Personalizing Fitness in Middle School P.E.

Danny Stock

Lifelong health, wellness, and fitness begins with an understanding of and respect for the body. For Middle School that means pairing expert physical education instruction with live empirical data. The ingredients: great teachers and new wearable heart-rate monitors for each student.

At the start of the year, with athletics on hold by order of the DC Mayor’s office, Middle School athletics shifted to a fitness-focused full-on P.E. model. With the new heart rate monitors online (claimed by families during our fall equipment pick-up drive-throughs), the P.E. teachers were able to guide students to an understanding of their personalized fitness zones even while working out remotely. Popular heart rate-based training programs, including Orange Theory and F45, provide group training that is individualized based on participants’ heart-rate zones. Likewise, Middle School students were able to exercise at home, at their current capacity, and track progress with instant feedback from both their P.E. teachers and live data. 

P.E. staff worked with a software engineer to create a custom website that would allow Middle School students to use their Chromebooks to graph their heart rate. Anyone can use this website to do a HR workout with any bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor. They also continued learning about exercise physiology and how to get the most out of their workouts.

Now, in the current HyFlex environment (with students on-campus and virtual), Middle School has been able to blend skill-based physical education with ongoing fitness. Whether participating in a vigorous tabata fitness workout—with the Polar monitor bands positioned on their upper arms—or a low-intensity cornhole tournament, students can learn to more accurately describe their activity level using the heart rate data in comparison with the exertion levels they are experiencing.  

Middle School P.E. teacher Katie Redmond said, “This technology promotes safety, motivation, and accountability among students, while bringing documentation and objective assessment to physical education. Students have fun earning badges and coins for time spent in the target zones.”

Most importantly, through intentional use of the devices in conjunction with excellent teaching, students are developing an understanding of the importance of movement and a non-sedentary lifestyle. Whether doing cardio, lifting weights, playing a game, or studying muscle creation, teachers and students are finding that the new heart rate monitors are proving to be an informative and motivational tool. In short, Middle School students are empowered to take what they are learning about lifelong fitness to heart... into their own hands... arms... they’re in the zone!

Middle School P.E. team: Katie Redmond, Donna Stallworth, Jodi Jackson, and Marquis Bell

  • Middle School