Based on Centers for Disease Control and SHAPE America guidelines and research that highlights the relationship between fitness and academic development, IHT focuses on exercise at an elevated heart rate as the key physical education metric to improve student cardiovascular fitness.
Academic research shows conclusively that exercise at an elevated heart rate correlates to increased longevity, improved cognitive performance, and self-regulation and classroom functioning among children. The following studies provide each demonstrate the benefits that exercise – and exercise at an elevated heart rate – have on student development:
- Ulrik Wisløff study concluding that even a single weekly bout of exercise at high intensity reduces the risk of cardiovascular death;
- Shih-Chun Kao study linking academic and cognitive improvement to both aerobic and muscular fitness; and
- April Bowling research finding that exercise at an elevated heart rate delivers benefits to students with complex behavioral disorders.
Teachers using the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors and Spirit System assessment software for their PE programs see benefits as well. Students using the technology show increased motivation to meet and exceed daily goals for minutes spent exercising in their target heart rate zones, show a greater understanding of the benefits of heart rate training and develop lifelong fitness skills that will serve them once they graduate.
Motivated to Meet MVPA Goals
Spirit System teachers can decide, based on each day’s lesson, how much time students should spend exercising at a moderate or vigorous level. Many set goals based on CDC guidelines, which say children ages 6-17 should have “60 minutes of physical activity each day.” SHAPE America’s guidelines expand on the CDC’s standards, encouraging teachers to employ “instructional strategies and practices that engage students in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for at least 50 percent of class time.”
By pairing students with technology that shows them if they are exercising at an appropriate intensity, teachers have seen students more motivated than ever to exercise.
“Even with our kids already performing at such high levels, I’ve had kids tell me, and it’s been visibly noticeable, that just by even having the monitor on, they take it up another notch in their training,” said Justin Kinney, a PE teacher at Ridge View (Iowa) High School.
Building Essential Heart Rate Training Knowledge
Teachers cite the user-friendliness of the ZONE heart rate monitors, which show students both their actual heart rate and the heart rate zone (low, moderate or vigorous intensity) in which they are exercising by color (blue, yellow, red). By correlating the colors with their exercise, even the youngest students can begin to grasp essential heart rate training concepts.
“Teaching heart rate has always been difficult with elementary students,” said Jackie Clark, a PE teacher at River Rock Intermediate School (Wisc.). “Without having on a heart rate monitor they don’t really know exactly how long they were in their target heart rate zone. Now they are able to monitor their heart rate throughout the entire class period with the heart rate display accessible to them any time.”
Workout Skills to Lead a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
As they get older and understand what it takes to reach and maintain a heart rate level, they learn how to plan their own workouts with the goal of maximizing their MVPA time, a skill they can carry with them after graduation and into adulthood.
“The kids having this technology so young is very exciting,” Fort Lupton (Colo.) Middle School teacher Lindsay Yost said. “They’ll be able to take that knowledge and use it as an adult. Whatever [their activity] may be, as an adult, having the knowledge and the desire to know how a heart rate monitor works will be a huge skill set that they can carry on with them.”
Oskaloosa (Iowa) Middle School PE teacher Betsy Luck already has her seventh and eighth-grade students designing their own workouts.
“We’ve been doing our Flipped Wednesdays for several years now,” she said. “We set up multiple pieces of equipment and allow the kids to make a choice as to what they want to be involved in.”
Students choose their own workout with the caveat that they still have a goal – minutes spent exercising in the MVPA target heart rate zones – for each class.
“They can make all the choices in the world that they want to,” she said. “It’s up to them to create a workout that will help them reach their goal.”
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