Modern physical education classes utilize high-intensity interval training to help students develop exercise skills they can use throughout their soon-to-be-busy adult lives.
In addition to other tried-and-true lessons, PE teachers are incorporating fitness circuits that require students to move quickly from station to station, giving maximum effort in quick bursts before moving on to the next station.
“We’ve tried some weight-bearing things that didn’t work out so well with the age groups that we have,” said Hampstead (New Hampshire) Middle School health and physical education teacher Kate Muskrat. “We’ve tried doing some stuff outside with just plain running, and there are kids who just can’t do that. This just seems like something that allows everyone to achieve greatness.”
Each Friday, Muskrat’s students participate in a Fitness Friday H.I.I.T. workout designed to:
- increase their activity levels
- reinforce the student’s ability to perform key fitness exercises
- improve fitness levels
Other teachers are following suit. At Lunenberg (Massachusetts) High School, Steve Boone’s high school students – in addition to his weekly, evening adult physical education students – regularly participate in a “Fit for Life” Tabata. The lessons share key similarities with The Students must sprint through a 10-station circuit of various fitness activities, ramping up their effort and intensity from the start.
“I’ve been teaching physical education for almost 28 years now,” Boone said. “I think students overall like this type of class better than your traditional, old school, physical education class. I think they like individual workouts. They like to push themselves as hard as they feel like pushing themselves that day.”
Students receive the biggest health benefit from pushing themselves as hard as they can. While introducing students to the principles of HIIT, teachers explain that the more students put into the session, the more they get out of it from a health standpoint.
Teachers like the concept because it allows them to maximize a workout’s value in a somewhat short exercise window. Students can have anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to work out. A high-intensity circuit can allow hard-working students to get the same benefit from a short workout as they would from a longer one.
“Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training (done three times a week) than … jogging on the treadmill for an hour,” explained Shape magazine’s Charlotte Hilton Andersen.
Teachers also like that a HIIT workout allows each student to focus on their own effort.
“This tailors to an individual’s needs instead of some of the other things we’ve tried,” Muskrat said. “Even if they’re only holding the plank for 10 seconds, maybe at the beginning of the year they were only holding it for 5. And all we ask them to do is to do their best. They learn at the beginning of the school year that everybody has their own best.”
Students like that the circuits have a variety of exercises – if they aren’t comfortable at one, they’ll soon move onto a station they can find more success with. The constant, Boone said, is effort.
“They are very highly motivated,” Boone said. “They are there to work out. They push themselves extremely hard.”
The quick burst of hard work brings long-term health benefits. Studies show HIIT benefits include improved oxygen consumption, lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, increased endurance, and increased metabolism.
Lessons designed by Muskrat and Boone also proved popular among educators. Their respective lessons earned recognition as winning lessons in IHT’s Fall Spirit Challenge: Lessons from a Superstar.