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Heart Rate Monitors

Updated on April 21, 2017

The Young Turks

The video to the right brought my attention to this topic and is something that I'm personally invested in since one of my majors is Physical Education.

Cenk and Ana had different opinions about the school in Iowa that is now requiring the students in its PE class to wear heart monitors and to have their heart rates projected onto a monitor for all to see.

But first, how do these things

These pieces of technology work pretty easily and well. The most difficult part is getting them on and getting them to be comfortable. But once they are on properly and connected to the rate, they are a great measure of one's heart rate..

They provide a constant, consistent, and mostly accurate reading of heart rate.

This is useful for a number of reasons:

  • You don't have to stop working out to measure heart rate. Having it on the watch on your wrist allows you to see your heart rate as you move.
  • It's more accurate than personally measurement. I think we can all relate to the sometimes inaccuracy of our own counting. Especially under 'stress' like one would be if they were in the middle of workout.
  • The user is able to work towards being in certain heart range zones while they are working out. They are also able to make sure they are not working too hard, which can keep them safe.
  • Using heart monitors can be a great way to assess "Rate of Perceived Exertion"

RPE-Rate of Perceived Exertion

The RPE or rate of perceived exertion is a scale that people can use to rate the level of exertion they are feeling during exercise. There is a couple different versions of the same scale, but they all perform the same function.

The person doing the action gives a score for how hard they think something is for them. The higher the score, the higher the intensity. The original scale went from "6-20." There is more "traditional" scale that is used as well. The "1-10" scale.

Although the "1-10" scale may make more sense to most people, the reason for the "6-20" scale was originally developed because it related to our actual heart rate. By simply multiplying the score the individual provided by 10, it gave a surprisingly accurate way of monitoring heart rate.

With the use of heart rate monitors, individuals can use the scale and the actual number to more accurately feel how much energy they are exerting while they are working out.

By using a heart rate monitors, the personal rating system can become more accurate for the user when they aren't using the actual heart rate monitor because they have actual heart rate numbers to associate with different levels of exertion.

What are the drawbacks?

There are drawbacks to using this kind of technology. Obvious issues with cost come into play. If a school district doesn't have the ability or desire to fund physical education in their school, they won't be able to get heart rate monitors.

But once you have them, there can be issues with the monitors themselves.

In the Young Turks video, they talk about how the student's heart rate is projected on a screen and the whole class can see this. I think this a terrible idea. The teacher and the student should be able to monitor the heart rate, but the class doesn't need to see all their peers information. I compare it having a quiz and having all the scores posted on a board for everyone to see. it's unnecessary.

The other big issues with this kind of technology, really any technology, is potential for them not work properly. If a student's heart rate monitor decides to not work one day, they can't be not assessed for that day of class. Just like not having enough quizzes for every person in the class doesn't give the people who didn't get one a free pass to not have to take the quiz. So, in order for this technology to be the most effective, it has to be coupled with others methods of measuring students so that there can be back-up methods, just in case, and methods to corroborate what they heart rate monitors are saying.

Usage in Physical Education setting

Using heart rate monitors is a very practical. Getting them on and off takes about 1-2 minutes, probably even less time as they get practice with the equipment. The go under shirts, so they can be put on while in the locker room while they change into their proper attire.

They provide constant feedback and data the teacher can use in a variety of ways to improve the various activities for the class and for individuals. The teacher can use this on a short term and long term basis to track data for a student, a class, or multiple classes. Having this data can help to give the teacher feedback to their methods and help them to develop more effective ways to improve their classes.

Data is also useful to see trends. The teacher can track the growth of students through the academic year. This is especially useful when students are more mature around the high school age. The teacher can use data from previous classes to develop goals for students to have for that class. And data is easily shared, so teachers can share this information between teachers and schools to help make their programs better overall.

If you can't measure it, you can't improve it. There are better methods than using the "eye test" by itself now, and schools and teachers should be working to implement them.

Teachers can also use the the heart rate monitors to get students to be in the various individual's heart rate monitor.

It can help students set goals with they activity based on their heart rate and track it throughout the class. It also helps to give students practice and experience using health technologies, which can benefit them well beyond their time in the classroom. Having experience with health technology can help encourage them to use them in the future and help encourage them to be more active.


"Forcing" students to wear them

Some parents and administrator may be hesitant to require students to wear these during physical education classes, but they don't have much ground to stand on for their position.

Students are required to wear a certain kind of clothes, so they can move around freely and safely during physical education classes. They are required to bring compasses, calculators, and pencils to other "traditional" academic classes, so I see no reason to treat a requirement of wearing a heart rate monitor any different.

Improvement of the field of Physical Education

There are massive benefits to this technology in regards to the research potential. If teachers have the ability to track and gather heart rate numbers, they can create huge banks of data to develop research from.

It could allow for different ideas to be tested and examined quickly and easily. This could lead to more effective teaching methods, better activities, and a better overall profession. Improvement of the field will allow people to get a better education in Physical Education.

Just a start

While this kind of technology won't be right for every classroom, it is a start to a change to the problem of assessing that is found in Physical Education classrooms.

There is a lot that needs to improve to start getting Physical Education to be valued at the same level as other classes. While change with policy and from the outside is needed, change from within the field needs to happen first.

Physical Education teachers need to give the people who decide policy, undeniably reasons to start to put Physical Education to the same level as other essential academic areas because it is, too, an essential area.

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