Happy Monday, folks! I’ve got something fun for you!

Today, I’ve asked Mandy of Biblical Homemaking over to get us up to speed on heart-rate monitors (and related calorie-burn tracking gadgets).

You might remember Mandy from this Wardrobe Wednesday (we even showed up wearing the same shoes without planning it…promise!) or this Move-it Monday…in fact, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve mentioned her or posted pics of us together here on the blog.  That’s because we’re best friends and partners in crime exercising. We even…

Oh, but I’m getting carried away and should let Mandy tell you the rest.

Take it away, Mandy!


If you’ve been a reader for a while here at Five Days…5 Ways, you might know that Abbie and I are long-time friends and exercise partners and that we are both kind of in *love* with Body Combat, which we team teach together twice a week. We love the adrenaline, the music, the great choreography—it’s all awesome, but I’d have to say the ultimate reason we love our kickboxing/mma class is for the crazy calorie burn! (600+ per hour!!)


Getting ready to kick some tushy before our last Body Combat launch!

We are calorie-burn junkies—if the exercise burns over 400 calories per hour, we are pretty much in! We love it all. Probably too much. 🙂

In the past five years that we’ve been best friends and best exercisers (yay for new words!), we’ve:

    • Turbo Kicked
    • Hip-Hop Hustled (an actual exercise, believe it or not!),
    • practiced intense choreography at midnight
    • run in below freezing, sleeting weather bundled from head to toe in the dark at 6:45 in the morning (when together we had 6 little ones under 5-years-old)
    • battled through a rigorous three-day BodyCombat training (while Abbie was 5 months pregnant)
    • launched a brand new fitness format together when Abbie’s baby was three weeks old


    • even spent an entire day exercising our little hearts out (and bottoms off!) at a crazy fun all-day fitness event (and boy, did we have fun eating that night!). We’re going back for round two this year, and this time, it will be TWO whole days. Oh, heaven!

calorie monitor

This was the total calorie burn (4,704, not 71) on my HRM from our crazy day of 8 hours of exercise!

Just guestimating here, but I think that over the past 4.5 years, we’ve burned something like 100,000 calories together. Now that’s true friendship!

Even our husbands are best friends (okay, technically they were best friends before we were and are the reason we met each other!).

I think it’s safe to say that, in every relationship (ours included!), one half is less technologically-savvy than the other.  Abbie would readily agree that I’ve always been the techie of our relationship since I’m the geek out of the two of us when it comes to gadgets and computers. And since I love exercising, I love fitness gadgets even more!

I’ve owned and done research on all kinds of personal calorie monitors over the years, so I was excited when Abbie asked me to share some of that information with you for Move-It Monday! If you’re looking to watch how many calories you burn per day, then you’ll want to keep reading.

Here’s the quick and easy run-down of what’s on the market today:

Heart-rate Monitors (HRMs) are the most popular calorie monitors because they use your actual heart rate along with a formula based on your weight and height to calculate how many calories you burn per minute.

There are two versions:

    • HRMs with chest straps come with a band you fasten around your chest to detect your heart rate and send it to a coordinating watch you wear on your wrist to calculate your burn. Heart rate monitors with chest straps are generally considered the most accurate of personal calorie monitors. They are priced between $50-$400. The most basic versions offer simple heart rate monitoring without the calorie burn numbers, while the most expensive models have GPS systems that allow you to track your running route, speed, goals, and more.  The best brands are Polar, Timex, and Garmin. You can read more about choosing one here.

I’ve personally owned a Polar HRM for three years, and have been very happy with its accuracy. The only downside of chest-strap monitors is that they are difficult to wear all day long. While they are fine during exercise, they can become uncomfortable after a few hours.

    • Strapless HRMs are also sold at most stores if you’re looking for something a little less expensive and cumbersome. Instead of the chest straps, they use a contact monitor/watch on the top or bottom of the wrist, and some use fingertip pulse measurements. They give you an idea of calorie burn, but they are far less accurate because they monitor your pulse on your wrist or fingers rather than at the heart level, and many only take intermittent readings rather than continuous ones. Strapless heart rate monitors generally range from $20-$80. You can find out a little more about them here.

