As PE teachers begin another year on campus, many will turn to heart rate monitors such as the IHT ZONE to connect students with key data on their journey toward physical – and emotional – health.
Whether they’ve been using the IHT ZONE for years, such as Portage Central Middle School’s John Dunlop, or are looking forward to getting started with the technology, such as KIPP Paseo Preparatory’s Michelle McNeil, each had reasons for their choice.
Dunlop has used the IHT ZONE monitors with his program since their introduction in the 2016-17 school year. The veteran teacher saw a tool that would improve his teaching and communication several ways.
“The two major reasons why the IHT ZONE plays an important role in our PE program is to help teach students the different heart rate zones while they perform a variety of activities and also as an accountability tool for us to convey accurate data to students and parents,” Dunlop said on Aug. 19.
Heart Rate and It’s Importance in Teaching Student Physical Fitness
Teachers choose the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors because they make it easy for students of all ages to see and understand how their heart acts during activity. Along with the actual heart rate in beats per minute, the monitor shows students which zone in which their heart is beating:
- Blue indicates rest, low-level activity, or a relaxed emotional state
- Yellow indicates a moderate activity level or emotions such as excitement or worry
- Red indicates a vigorous activity level or emotions such as joy, anger or stress
“It is simple,” explains Des Moines Public Schools PE and Health Curriculum Director Carlye Satterwhite. “For these students, they just need to focus on their target heart rate. This has that information and that’s all.”
Teachers can control what students see on their wrists. If the actual heart rate is distracting, teachers can hide that function, allowing students to see only the colored lights around the screen indicating heart rate zone.
“I turn the actual heart rate off sometimes because I don’t want them focusing on actual beats per minute,” Glen Crest Middle School PE teacher Kelly Nordlund said. “I want them just working in their zone. I want them to feel their heartbeat and I want them to have that correlation of ‘here’s wow I’m feeling.’”
Heart rate technology has taken a much more prominent role in modern PE classes. With the data heart rate monitors provide, teachers no longer guess who’s giving their best effort and performance is no longer gauged by who runs a lap the fastest or who does the most sit-ups or pushups. Sometimes, leaders see, the student who is walking is working harder than the student for whom running comes easily.
“Knowing those ranges and being able to check those ranges as students are moving is important,” longtime PE teacher, professor and advocate Dr. Kymm Ballard said. “The person who comes in first is not always the person who’s working the hardest. A lot of times, (the kid who is working the hardest) is the student who finishes last, and you can’t push them any harder. Without heart rate and knowing what their heart rate is, that’s the only way we can see inside as to what’s going on.”
Providing Students with Objective Assessment
That singular facet – evaluating each student’s performance based on their own physiology – empowers students to take charge of their effort levels in class. Instead of being told to run faster because other students are passing them, they see how hard they are working by the color on of the monitor on their wrist.
“The gave them power they never thought they had,” San Bernardino CUSD PE teacher Scott Smith said. “It started to allow them to set their own personal goals. The out-of-shape student who maybe hated PE, they are wearing the and all of a sudden they are yelling out, ‘Hey Mr. Smith, I’m in yellow’ or ‘I’m in red.’ Their excitement was focused on that. The kids felt like they had something to come to class for.”
Not only come to class, but become active participants. Dunlop recalls an early success story about a student who didn’t like PE, had attendance issues and seldom participated when he came to class. Shortly after his students started wearing the IHT ZONE, the student changed his habits.
“I saw a complete change in his attitude, especially at the end of class when he’s downloading and looking at his data,” Dunlop said. “He said, ‘hey, I did pretty good today.’ I don’t know if that kid has ever experienced success in PE until this year.”
Success Drives a Connection to Lifetime Fitness
Once students experience success, they begin to link their PE activities with things they can do as adults to maintain – or improve – their fitness levels. As the technology has helped students find success, PE teachers have adapted their programs to give students activities to try that they may stick with. Many teachers traded the team-based games or tedious mile runs from their youth to fitness-based activities that have become more popular today.
“It’s nice that I can show my kids that they don’t have to run a mile,” Nordlund said. “They just have to keep their heart rate in (the correct) zone for whatever our goal is for that day.”
Nordlund’s program gives students a choice of activities, including a fitness room full of opportunity. Students have the freedom to find activities they enjoy, things they are likely to stick with for the long term. The IHT ZONE monitors motivate students to get the most cardiovascular benefit out of the workout.
“They are getting a great workout,” she said. “Whatever you’re doing, if you’re enjoying it, you’re more likely to do it in your adult life or just out of school. And that’s kind of the whole point, right? Fitness for life and be healthy for your whole life.”