Heart Rate Spikes and Dropouts With the Polar H7 and Other Heart Rate Monitors

See Also: Troubleshooting BLE Sensors

Have you been having spikes and dropouts in your heart rate monitoring? Especially with chest straps, such as Orange Theory and Polar H7 or other devices.

The way the belt works is that it receives electrical signals from the heart that are then shown as Beats Per Minute. However, without some kind of moisture (such as saliva, water, or a conductive gel) to act as a conductor between the heart and the belt, the signal will not be strong or consistent. We believed this is what causes erratic data, so we threw our lab coats on and decided to run an experiment.

Dropouts, which often are represented by “Flat Line” readings on the chart, are very typically low battery level or lost connection issues. An interesting note however; with certain devices such as the Polar H7 which have dual mode operation, the same heart rate monitor can read just fine on gym equipment while struggling to keep connection with the app. This is because the channel the H7 communicates with the gym equipment requires less battery power, so a low battery can be enough to power that channel (5.8 GHz) than BLE. Check out this great article on changing your Polar H7 battery.

Note: The Fitdigits app does not manipulate the data it receives from a heart rate monitor at all.

Immediate spike caused by conductivity issues

The Experiment: We decided to go out for a run using two devices, the Fitdigits app as well as a Polar watch. We connected both with the Polar H7. The interesting thing about this experiment is that the phone and the watch use two different platforms. The iPhone uses Bluetooth Smart to connect with the H7, while the watch uses a 5.8 kHz signal to pair. This enables us to be comfortable concluding that if both devices spike, it is because of the belt and not because of an issue with the app, or a specific platform (such as Bluetooth Smart). So basically we went out for a run with both devices, and whenever we saw a spike in the Fitdigits app, we compared those results with the Polar watch.

The Results:The run started with a bang, spiking right off the bat and soaring to unforeseen heights all the way out of zone 5! The watch mirrored the results. When the heart chart on Fitdigits showed our BPM going above zone 5, the watch showed exactly the same results, with no discernible difference.

Conclusion We conclude that the spikes are a result of conductivity issues and / or hardware issues, not the app itself. Any time you get a spike or dropout, it is either the result of your body not having enough moisture to get a firm connection with the belt, or, in more rare cases, the hardware going bad, many times the belt, but less frequently the HRM “peanut” (brain) – the part that clips into the belt, goes bad.

We also believe messing with heart rate numbers received from a device is not a good policy, even if it is due to these malfunctions.

ot-hrm-polar-belt-spikes

If you get spikes at the beginning of your activity, typically that points to a connection issue between the strap and your body, since you haven’t yet really begun to sweat. We strongly suggest wetting the strap with either water, saliva, or a conductive gel. Fitdigits has a great blog post on Troubleshooting Your Polar H7, and noted fitness blogger DC Rainmaker also has a great post on How to Fix Heart Rate Strap Dropouts/Spikes.

If you are mostly walking / running / biking, you might consider getting and Optical HRM (like the Scosche Rhythm+ or a Mio HRM) instead of the Polar (or any chest strap). Typically, not being electrical per se, they have less of these issues.

 

If you still are experiencing issues, please contact Fitdigits customer support.

Fitdigits Saved My Life

Testimonial by Fitdigits user John T.

I first became aware that I had a very slow resting pulse when I had a physical in July, and realized I needed to be proactive. I started recording my heart rate using the Fitdigits application and my newly acquired Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor when going for a walk. I am a 73 year old hiker who walks at least 1 1/4 hours a day and on hiking days, considerably more. I track my heart rate using Fitdigits not only while walking and hiking, but also while sitting at my desk.

As soon as I started using Fitdigits I noticed two things. First that I had a very low resting pulse (30 beats per minute) when sitting at my desk and second that when I went for my daily brisk walk, my heart rate was all over the place. I was worried.

I went to my doctor who did not believe me (he admitted as much) because I had no visible symptoms, and rejected the Fitdigits HRM as faulty. After I insisted, I got hooked up to an EKG and was admitted to the hospital because he thought he saw a “Fib Flutter” in my EKG. In the hospital that night, the monitors went off repeatedly as my pulse dropped below 30, then 20 and finally at 3:20 in the morning my heart stopped for 7 seconds.

