Finding The Ideal GPS Cardio Watch: Understanding The Main Functions

Manufacturers offer many functions that will not necessarily all be useful to you depending on what you expect from your heart rate monitor and the sport you practice. It is important to choose a GPS watch with the features that best meet your expectations. Here are some of these characteristics and their explanation to help you make your choice.

How many calories and fat burned?

Most heart rate monitors indicate the number of calories burned (OwnCal function at Polar) and sometimes the percentage of fat burned. This last piece of information is useful when the desired objective is fat loss. The proportion of lipids consumed decreases with the intensity of the effort: the more the latter is sustained, the more one nibbles in the carbohydrate reserves, therefore less in the fats. Provided, however, that you respect a certain intensity which depends on your form, your age, etc.

Program a target zone: useful for training or losing fat

The target zone is a work zone defined by a low value and a high value of heart rate or speed. The cardio watch signals, by beeps or a vibration, any work outside this zone. This feature is particularly useful when a specific heart rate range is required, such as in a workout or activity to optimize fat loss.

Schedule training in intervals or intervals

A good workout includes split training or work in intervals, alternating phases of sustained effort and moments of active recovery. The effort phases must be executed at a given intensity, measurable by the heart rate, and for a determined duration. The use of a programmable cardio is particularly interesting for this exercise. The user programs his training on his computer and downloads it to his watch. He just has to follow the instructions on his watch when he leaves.

The form index

Some GPS cardio watches offer a test to assess your cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness. At Polar, the Fitness Test determines, by measuring resting heart rate and its variability, the OwnIndex, an index comparable to VO2max. This test, even if it remains approximate, makes it possible to have benchmarks to follow the evolution of its physical condition and the progress made.

Estimated maximum heart rate (HRmax)

Determining your maximum heart rate or FCmax can be done by a field test but this requires good physical condition and a prior warm-up. The theoretical calculation proposed by the empirical formulas remains approximate. Some manufacturers thus offer watches capable of evaluating HRmax by means of a test of heart rate and its variability at rest.

Compass (compass), altimeter, barometer

Compass, barometric altimeter, barometer and other instruments equip the best hiking or outdoor GPS watches and are a great help for sports such as hiking, orienteering, trekking, trail running or water activities.

Touch screen: for easy navigation

Touchscreen devices allow you to navigate through the various menus or maps by simple contact with your finger, like on a smartphone. Practical, especially when the watch is equipped with topographic maps. The disadvantage of the touch screen is that it can react less well when wearing gloves (cycling, mountain biking for example) or when it is raining. A touch screen can also make the watch more practical (fewer control buttons). For more flexibility, the ideal is still to be able to control the watch in 2 ways: with the buttons and with the touch screen.

Vibrate function: practical for swimming

This function is particularly useful for swimmers. The heart rate monitor vibrates to indicate exit from a target training zone. Vibration alerts are also practical for remaining discreet or for the alarm clock function if you sleep with earplugs!


There are more and more watches with topographic maps including roads, cycle paths and even mountain bike trails and ski slopes! The maps allow you to find your bearings, to follow a route directly on the map, to find a point of interest around you (hotel, restaurant, station, etc.) or even to let the watch suggest a round trip route. Some watches also offer voice guidance to be guided with Bluetooth headsets. No more looking at your watch!

Other useful functions of the GPS watch

Each manufacturer offers its own subtleties. Many offers, for example, the “virtual partner” function which allows you to compare your performance with that of a virtual partner, in this case yourself and your data recorded during a previous outing or during a circuit carried out in loop. You can measure yourself against yourself and see your progress. Polar has developed and patented various tests such as a form test (OwnIndex) or the evaluation of FCmax or calories burned. At Suunto, the focus is on technology with an advanced GPS system, more accurate speed measurement based on GPS usage and acceleration, measuring the impact of a training session on performance or even versatile cases for use in both sports and everyday life.

In multisport GPS watches, there are a lot of advanced features, tools and measurements. Manufacturers are constantly innovating. there are thus tools for evaluating the lactic threshold, VO2max, race time predictors based on your physical condition evaluated over the course of the races, stride or pedaling analysis, etc.

Depending on the type of watch, there are tools specific to the sport practiced. Cardio watches no longer just measure distance traveled and heart rate. They know how to count the number of rowing strokes on a rowing boat or canoe, the number of ski descents. They display a golf course and measure the distance to the green. They assist the yachtsman in navigating his boat or even control the autopilot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *