Instantly Measure Students in PE with Pedometers

Boy running

For almost 10 years, I taught high school physical education wondering what I could use to help measure student participation and at the same time justify student grades.  While attending a conference, I was introduced to pedometers and using MVPA, moderate to vigorous physical activity, and how utilizing pedometers could help put my physical education program on the right path.

We have used both the Gopher FITstep™ Plus and the Gopher FITstep™ Pro.  Both pedometers are extremely reliable and calculate steps, active time, and most importantly MVPA time.  We switched to the FITstep™ Pro for its uploading capability, which allows us to collect data on individual students as well as entire classes and even our entire school.  We have taken our FITstep™ Plus pedometers to our elementary and middle school classes to get our students familiar with the pedometers at a young age, as well as allowing our PE staff at those buildings to utilize the pedometers in their grading and evaluation of students. Gopher’s newest pedometer is the FITstep™ Stream. The Stream is identical to the FITstep™ Pro except it allows students to upload pedometer data wirelessly in seconds with the push of a button, allowing for more activity time for your students!

What is MVPA?

So, how is MVPA calculated?  MVPA is based on the number of steps taken per minute.  The great part about both of these pedometers is that you have control over what the average number of steps per minute is set for the MVPA timer to run.  And the timer only runs when your students are walking or running at or above the set number of steps per minute.  As soon as your students drop below the average that you set, their timer stops running.  It has taken our students a little time to get used to this fact, but they have caught on and do a fantastic job.  Our students are assigned a pedometer number and are permitted to put their pedometer on as soon as they get into our gym.  I smile and laugh every time I enter the gym and see 9th through 12th grade students walking in place or around the gym as I take attendance.  I call it organized chaos!  My administration loves it too, which is a huge help for our program!

How Do I Use Pedometers?

Pedometer

I have been asked many times while presenting to groups on how we use pedometers. How often do you use pedometers?  What is the biggest problem with using pedometers? We use pedometers every day we are outside for class.  Our program offers our students a lot of choices to be active, especially when we are outside.  When we come back inside for the long winter stretch in Central PA, the pedometers hibernate for the winter!  Our students appreciate the break and with the choices they have inside the pedometers don’t always work depending on the activity.

As for problems, we have a little trouble keeping students from breaking pedometers during some of our activities, mainly flag football and tchoukball.  For flag football, the pedometers are breaking as belts are being pulled off, so we have been trying to figure out a way to avoid this problem and if anyone out there has any suggestions, please share!  Tchoukball is not as rough on pedometers, but we have several students that go all out and land on the pedometers while diving to catch the tchoukball.  This one is not a problem for me, just because I love the enthusiasm!  Now for our biggest issue, trying to get our students to understand that MVPA is based off of steps per minute and that everyone walks at different rates with different stride lengths.  We go over this with our students all of the time and they still struggle to understand why someone who is 6’ tall with long strides walking with someone 5’ with short strides will have a different amount of MVPA time if they walk at the shorter person’s stride.  I am pretty sure we will be dealing with this one for all of time with some students!

Perfect for Self-Assessment

For us, one of the best things about using the FITstep™ Pro pedometers is they allow our students to self-monitor during class, so they know what they need to do to earn credit for class.  We created charts that our students and parents are made aware of at the beginning of the school year, indicating how much MVPA time they need to get in order to earn full credit.  Please feel free to take a look at the chart we use most often and make it your own!  Another great part of using pedometers is parents can understand our system and expectation much better than when it was based solely off of what the teacher felt the student’s effort was in class.

Step Requirements Chart

Pedometer Expectations

We also have Pedometer Rules posted that we expect students to follow:

  1. Treat the pedometer with respect!
  2. Find your assigned pedometer (double check!!)
  3. Place pedometer on waistband (not on or in pockets)
  4. At the end of class, upload your pedometer

I also love that pedometers are very low maintenance, which means less work for you!  I have used heart rate monitors before but the upkeep with chest straps and keeping them clean and the time commitment is just not worth it to me!  Now with that said I am looking for feedback from anyone how they like strapless heart rate monitors and if they are effective, because we are always looking for new ways to assess our students!

Learn more about the FITstep™ Pro Uploadable Pedometers and all Gopher Pedometers!

Jason is a High School Physical Education Teacher at Midd-West High School in Middleburg, PA. He is also the Head Boys & Girls Track & Field Coach, and a former Head Boys Basketball Coach. Jason and Midd-West High School were one of the winners of the Carol M. White PEP Grant in 2010.

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