Originally published Feb. 11, 2020 in the Journal Inquirer.

By Erika M. Purdy

Wrist heart monitors, obtained via a grant from the Somers Education Foundation, are helping middle school students intensify their workouts during physical education class.

Ken McCarthy, a physical education teacher at the Mabelle B. Avery Middle School, gave a presentation about the heart-rate monitors at the Board of Education meeting Monday at the administration offices on 1 Vision Boulevard.

For a portion of McCarthy’s presentation, board Chairman Bruce Devlin wore a monitor and did exercises including jumping jacks and pushups.

“The monitors provide instant feedback data,” said McCarthy, allowing teachers to see in real-time the effects of the workout. The monitors have a light that indicates the wearer’s level of exertion, from blue on the low end to yellow in the middle to red at the top. The target for each student is to stay in the yellow or red zone during their class, meaning that they are consistently exercising throughout.

Corresponding software on McCarthy’s laptop allows him to view each student’s progress that day. After class is done, he explained, a report is sent via email to the student and their parents. For example, once Devlin finished with his example exercises, an email was sent directly to him displaying a chart of his heart rate over the five-minute period.

McCarthy also said that the monitors allow him to better understand each student’s fitness level. While a slow jog may not seem like enough of a workout for some students, he said, other students push their limits doing the same exercise. The monitors allow McCarthy to make sure that every student is performing well based on their current fitness level.

Money for the monitors was obtained through the Somers Education Foundation’s William and Anne Kirkpatrick Fund, which granted $5,000. Software upkeep costs $300 per year, which for the first year was included in the initial grant.

The Somers Education Foundation is a nonpolitical entity that raises private funds and provides grants to public education in the town. The foundation has been established for 15 years and has had a total impact of $1.15 million.

The heart monitors are in their first year of use and are used only at the middle school, but McCarthy and members of the board expressed a desire to expand the program to the elementary and high schools.

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