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Before we start, it should be noted that most treadmills are not medical devices and manufacturers of residential and the typical commercial treadmills that you would find in your local gym don't claim that the heart rate readouts are accurate enough to be used for medical purposes. However, the HR readouts should be good enough to help healthy people stay in their target workout zone.

To achieve that goal, the heart rate numbers displayed must be consistent and reasonably accurate, which they are when the heart rate system is functioning properly. Wide fluctuations in the beats per minute displayed can be caused by several circumstances.

Some treadmill users prefer to wear a heart rate chest strap. The HR straps must detect the user's heart rate and transmit the information via a radio signal to the treadmill, where it is received, interpreted and displayed. The problem is that many environmental factors, such as, electrical "noise" from nearby fluorescent lights, electric motors in appliances like a refrigerator, an air conditioner and the like. Even some burglar alarms can cause interference with the heart rate signal. In commercial fitness centers the heart rate signal is sometimes picked up from the heart rate chest straps worn by people on nearby treadmills. To see if any of these possibilities is the cause of your erratic HR readout, try moving the treadmill to another location. Also, remember that in order to work properly, the heart rate chest strap must make firm , continuous contact with moist skin.

If the user is not wearing a HR chest strap and is relying on the treadmill's hand contacts (HR sensors), a firm continuous grip must be maintained with both hands. Loosening a grip, even momentarily, can cause wild swings in the heart rate display. Also, the heart rate contacts must be clean and free of oils, hand cream, dirt, grime, etc. They can easily be cleaned with alcohol wipes.

Also, the heart rate pick up sensors may not work well for people with dry skin or who have had a broken bone in one of their arms at some point in their life. Typically, if the heart rate grips work correctly for even one person, the treadmill is not at fault.

The remaining cause of an erratic heart rate display is, of course, the treadmill itself. If you are satisfied that the erratic HR readout is not cause by the aforementioned common causes, you will need the assistance of a qualified treadmill repair technician.

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