How important is a Heart Rate Monitor when cycling for weight loss?

I have an old Everlast HRM watch, but it cannot display the average HR after a workout. I am using RunKeeper to track my rides and I have noticed that it has a field for average HR.


  • This is a medical question, so I should preface this with I am not a doctor and you should consult one in regards to this question. That being said, not too high, not too low - your doctor should be able to help you decide what a good regime is, for your heart.
    – Batman
    Commented May 3, 2014 at 23:02
  • 5
    Well, the heart rate monitor probably weighs about 4 oz, and hence will make you work that much harder, burn more calories, and lose more weight. Commented May 4, 2014 at 0:23
  • 1
    Yesterday, you exercised for 1 hour at an average HR of 150. Today, you were tired and had 3 cups of coffee, and you exercise at the same intensity for an hour, but because of the caffeine, your HR is 175. Did you burn more calories because your HR is higher?
    – JohnP
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:47

3 Answers 3


The short annswer is not at all important. People trained and got fit for decades without heart rate monitors. Current thoughs in some camps is to dump heart rate altogether. For someone just wanting to get fit and loose some weight, heartrate monitoring is usually an interesting distraction. The drive for it comes down from pro level sports to trainers and manufacturers selling 'extras'.

Unless you know you maximum heart rate (The 220-age formula is wrong as often as its right - do not use it), a monitor gives little useful information, and is more likely to put you wrong. You also need your aerobic threshold for it to anything more than marginally useful. Its very hard to establish aerobic threshold without knowing average heart rate, but you also need to know a lot more than just average.....

You should use the watch during training to ensure you are in your target bands- just look at the watch occationally. The proviso is that you can accurately establish the correct heart rate bands. If you have a trainier, averages, time in band etc might help them tune your training program, but if you had a trainer, they would tell you if this is needed.

  • Do you have a reference to support the "wrong as often as right" part?
    – andy256
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 21:59
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate#Maximum_heart_rate is a pretty good start.
    – mattnz
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 23:39
  • More importantly than how often it is accurate, imagine an unfit young adult who may have not exercised for 10 years with a max HR of around 160 tring to train in target based on around 190 (220-age).
    – mattnz
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 23:49
  • Good. I'm thinking it would improve your already good answer by including sth like "According to Froelicher and Myers, cited by Wikipedia, the 220..."
    – andy256
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 7:11
  • Actually, the 220-age is just plain wrong. It's one of the worst myths in exercise science.
    – JohnP
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:46

Are you at risk of a heart attack? If so it is probably useful. Seriously, I have a (mid-fifties) friend whose doctor advised him that everybody "over a certain age" should wear a HRM when they exercise.

Also, there is a regime of training that is heart-rate-based. Clearly if you subscribe to this, then you will need a heart rate monitor to see how you're doing. But there are also regimes which emphasise cadence, or power, or probably other parameters too. So heart rate is not the only metric by which to judge "progress".

But since you say you're cycling for weight loss, would it be fair to say that none of these specific metrics interests you (yet)? In which case, I wouldn't get too stressed about not having a HRM. If what you want is weight loss, getting on the bike in the first place will start to achieve that.

One thing I would say - and I am someone who started cycling to achieve weight loss, and who has worn a HRM since the start - is that by measuring things like heart rate data over time, you get to know how your body is working, what its limitations are, how your fitness is improving etc., which can be useful. But is it useful enough to go buy an HRM? Well, that's really your call. (After all, if all you're interested in is weight loss, then a set of scales will suffice!)

Lastly I'd echo what @Batman says - if you think there's any cardio risk with you jumping on a bike in the first place, you should really consult your doctor before doing so.


If you use a bluetooth or ANT+ heartrate monitor, you can plug that data right into your app. You'll have to explore their website to figure out which one is compatible with your cellphone and app version.

I use Abvio's Cyclemeter along with a Polaris bluetooth HRM and Wahoo cadence+speed sensor. I find that it's usually a big pain to use the HRM and just go with the cadence + speed, which is more important for me. Part of what you want to do is to increase your distance and effort over time.

You can also look into power meters that hook into your rear hub but they are considerably more expensive.

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