Students can maximize the health benefits of physical education by maximizing the time they spend exercising at an elevated heart rate during class.
Wearable fitness devices provide users with a wealth of information ranging from heart rate to steps to calories burned during exercise. IHT developed its wrist-based heart rate monitor – the IHT Zone – specifically for school use.
Throughout a physical education class workout, a student can see their individual heart rate and the heart rate zone (resting, moderate or vigorous) in which they are exercising. Immediately following the workout, students receive an email showing their heart rate data, including a calculation of minutes spent exercising at an elevated heart rate, a key tenet of the Centers for Disease Control’s guide to adolescent fitness.
“Children and adolescents aged 6 to 17 years should have 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day,” the CDC states. The CDC associates the following health benefits with regular exercise:
- Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
- Improved physical fitness, including aerobic capacity and muscular fitness
Additional studies, including one by Learning Readiness P.E. developers Paul Zientarski and Phil Lawler, provide evidence of a direct link between fitness and academic success.
P.E. teachers focus on student heart rate , specifically exercise at an elevated heart rate, to help students develop healthy exercise habits, both in class and beyond.
“I focus on heart rate, and here’s why,” explains Wyoming middle school P.E. teacher Mike Bradley. “I can walk 10,000 steps in a day without getting my heart rate up, and we have to get our heart rates up for those steps to really benefit us. If you get your heart rate up often enough, then you’re helping your overall health and fitness.”
Students can see in real time if they are exercising in target heart rate zone for that day’s workout, and the immediate feedback teaches them to adjust their effort accordingly. Students are motivated by – and benefit from – the accountability the heart rate monitors place on them.
“Being able to see their heart rate takes their effort and motivation to another level,” said Portage Central (Mich.) Middle School’s John Dunlop. “These kids are putting in fantastic effort. These kids who haven’t moved much previously are working hard and playing catch-up with their fitness.”
Whether playing catch-up or trying to maintain a current level of fitness, students from elementary through high school are learning what a quality, cardiovascular-benefitting workout feels like. Developing a student’s ability to exercise with that effort and intensity time and again without a heart rate monitor remains a P.E. teacher’s top priority.
“The colors and numbers help us give them bio-feedback about where they are,” said Doug Hallberg, the 2017 SHAPE America Middle School P.E. Teacher of the Year. “The goal for me is that you come into my class and say, ‘you know Mr. Hallberg, I can do this without the lights, without the numbers.’ And I can turn it all off, and if that student can reproduce what I’m looking for without that feedback, then I know they’ve truly learned the most valuable thing I can teach them, and that’s perceived exertion. If my students are picking that up at 11 or 12, then I think they’re ahead of the game.”
IHT believes that people young and old, students or adults, see the biggest health benefit from exercising at an elevated heart rate and that research on other measures do not show the same reliability and efficacy as heart rate training.