Monitor your heartbeat before and after exercise with these two iPhone apps and see how fit you are.

Measuring your heart rate is one way to gauge fitness and your iPhone can help by recording measurements and letting you browse your history. You can see yourself getting fitter over time.

One way to measure your heart rate is by using an Apple Watch or other heart or pulse monitoring device. There are plenty of apps for that, but not every iPhone user has a Watch or other device. This does not mean you cannot measure your pulse and heart monitor apps have been around since before the Apple Watch was invented.

The standard method of measuring your heartbeat is to put your finger lightly over the camera on the back of the phone. The flash is turned on and is so powerful that it can light up the blood vessels inside the tip of your finger. You can see it glowing red and this enables an app to watch for a pulse and record it.

There is an alternative method and the front camera can be used to monitor tiny changes that take place in the skin of your face with each beat of your heart. We cannot see it, but the iPhone’s camera can and it measures your heartbeat when you look at your phone. That is a clever trick.

There are many heart monitor apps in the store, but these two work without any extra gadgets.

 

Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor

Price: Free | By: Runtastic | Size: 86MB | iOS: 9.0

Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor is quite a nice app that is easy to use and works well. When the Measure tab is selected a large circle is drawn on the screen and the camera flash lights up.

The circle is a timer and you hold your finger over the camera while the timer runs down. Your heart rate is displayed in the centre and it takes around 10 or 15 seconds to measure.

As soon as the heartbeat is measured, you can choose the measurement type from a collection of five icons. These are used to select your activity and they include sleeping or resting, physical activity like running or the gym, maximum exercise and general.

 Runtastic heart monitor for the iPhone Runtastic Heart Rate Monitor app for iPhone

There is also a series of emoji-like icons to select how you feel, such as happy, unhappy and so on. The History tab shows the previous measurements and they can be tapped to review the activity and feeling.

The app is simple, but is useful for recording your heart rate while resting or during exercise.

 

Cardiio: Heart Rate Monitor

Price: Free | By: Cardiio, Inc | Size: 41MB | iOS: 8.0

Cardiio (that’s not a misspelling), offers a bit more than the basic features of the Runtastic app. It starts up on the Measure tab and at the top is a toggle to choose between Face or Finger.

Choose Face and you just stare at your phone for 10 seconds or so while it measures your heartbeat. Select Finger and you must put your finger over the iPhone’s camera for 10 seconds. It says that the finger method is more accurate, but I found that the face detection gave an almost identical measurement. Would it work with a beard, I wonder?

Each measurement is recorded and the Insights tab provides useful information. It shows the beats per minute today, the 7 day average and 30 day average. It indicates your fitness level on a scale from Fair to Fit based on your resting heart rate and it shows an endurance score in a battery icon.

Scroll down and there are many locked sections that can be unlocked with an in-app payment, such as age and gender specific comparison, target heart rate when exercising, and your potential life expectancy calculated from your heart rate.

 Cardiio heart rate monitor for the iPhone Cardiio heart rate monitor app for the iPhone

Take that last one with a large pinch of salt. These apps running on an iPhone are not medical devices and you probably can't predict life expectancy from your heart rate anyway. However, I like the amount of information you get and a History tab lets you browse your previous heart rate recordings.

A nice extra is a 7-minute workout that consists of 12 exercises, 30 seconds each with 10 seconds rest between. You can then measure your heart rate at the end to monitor your fitness level. As you get fitter you should finds that the exercise taxes your heart less and the heartbeat is lower.

Conclusion

Both apps are good, but there is a lot more in Cardiio if you want more information and exercise suggestions. Use it for free or upgrade to get the full feature set. Remember that these are not medical devices, so don't take them too seriously.