Research Shows Students Improve Muscular, Cardiorespiratory Fitness During 6-Week Study Focused on Interval Training with IHT ZONE Heart Rate Monitors
Elementary school students showed significant strength and fitness improvement following a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program that included IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors.
Michigan State University graduate student Jeanette Ricci relied on the IHT ZONE monitor to accurately record findings in a research project measuring the activity levels of fourth and fifth-grade students.
“Students engaging in the HIIT circuits over the six weeks saw a 7% improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness and a 10% improvement in upper body strength,” Ricci said.
Students wore the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors during their HIIT sessions. Students in a control group – without the IHT ZONE monitors and a curriculum consisting of more traditional physical education activities – showed no observable improvements in strength or fitness.
Selecting the IHT ZONE over other heart rate monitors
Ricci said the heart rate monitors motivated students to push themselves during the HIIT workouts. The monitors show students their actual heart rate as well as their intensity level by converting heart rate to a color: blue for low intensity; yellow for moderate; red for vigorous.
That immediate, and easily understandable, feedback caught Ricci’s eye when she researched heart rate monitors to use in her study. After evaluating several other monitors, she determined the IHT ZONE would deliver the most accurate results.
“The thing that stood out for me was how interactive it is for the kids,” Ricci said. “The heart rate monitors are a fun way to educate students on how they can work at different intensities without throwing all of the technical terms at them, especially applicable to HIIT.”
Ricci’s study took place over six weeks in the winter of 2019-20. She worked with fourth and fifth-grade students in East Lansing Public Schools, running them through a 10-station high-intensity/low-intensity circuit designed for 30 seconds of intense work followed by 30 seconds of recovery work.
Keeping Students Engaged and On-Task with the IHT ZONE
Along with verbal instructions about each station, Ricci gave students visual reminders of their goals. Ricci color-coded each station with poly-dots that corresponded to the heart rate zone she wanted students to reach:
“We tried to encourage them and the monitor was a great motivating tool,” Ricci said.
At the red stations, students performed exercises such as medicine ball slams, battle ropes and body-weight exercises. At blue stations, students performed circus arts: balancing, juggling and baton twirling.
“We learned, and we expected this, that the kids liked the constant change of pace,” Ricci said. “They work hard to get to the red zone for just a little bit of time and then transition to an easier intensity station.”
The IHT ZONE monitors helped students push through some initial hesitance to exercise at an elevated heart rate.
“Those interval formats do really well having the different colors on the heart rate monitors,” Ricci said. “At first they were skeptical of wanting to work hard. They were worried they’d get tired or get all sweaty. But just doing it for 30 seconds, from what we could see, they felt motivated to do it for that short amount of time and were confident they could work hard for 30 seconds and then move on.”
Students benefited by seeing their session reports when they returned the IHT ZONE at the end of class.
“Kids love seeing the data pop up on their screen after class,” Ricci said. “The teacher loved it.”
Utilizing Assessment Software to Record Results, Analyze Student Progress
Along with the heart rate monitors, Ricci relied on IHT’s Spirit Assessments to establish baseline fitness levels for each participating student and then again for her post-course analysis.
“Using the assessment software really helped,” she said. “It allowed me and two other to collect PACER, motor skill and height and weight data on 30 kids in the class in just 30 minutes. That was very important for us to do for our research to get it done efficiently since the teacher could only devote a class or two to our whole assessment battery.”
The ability to record her pre- and post-assessment data in one place made analyzing the final results simple.
“For the three classes that wore the monitors, they did improve their cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness more than the two control classes which were doing your traditional game-like PE activities,” Ricci said.
On average, students in the HIIT class received six more minutes of MVPA per period compared to students in the control group, and those students’ average heart rate was six beats-per-minute higher. HIIT students spent 60% of their class time over the six weeks in the yellow and red heart rate zones compared to just 52% by the control group students.
Continuing Research Using the IHT ZONE
Ricci earned her graduate degree from Michigan State in 2020 and now works with the Oregon Research Institute. While the institute’s primary focus has been psycho-social behavioral science, Ricci will continue her physical activity research efforts using the IHT ZONE.
Ricci will oversee a program designed to detail the effects of the pandemic on children’s fitness levels by assessing maximum heart rate (MHR) on children in online school. She’s grateful to have the technology – both the IHT ZONE monitor and the assessment software – to help motivate students to meet goals while recording and analyzing the data.
“We still want to use IHT to efficiently assess as many students from as many schools as we can,” she said. “Being able to see the number for the heart rate, as a researcher that’s what we want to see, but to also have them color-coordinated so the kids could know and be able to monitor how hard they are working during PE, that’s important.”