Fitness Testing Devices: Pedometers and Heart Rate Monitors

Optic Heart Rate MonitorAssessing our students’ fitness levels is an enormous task for physical education teachers. Continue reading to see how fitness testing devices like heart rate monitors and pedometers can help!

Unlike regular classroom teachers, we have to assess a large number of students on a daily basis. The standardized fitness tests, such as FITNESSGRAM®, can only play a small role in assisting our students unless we are able to set goals for each student and continue to assess them throughout the school year. The question for many teachers is, “How can we do this when there are so many students with individual needs?”

Fitness Testing Devices

Most of you have heard about heart rate monitors, accelerometers, and pedometers. Depending on the type chosen, data can be automatically downloaded and stored for easy access. This is a great way to hold students accountable, increase motivation, and communicate with parents.  Generally speaking, see the following as a quick definition of what each of these devices accomplishes:

  1. Heart Rate Monitors:  Allows teachers and students to monitor the heart rate of the individual wearing the device.  Teachers can set the monitor for the appropriate heart rate zone in which the student should try to reach and maintain. This helps students understand the appropriate exercise level as well as help teachers assess the students on a daily basis.
  2. Accelerometers:  These devices are also worn by the student and can measure anything from heart rates, steps taken, calories burned, etc. depending on the particular device purchased.  This is another great tool to hold students accountable for accomplishing goals that have been set.
  3. FITStep Pro PedometerPedometers:  These tools are typically restricted to simply counting the number of steps taken by the student. Yet, another great device to assist teachers in monitoring student progress and assessing fitness levels. It is very important to understand that students’ strides will vary so setting steps between students should not be compared.

The FITstep Pro Uploadable Pedometers track steps, activity time, and MVPA. Best of all, students can upload their data to the free software in less than 2 seconds. Learn more about FITstep Pedometers here.

Heart Rate Monitor Experience

I had an eye opening experience when I used heart rate monitors for the first time during one of my elementary classes. A student in my class seemed to be lazy and dislike physical education in general. I tried to encourage her and at one point just got frustrated with her lack of effort.

When I received the heart rate monitors, I thought this would be a great way for me to show her the level in which she needed to be exercising daily. I set my monitors to beep when the students were too high or too low. During the instant activity (warm up), we were playing a fun game.  I heard her heart rate monitor beeping. I slowly approached her and what I saw was simply shocking and scary. Her heart rate was approximately 210 bpm. Had I not had a heart rate monitor on her, I may have pushed her to work harder and something terrible could have happened. It was truly an eye opener for me, and one that left me feeling terrible about the way I had stereotyped this young child.

Not only can these devices help us monitor a student’s exercise level during class, but they can help us set goals and assess students daily, weekly, or monthly. There are a plethora of products that can also assist with monitoring students muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and even body composition. Check out a variety of fitness assessment tools that may be of interest to your classroom needs.  In conclusion, technology really is the most realistic way to assess students’ fitness levels efficiently and effectively as well as help accomplish your goals and assist students in accomplishing theirs.

Lisa is a former Assistant Professor at The University of South Florida's Department of Teaching and Learning. She is also the former Director of the USF Active Gaming Research Laboratories.

Lisa is a former Assistant Professor at The University of South Florida's Department of Teaching and Learning. She is also the former Director of the USF Active Gaming Research Laboratories.

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