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Motivation To Move: Tech-Savvy Teaching Tool Takes Health To The Heart

Motivation to move: Tech-savvy teaching tool takes health to the heart

After class the monitors are placed in a docking station and the teacher receives all the data from them. (Thom Bridge, thom.brdige@helenair.com)

Last week about 25 Capital High School freshmen in Lisa Waterman’s physical education class sweated as they biked, ran on treadmills, or took to the elliptical machines to the sounds of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Strapped to their arms were individual heart monitors.

And while they moved they watched a big graphic projected on the workout room wall.

The ever-changing image of numbered and colored squares showed them their individual heart rate as it progressed from initial warm-up to intense workout.

Students would start out in the blue and green zones. As they got moving and their heart rate climbed, the squares changed to yellow, orange and red.

“It’s a way for students to get real time feedback,” said Waterman. “It makes physical education enjoyable in a new and fun way.”

“The goal is 20 to 25 minutes of hard and vigorous exercise,” which are the orange and red zones, she said.

It helps students easily track a target heart rate of 153 to 185, which is a good workout.

“As we do more cardiovascular exercise, running is easier for us,” Waterman said.

And some of her students have already noticed this for themselves as the months have gone by.

“I think it helps us,” said freshman Gabi Baucus, who had been pedaling hard for 20 some minutes.

“It shows how healthy your heart is. ... I’ve improved from where I started at. I think it will help me keep fit in the future.”

“It’s more motivating to work harder,” said freshman Tristan Soule, who had also been vigorously biking. “As you can see I’m really sweating right now.

“I noticed that my resting heart rate went down and it’s become easier” to work out.

“After a hard workout, you notice regular things become easier,” Soule added. “It will help me to have it as a continuous motivation.”

Each student working out generates a report in Waterman’s laptop that she can print out later. It also gives her a cumulative report of how students are doing over time.

“We’ve been using the Heart Zones System” in the past year,” for any cardio activity, from biking, to calisthenics to circuit training, Waterman said. The CHS PE department invested in the new technology as a way to teach Smart PE.

Now students don’t just have a vague idea that they’re working hard, they can see for themselves that they need to step it up to reach their fitness goal.

The PE teachers want students to learn “physical literacy,” Waterman said, as a way to encourage students to be physically active the rest of their lives and enjoy it.

Both CHS and HHS students have been using heart monitors the past decade in PE classes, either the newer blink watch bands or the previously more temperamental watch bands hooked to chest straps.

But the new, more dramatic feedback using the software projection system has sparked greater enthusiasm with CHS staff and students alike.

Bigger picture

Freshman year is a good teachable moment because all Montana high school freshmen in public schools are required to take a full year of daily physical education, said Waterman.

Once they’re sophomores, it’s a half-year requirement. After that, it’s up to students to add exercise and fitness electives into their schedule.

Waterman and her colleagues are hoping to instill lifetime habits for better health and fitness.

Aiding these efforts are the new health and physical education K-12 standards adopted in Montana, which officially go into effect July 1, 2017.

They encourage, among other things, using new technologies to monitor physical activity, pulse rates, calories burned and nutritional intake.


Some of the known benefits of regular physical activity are better fitness, better academic scores, reduction of depression and anxiety and a boost in endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, said Waterman.

“We just need people to understand the true health benefits of physical activity,” she said. “And to find something they enjoy that’s vigorous enough to produce those benefits -- so they carry it over for their lifetime.

“When kids develop these habits, they want to do it over their lifetime. It’s a feel good thing. They miss it when they don’t do it.

“That I believe is the key, along with a healthier diet.”

Weight con the rise

The most recent statistics from the 2015 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey show 15 percent of Montana high school students are overweight.

This is up 40 percent since 1999, when 10.7 percent were overweight.

“There has been a steady increase ... both in Montana and nationally,” said B.J. Biskupiak, who calls it “concerning.” The statistic is a 17-year high.

He is program coordinator at the Department of Public Health and Human Services for the School Health Program.

Overweight refers to a person’s body mass index, or the ratio of weight to height, above the 85th percentile but below the 95th percentile.

Obese is above the 95th percentile, said Mandi Zanto, DPHHS Program Manager of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Program.

Risks go up

Obesity during childhood can have harmful effects on the body, said Zanto. “Children who are obese are more likely to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Those are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” There are also greater risks for Type II diabetes and breathing problems, such as asthma, sleep apnea.

“Obese children are more likely to become obese adults,” Zanto said. This increases risk factors as adults for heart disease and Type II diabetes.

National figures for 2015 provided by DPHHS show that 35.5 percent of the national population was overweight and 29.8 percent were obese. Montana adults ranked fourth lowest in the nation with an obesity rate of 23 percent.

“A multitude of factors contribute to being overweight,” said Biskupiak. Genetic factors can play a role and diet can be the biggest component.

While DPHHS doesn’t officially recommend physical activity in schools, he said, it does encourage schools to offer physical education on a daily basis. The CDC recommends children and adolescents get 60 or more minutes per day of aerobic exercise that is moderate to vigorous intensity at least three days a week, said Zanto.

Story Credit: http://helenair.com/news/education/motivation-to-move-tech-savvy-teaching-tool-takes-health-to/article_32d00f86-1e48-5782-92a3-dff1255499c2.html