HIIT Heart Rate Workouts Educate PE Students On Healthy Fitness Levels Produced In Short Exercise Sessions
Physical Education teachers at Klem North (N.Y.) Elementary School utilize fast-paced Tabata workouts to teach students how to develop enjoyable exercise routines designed to quickly raise heart rates to health-enhancing levels.
“Our focus, our job, is to get the elementary kids to love activity and love being fit,” said Matt Carpenter.
To accomplish their job, Carpenter and teaching partner Sarah Harding use a four-minute Tabata to open most class sessions. The Fitness Frenzy Tabata, selected as the Lesson for IHT Spirit for May after winning last Fall’s IHT Spirit Video Challenge, teaches students how to quickly elevate their heart rate into the target zone and reinforces heart rate management skills for even the youngest students.
“It takes heart rate from just a number to giving them the correlation to the amount of energy they are putting out,” Carpenter explained. “They understand the correlation between activity and heart rate.”
Focused Fitness Frenzy in Four Minutes
As soon as students arrive in the gym, the students, with Carpenter and Harding’s direction, get quickly to work. For Fitness Frenzy, the students go through a five-station circuit where they try to complete as many reps as possible in 20 seconds before resting for 10 seconds and moving on as a team to the next station.
“It’s four minutes of work – 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off – and it’s one of those things where the kids don’t realize how quickly we can get our heart rates elevated, hitting that target heart rate zone so we can get on with our lesson,” Carpenter said.
Students focus on heart rate by measuring their heart rate at each end of the Fitness Frenzy Tabata. In post-workout class discussions, the teachers make sure that students in each grade can comfortably demonstrate a level of understanding, Carpenter said.
“For the younger kids we correlate it to being in the car,” Carpenter said. “Are you in the garage warming up ready to go? Are you driving in the village at a nice slow pace? We want to try to get them on the highway as much as possible. The kids understand that and can let us know when they do the check.”
Older students learn to calculate their heart rate by measuring their pulse, then make sure their heart rate matches up with the effort they are putting forth. The teachers are beginning to incorporate IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors into the program. The monitors display both heart rate and heart rate zone, enabling students to see exactly how hard they are exercising.
“If they think they are working hard, it’s an easy way for them to check,” Carpenter said. “Does it match up with your assumption or do you need to work harder? When we get to third grade, we start talking about calculations and they learn how to calculate their target heart rate.”
District-wide Commitment to Heart Rate Training
Harding and Carpenter work in tandem not just at Klem North, but also with their PE colleagues across the Webster Central School District. The teachers use all of their expertise to make sure students across the district focus on improving their fitness.
“We talk,” Carpenter said. “We’re in a district of seven other schools and I think across all of them we have a very good understanding of how fitness plays into elementary PE.”
That communication has led to the desired results. Carpenter said students:
- Demonstrate the ability to accurately measure their heart rate,
- Routinely meet fitness standards on assessments, and
- Display an enjoyment of physical activity.
“We can see the results when we do our assessments,” Carpenter said. “The majority of our kids are in the healthy fitness zone when we do our testing, and that’s because they really do enjoy getting active and know what their heart is telling them.”
Harding said students become more engaged by helping design the workout.
“We make it a goal to let the students come up with exercises,” she said.
Students work off of a list of teacher-approved exercises and can cater the Tabata to what they want to work on.
“We want the kids to understand why we’re doing the things we do and give them that freedom to develop routines,” Carpenter said. “Some of the kids really buy into it. They work together with a partner or in groups of three and they really push each other to see who can do the most burpees in the 20-second window.”
Long-term Fitness Results From a Short Workout
Both Carpenter and Harding came to Klem North with fitness backgrounds. Harding joined the staff two years ago after working as a trainer at a local gym, and Carpenter’s used his CrossFit background to help shape his lessons at the school for the last seven years. Both teachers understand the value of the quick circuit, both as a time-saver during a short PE class period and as a valuable workout students can take with them into adulthood.
“We’ve been using Tabata for a long time, before it was the new, cool thing,” Carpenter said. “I like how it really gets the kids to understand that sometimes interval work is more beneficial than doing a half-hour workout. It lets them know that to stay fit and healthy, they don’t have to devote a lot of time.”
Understanding the Tabata – both how to execute one and how to construct one – are essential skills students need to take with them, Harding said.
“There is a deeper meaning to everything that we teach,” she said. “We want the kids to walk away from our program as physically educated kids. We want them to have fun when they are moving. We want them to love being active. That’s our hope and I think this lesson shows all of that.”