpful, and I can have a continuous 4 hrly graph of my HR so I can see if it's creeping up or down. I don't set alarms. I have POTS and I would go nuts if it told me every time I stood up I'd crossed my AT. But I can see how that would be useful.

  • Community Moderator

    @SandyAtHome I think preventing PEM is a pretty tall order. A more realistic goal is minimising PEM. I didn’t eliminate it, but was more likely to stop activity, and so my crashes were less intense.

  • @Simone_Em_Aus Thanks to everyone sharing their experience with HRM. Even though I've had ME/CFS for 18years, this is the first time I've heard of trying to minimise PEM with a heart rate monitor. (I feel a bit ignorant about it after reading all your posts!) From what I can gauge about what's been said, they can be tricky and energy consuming in themselves understanding how to work them for particular goals you want to use HRM for. Given I can't do cognitive tasks like following instructions on new gadget (and I'm so not tech-savvy) for more than a few minutes, I'm wondering if it would be too difficult for me to work out how to use it and whether it actually is worth the energy and time to use for purposes of minimising PEM. And I guess the cost? Any thoughts of whether it's worth it or sticking to trying to stay within my limits by pacing and noticing my body symptoms would be helpful. Thanks

  • Community Moderator

    @Tina It’s a tricky thing to answer. It’s important to find a monitor which is within your cognitive capabilities. Having a device which is amazing, but which you can’t figure out how to setup as you need it, isn’t going to be much value.

    I’ve never used them, but many swear by FitBits as easy to use, relatively inexpensive. And a member of the Aussie ME/CFS community developed and app for the FitBit just for pwME/CFS, to make it easier to do what we want it do (but I’ve not used the app either!).

    @Daffy_Dave has started a thread on tips for using HRMs for pacing, and no doubt others will add to it over time, so that might be something worth checking out: https://community.emerge.org.au/topic/92/using-a-heart-rate-monitor-for-pacing

    It’s tricky to weigh up whether or not it would be worth it for you. I’ve been in groups with many others who use HRM for pacing and I’ve not seen many (if any) who’ve eliminate PEM from doing it, but it can help. But not everyone finds it useful.

  • @Simone_Em_Aus I agree with all your points, especially about minimising rather than preventing PEM. When I first tried pacing with a HRM, my circumstances were not ideal. I was living with very little support and trying to maintain my house because I knew I would have to sell it. I'm on NDIS now though - early days so it's a lot of work currently - but I'm thinking that once things settle down, it might be worth trying again.

  • @Simone_Em_Aus O I am trying to understand pacing for my son who has an Apple watch. He seems unable to do anything much without going over what I think is his threshold. I would appreciate understanding how to calculate threshold etc and think a thread would be helpful for a lot of people - thanks Sim

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