(by David S Abrams, MD)
The heart rate is a very important piece of medical information. An abnormally elevated resting heart rate may indicate the presence of an underlying medical condition. Heart rate response to exercise is an excellent indicator of physical conditioning. Knowing one’s heart rate during exercise is important when it comes to maximizing aerobic benefit or maximizing fat burning. For those interested in an iPhone app that can check heart rate, here are two that I have tried out.
Instant Heart Rate, by Azumio
This free app uses the camera lens on the iPhone 3GS or later to detect pulses from the fingertip similar to what a pulse oximeter does. It detects color changes in the skin which correlate with each heart beat. It is very easy to use. You simply place your fingertip lightly over the camera lens and watch as the app detects your pulse and then displays your heart rate. I did it several times under different circumstances (sitting, after walking, after climbing a flight of stairs) to see how it would perform. I counted my pulse manually and got identical values to what the app displayed. It takes 10 seconds for the app to do this. After it displays the heart rate, it presents you with the option to store the value and to add a note. The five most recent stored values are kept in a timeline feature. You can upgrade to a Pro version ($0.99) which provides unlimited storage as well as charts to show heart rate recovery after exercise. The app’s Help feature is well organized. There is a section on Heart Rate Zones indicating what the heart rate should be for warm up, fat burn, cardio, extreme, and maximum. Settings allow entry of age and gender data to calculate ideal resting and maximal heart rates. This app receives 4.5/5 stars in iTunes. The app is not available for iPad.
Free Heart Rate Calculator, by Carre
This is a free app which requires one to check the pulse manually (e.g. at the wrist) and to tap a heart icon on the phone’s display every time a heart beat is felt. The app will then calculate the heart rate. I found this to be quite cumbersome and not very accurate. The display shows a graph along the top which alternates between Resting Heart Rate and Training Heart Rate. I could not figure out how to switch between the two, and there is no Help feature. When I tried to get to Carre support through iTunes, it took me to a site that wanted me to sign up for Hexoskin Wearable Body Metrics! The app receives 2.5/5 stars on iTunes and is available for both iPhone and iPad.
I clearly prefer Instant Heart Rate by Azumio. It is easy and fun to use, very accurate, and filled with useful information. It can be used at rest or during or after exercise. Those wanting to store data over a longer period of time will need to upgrade for $0.99. Either way, this app is valuable for those wanting to know exactly what their heart rate is at any time.