John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Does a heart rate monitor make any difference to excercise programs?

I’ve wondered this for a while now. Does an exercise program like RunGPS use the heart rate monitor in it’s calorie count? It would seem that when you are doing a lot of aerobic exercise like climbing hills etc using the data from the heart rate can go a long way to getting a more representative (I won’t say accurate) count of the calories burned. So with this in mind I started RunGPS on two devices and headed out for a ride on my bike. I chose a fairly aerobic course (lots of long hills) to accentuate the difference if any. The results were quite surprising. Without the heart rate monitor RunGPS said I burned 653 calories. Not a lot. By comparison with a heart rate monitor the calorie count slips up to 1902 calories. Wow what a difference. So the answer, for RunGPS is it sure does use that data in calculating calorie count!

Here’s the raw data with a HRM and without a HRM.

If your wondering about power consumption, on a ride of a little over 2 hours (with RunGPS), with a bluetooth headset and bluetooth heart rate monitor, along with music playing it consumed about 21% for an average of 9.3%/hr.

RunGPS supports Bluetooth, Ant+ and Bluetooth Low energy heart rate monitors, so a complete sweep.

Runtastic on the same ride by the way without a heart rate monitor clocked in at 504 calories (vs 653 for RunGPS). Now I completely expect each program to devise their own way of calculating calories burned so a difference is not a surprise, but 149 calories out of 504? That’s a pretty big difference. 30%.

Runtastic supports Bluetooth, and Bluetooth low power heart rate monitors but not Ant+ monitors.

So next up I decided to look at whether Runtastic uses it at all. I did a similar ride to the one above and clocked in 570 calories without a heart rate monitor and a measly 530 calories with a heart rate monitor. This in spite of the fact it saw an average heart rate of 157 bpm over a period of two hours. Now I can’t say for sure that RunGPS is more accurate than Runtastic but I sure can say the number Runtastic comes up seems to completely ignore heart rate.

Raw Data.

Last up I decided to look at Endomondo. I did a ride with and without a heart rate monitor. By the way Endomondo supports all three types of heart rate monitors. Older style Bluetooth, newer style low power Bluetooth (require Bluetooth 4 support) and lastly Ant+. With a heart rate monitor is shows 1862 calories. Without a heart rate monitor it shows 1379 so this would seem to show that Endomondo also does use the heart rate data. And the calorie count seems in line with what I would expect.

Endomondo supports Bluetooth, Bluetooth smart and Ant+ heart rate monitors so a complete sweep.

Raw data with a heart rate monitor and without a monitor.

Next up I checked out MapmyFitness. again the workout with and without a heart rate monitor looked similar indicating it seemed to be ignoring heart rate in the calculating of calories. Mapmyfitness only seemed to support Ant+ heart rate monitors not Bluetooth.

So in the end the answer to this question is … it may.


April 26, 2014 - Posted by | Android, Blackberry 10


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    Comment by Christian | April 29, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

      Comment by johngalea | April 29, 2014 | Reply

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    • Thanks! Feel free to pass the blog along to your friend!

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