BodyBugg or BodyMediaFit is another calorie monitoring option (learn more): You may have seen the contestants wearing these on The Biggest Loser. It is an armband worn on the upper tricep, and it uses a combination of four readings to calculate calorie burn: 1) heat flux, 2) skin temperature, 3) galvanic skin response (sweat), and 4) acceleration.  It takes each of these over 5000 times per minute. The BodyBugg claims to be at least 90% accurate.

I’ve owned two of these, and they are much more comfortable but, in my opinion, not as accurate as chest strap HRMs. I think because I moved my arm frequently doing things like chores, it tended to over-estimate my calorie burn for everyday activities. Many people have had great success with them, but I just didn’t trust them after a few months since I didn’t see results.

These armbands also require a monthly subscription to a website on which you track your calorie burn and enter your daily food intake to see if you are burning more or less than you are eating. It also provides charts of when you burn the most calories during the day. I loved seeing the data on a daily basis, and entering my food was fairly easy to do with their interface. Wrist displays are optional, and you can also upload it straight to your smartphone and see nearly real-time burn. Prices start at $170 for the device, and between $6-$12 per month for the required online subscription.

Pedometers are your best bet if you want a simple, inexpensive gadget that will give you an ballpark idea of your calorie burn (learn more). Although it doesn’t give you specific numbers for the energy you’ve expended, it does use mechanical or electronic devices to detect your movement and count the number of steps you take per day. You won’t know how many calories you’ve burned, but you can know about how many miles you’ve walked throughout the day, which allows you to connect an amount of exercise you’ve done in relation to how much you’ve eaten and weight gained or lost. Best of all, it’s CHEAP!—as little as $2 on the internet or at your local store. Low investment is always good when you’re just venturing out into fitness.

And that’s it!

Of course, now that you know a little more about calorie-burn monitors, there’s one more very important thing to remember about the different types of monitors I listed above:

You have to actually burn calories for them to have anything to monitor.

So you might want to get moving, eh? 😉

Have a great Monday!


THANK YOU, Mandy! (She wasn’t kidding about being the tech-savvy half of our relationship, by the way. I’ve been wanting this post for a while, but I’m a tech-doofus, so I was not the one to write it. Thanks for stepping in, Combat Sista! : ))

Now, go check out Biblical Homemaking, and show Mandy some love!!! She has tons of great posts about money-saving, parenting, fashion, cooking…the works!

And I’ll see you back here tomorrow for Try-it Tuesday. I’ve got something super-cute planned!


  1. Great article, Mandy !! I’ve been using a Polar chest-strap hr monitor for years, and it’s still working !! I use it to make sure that my workouts are up to “my par”.. and also to monitor different classes, comparitively. This summer I wanted to get a reading on water aerobics bc my heart just pounds in this class, but found that my wrist watch was water resistant and my chest strap was waterproof… and I didn’t wanna take chances on the “water resistant” part and have my hr monitor go kafloo-ee !! Maybe one day I’ll run across a waterpoof wrist watch. I’m re-posting !! Hope ya don’t mind !! Keep er writin, girls !!

  2. Well, if budget’s not a factor at all, I’d go for the nicer one, the ft60: https://www.amazon.com/Polar-Womens-Heart-Monitor-Purple/dp/B001F0PVNA/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1313430410&sr=1-1,

    but the ft4t looks good too, and it’s less than half the price: https://www.amazon.com/Polar-Womens-Heart-Monitor-Bronze/dp/B001U0OFD2/ref=sr_1_3?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1313430410&sr=1-3

    I’d recommend the one I used but they don’t sell it anymore. I went with the mid-range- not the cheapest and not the most expensive. And I wanted pink. 🙂

  3. I agree about the bodybuggs. Theyre not as accurate and if youre a bike rider, they underestimate calories. Is there a particular polar you recommend? I was looking at the ft4. I dunno

I love hearing from you guys!