I am shopping for a heart rate monitor that I can wear during exercise (I am ok with wearing a chest strap), and I'm very confused about compatibility of monitors with gym equipment (treadmills, elliptical machines, stair-masters, etc). I would like the monitor to transmit information directly to the exercise machine.

The gym in my apartment building has Nautilus treadmills (probably fairly old ones). I know for a fact that they support external HRMs (there's a "fitness test" mode that displays the message "chest strap required"), but there's no information on compatibility, wireless standards, etc. anywhere. Also, I'm thinking of joining a local gym, so ideally I'd like to get a monitor that's compatible with as many machines as possible.


  • Is there pretty much one wireless standard that all manufacturers follow? Or are there different standards for each manufacturer? What are these standards called?
  • Where can I find information on compatibility of gym equipment and HRMs? I tried the Nautilus website but it was of no help.

2 Answers 2


Heart rate monitors can be broadly classified into thee groups based on how they communicate with the fitness equipment. They are -

  1. Bluetooth - Most latest HRMs these days use bluetooth to communicate with the fitness devices, including fitness watching and gym equipment. If you use the latest models, it is very likely that they use bluetooth. One extra benefit of bluetooth based HRMs is that they will have higher probability of being compatible with your smartphone (there may not be 100% compatibility because of variations in models and supported standards and what not but most phones have bluetooth so there are very good chances that a fit can be found).

  2. ANT / ANT+ etc - These communicate with the fitness equipment using ANT. Many of the somewhat older equipment should be compatible with these because this came before bluetooth. Their added benefit is that they might be somewhat cheaper than bluetooth models because it's an older technology and rest of the world is moving towards bluetooth now, but if your exercise equipment supports ANT based HRMs then you'll save money. Another thing is they can cast the data to multiple fitness equipment at the same time (say, your treadmill and your phone at the same time), I'm not sure if bluetooth can be paired to multiple devices (but it might be worth finding it).

  3. Wired - Some HRMs use wires to transfer data to the exercise equipment. They have the benefit of being able to transfer much more data aside from just heart rates. These are usually used for medical testing and stuff but I listed them here just as one more possibility, just in case the exercise equipment in your gym use those.

  • Thanks! Do you know if there are manufacturer-specific application-level protocols on top of ANT+, or would every ANT+ monitor be compatible with every piece of ANT+ gym equipment?
    – EugeneOs
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 14:44
  • 1
    In my experience with running watches, yes all ANT monitors are compatible with all ANT watches. Some manufacturers have their proprietary technologies in their monitors to record/generate more data (when used with manufacturers watches) but even those monitors work with any other ANT compatible watches as far as the heart rate recording is concerned (the extra data is lost but heart rate is recorded just fine). I haven't tested with gym equipment though, but I don't see a reason it wouldn't work the same.
    – Achilles
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 14:50
  • Technology update: Garmin, and possibly others, now offer heart rate monitors that transmit via both ANT+ and Bluetooth. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 19:06

Most gym equipment used the old 5 (more exactly 5.3) khz am transmitter like an uncoded Polar t31 or lots of monitors available on ebay for about 13-23 bucks. those transmitter have a range of about 3 feet and require no pairing so for a gym environment they are still appropriate technology.

Bluetooth, ANT, ect would either require pairing or run into interference due to long range.

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