Originally published Sept. 28, 2017 on Patch.com.

West Des Moines schools are teaching students how to take charge of their fitness and activity levels through heart-rate monitors.

WEST DES MOINES, IA. — A program introduced in West Des Moines schools this year aims to engage students during physical education classes by putting heart-rate-detection technology and tools to monitor their activity levels in — or more specifically on — their own hands. Each student from fourth grade through high school has been introduced to the Spirit System.

The program centers around a wristband device students pick up when they get to their P.E. class. When worn the device calculates heart rate changes during various physical activities and educates students on which fitness activities optimize cardiovascular endurance, stamina, flexibility, speed, core strength, power, coordination and self-confidence, according to a district news release.


Photo by Merle Laswell/Des Moines Register, 2014

The Spirit System, created by Interactive Health Technologies, is “the only wrist-based heart rate technology and assessment solution developed specifically for education,” said Jen Ohlson, president and co-founder of the company, in a promotional video on the district website. She said the technology brings parents, educators and those in the field of health technology “one step closer to the reality of how to make this a fitter, healthier world for our kids.”

Ben Bentzin, CEO and co-founder of the company, said in the video that giving wearers data showing their activity level encourages them to do more and be more active.

“This feedback motivates kids and engages parents and teachers to support the child as they’re getting active and changing their life,” he said.

Data is calculated with each use of the wristband and stored on cloud-based technology so students can look at their progress over time. The district’s goal in providing the technology to students is to help them understand their own health and take ownership of their overall well-being for life.

The district plans to track how the program is working by interviewing students and teachers throughout the school year. The news release said data collected through the monitors will help teachers and families work with their students to develop and attain health goals.

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