Breath rate monitors are devices that measure the speed of your breath. Breath rate is referred to as your respiratory rate (or RR), which is defined as the number of times you breathe in one minute.
Breath rates vary based on age, activity level and health conditions. Your average resting breath ranges anywhere from 12 to 16 breaths per minute when you’re healthy. Because this varies depending on several factors, doctors typically recommend that you check your own breathing pattern at home if you have symptoms that could indicate a lung or heart problem.
Your normal pulse ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). This means there are 25-40 pulses in one minute.
Since most automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are set at a rate of 60 bpm, it is important to count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply the total by 4 to get an accurate beats per minute (bpm) reading.
You can check your pulse anywhere on the body where you feel a regular beat. The most common place people feel their own pulse is at the neck, specifically in the carotid artery near the Adam’s apple. Other good places include under the jaw line under your chin, as well as on your wrist or inside your ankle near the top of your foot.
To find your pulse, simply put two fingers lightly on either side of those locations and wait for a few seconds until you feel the pulsing sensation. It may help to first exhale before you try to find your pulse.
Chest straps and finger sensors for heart rate monitors (HRMs) work by detecting electrical pulses from the heart as it contracts. The harder your heart muscles need to work, the faster electricity is generated, and this typically means a higher HR reading on the monitor. Heartbeats per minute tend to be highest when we’re active and during exercise or any other time our bodies require more energy such as when we run up a flight of stairs, are startled by something unexpected or experience pain. During sleep, however, our body’s need for energy decreases so does our breathing and heartbeat rate.
A common misconception is that you should subtract 10 bpm from whatever number your chest strap or finger sensor says to get your true resting heart rate. While this may be true for people who are very fit and athletic, it is not necessarily the case for everyone because factors such as age can affect bpm readings.
The best way to precisely determine your pulse at rest is by using a stethoscope and counting the number of beats you hear in 15 seconds, then multiplying that number by 4 to estimate beats per minute (bpm).
Advanced HR monitors utilize different sensors including accelerometers, which are designed with movement in mind. These devices are typically worn on the wrist or arm, with some models even featuring built-in GPS capabilities so you can track pace, distance and route via satellite. The most popular devices on the market today are cardio watches, or exercise watches that combine heart rate with all sorts of performance measurements.
Most runners prefer using wrist-based HRMs over chest straps because it’s more comfortable and they can get a more accurate reading when they’re in motion rather than at rest.
To ensure you’re getting the most out of your advanced HR monitor, keep in mind that wearing it too tight around your arm or leg can block blood flow, which in turn will interfere with readings. It is also important to wear the device snugly but not too tight against your skin. The device should feel somewhat loose when you move your arm naturally without tensing up any muscles.