Within a few hours, treated with great respect and great emergency, I had a pacemaker. If I had not had Fitdigits to monitor my heart to alert me of this condition, I would have never gone to the Hospital, and consequently would not be here writing this today.

Now I monitor my heart rate as a matter of routine. I talked to the Fitdigits Support team and they told me a Scosche Rhythm works great with a Pacemaker, so I now track my walks and hikes using the Rhythm and it works perfectly. As far as I am concerned Fitdigits saved the life of a 73 year old hiker. Thank you!

Pairing your Older Scosche myTrek or Rhythm Heart Rate Monitor with Fitdigits Apps

Related Links:
Pairing your Bluetooth Low Energy Heart Rate Monitor in iOS
Troubleshooting Your Scosche Rhythm+ or Mio Heart Rate Monitor
Troubleshooting Your Sensors

******NOTE: SUPPORT FOR OLDER SCOSCHE myTrek and the original Rhythm is being discontinued in July, 2016 ******

Scosche Rhythm and myTrekPairing the older versions of Scosche Rhythm / myTrek

If you are using an old-school Scosche Rhythm / myTrek using traditional bluetooth,  Scosche stopped supporting them a while ago.  Since the bluetooth classic monitors have been discontinued by Scosche, the SDK has not been updated in order for the monitors to work on iOS 9 and Android OS 5. This meant we could no longer support Scosche’s MyTrek and Rhythm Pulse monitor.  We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, and please see below for options on Android and iOS devices.

Upgrade your monitor (it is worth it!)


Android

However, you can download and install older versions of the Android app – iRunner or iCardio. The last version with support was v3.31 and here are the links below:

iCardio:
http://www.fitdigits.com/downloads/Android/3.31/iCardio_3.31(69).apk

iRunner:
http://www.fitdigits.com/downloads/Android/3.31/iRunner_3.31(69).apk

Once you have the file, you can uninstall the newer version of the app from your device, and copy the older APK file you found to the phone or tablet. If you tap on the links above on the device, it should install automatically.

If not, copy the file to either a new folder, or the existing Download folder. Then, you’ll need to find the file on your Android device (with a File Explorer app or similar), at which point you can tap on it and install it. Note that you will need to tick the box somewhere in your device’s settings menu to allow the installation of apps from “unknown sources”. Most but not all Android devices have this option.


iOS

 

For iOS users, there is only a limited time left to download a compatible app – as soon and the next release goes live in Apple iTunes it will no longer have support for these older heart rate monitors. iCardio no longer supports them, so you would have to download iRunner or iBiker, which are older versions. But remember not to allow automatic upgrades or the next update to those apps will no longer support the old app!  

Turn off automatic updates:
http://www.gottabemobile.com/2016/01/26/how-to-turn-off-automatic-app-updates-in-ios-9/

Download iRunner:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/irunner-runners-walkers-fitness/id304074554?mt=8

 


For all compatibility, please view here:
http://www.fitdigits.com/compatibility.html

We hope that helps!

 

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Pairing your Android with the Scosche Rhythm or myTrek:

The beginning of every great story has an introduction. Well Android users, prepare to be introduced to the device that will change your life, the Scosche Rhythm. Learn how to Pair your Scosche myTREK or Rhythm with Fitdigits on the Android, and re-write your life story to include a happier and healthier you!

First, put on your Scosche sensor. Make sure your alignment is correct:

Next, turn on the Bluetooth settings in the iPhone and pair the Scosche sensor.

1. Go to your Android Settings
2. Tap Wireless & Network

Choose Wireless & Network

3. Tap Bluetooth Settings

Tap Bluetooth settings

4. Make Sure Bluetooth is ON. If ON, tap Scan Devices
5. Your Heart Rate Belt should appear as “Scosche myTREK” below “Bluetooth devices”. Tap to pair

Tap Scosche to pair

6. Your Scosche will now be paired. To delete a pairing, tap and and hold the Scosche sensor, and choose to unpair
7. Open your Fitdigits app and go to Settings -> My Sensors, and tap Heart so the check is orange
8. Choose Scosche from the menu that comes up

Tap Scosche myTREK

9. You will be taken back to the “Bluetooth devices” screen. Tap on Scosche and you are paired.

Start a workout, and you are ready to take this relationship to a whole new level!