Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Heart Rate Monitors: Common Questions from Parents and Tips for Answering Them

Heart rate monitors are still a fairly new technology being used in the physical education world and while we all recognize the benefits, many of our parents still need to be educated. Jen Neubauer, PE4life Program Delivery Specialist, recently provided a teacher with answers to common questions/concerns about the use of heart rate monitors, as well as some tips on how to implement the technology.

We hope you'll be able to take some of this information and use it to educate your parents. If you need further proof of the benefits, share this touching article about an Urbandale High School PE teacher who discovered a student's heart condition through the use of a heart rate monitor.

1. Is every monitor being sanitized properly after EACH child uses it?
Yes, they should be and this is a great lesson for students to learn because this will be expected of them when exercising at a fitness center. It is common courtesy to wipe down the area where you worked out and were sweating; along with any equipment used. Therefore, the watch and transmitter components should be wiped off by the student wearing them before they put them away at the end of class. This can be done in several ways:

  • A bucket of soapy water and a cloth/towel for wiping and drying
  • A spray bottle with solution that is safe for the equipment and the students along with towels to wipe/dry them off (towels can be brown paper towels or regular shower type towels. One adds up to a lot of trash and the other means someone will be doing laundry)
  • A container of wipes (think of it as a giant container full of wet wipes)
You will need to find which method will be effective, efficient, and inexpensive for your program.

As far as the elastic chest strap component - it is highly recommended that each student purchase and have their own or "rent" it from the dept (ex: student pays a rental fee of $5 and if they return it at the end of the year they get $3 back) . This way it is sized and ready all the time for their body type (no time wasted between classes for the next student to adjust it). They keep it in their locker with their other workout clothes and they are the ones responsible for laundering it.

If the student will be "borrowing" a strap from the PE dept. each class period then they will have to deal with possibly sharing the strap with another student and that cold, wet uncomfortable feeling of someone else's sweat is something they are choosing to do. The straps would be put in a laundry bag and washed once a week or once a day or whatever is feasible. Obviously, you can't do that after every class period.

2. Is every monitor being calibrated after EACH use?
Each student should be taken through a lesson where they determine their own personal RHR and their MHR and then their THR training zones. Depending on the type of Heart Rate Monitor you are using you have some different choices.

  • You could program all the monitors to fit the lowest number and the highest number
  • You could program all the monitors based on an average of everyone's lowest/highest numbers
  • You could program one bag of monitors for one THR zone and another for a different THR zone, then assign students to the bag of monitors that fits their needs.
  • You could train the students on how to change the THR zone settings in the monitor before they begin exercising that day in class (not recommended for time management and on certain monitors it may then skew results of others using the monitors before/after them if the files are saved.)
Example: Looking at the training zones below....I know that my PE teacher wants me to spend 20 minutes in my zone which they have set the monitor at 120 bpm and 180 bpm. But, according to the lesson I did, my 60-80% training zones are 145bpm - 175bpm. Therefore, I know that the zones programmed by my teacher will still include a safe zone for me to exercise in and get health benefits from. No matter what the monitor is programmed for I know what my true zones are and I am still able to accumulate minutes in the zone programmed by the teacher to show my participation/effort levels.


Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) --- 50 - 60% of maximum heart rate: The easiest zone and probably the best zone for people just starting a fitness program. It can also be used as a warm up for more serious walkers. This zone has been shown to help decrease body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol. It also decreases the risk of degenerative diseases and has a low risk of injury. 85% of calories burned in this zone are fats!

Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) --- 60 - 70% of maximum heart rate: This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but is more intense and burns more total calories. The percent of fat calories is still 85%.

Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) --- 70 - 80% of maximum heart rate: The aerobic zone will improve your cardiovascular and respiratory system AND increase the size and strength of your heart. This is the preferred zone if you are training for an endurance event. More calories are burned with 50% from fat.

Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) --- 80 - 90% of maximum heart rate: Benefits of this zone include an improved VO2 maximum (the highest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise) and thus an improved cardiorespiratory system, and a higher lactate tolerance ability which means your endurance will improve and you'll be able to fight fatigue better. This is a high intensity zone burning more calories, 15 % from fat.

Red Line (Maximum Effort) --- 90 - 100% of maximum heart rate: Although this zone burns the highest number of calories, it is very intense. Most people can only stay in this zone for short periods. You should only train in this zone if you are in very good shape and have been cleared by a physician to do so.

3. Who determines the heart rate for each child? Every human body is different and should be treated as such.
A child or adult's Resting Heart Rate is used as an indicator of health/fitness levels. Because of the variance in those groups the medical field has determined what is a healthy Resting Heart Rate range. Teachers use the information they are given from the medical and science fields.

That healthy resting heart rate range, due to the variance among those groups, supports the statement - "Every human body is different and should be treated as such."

In fact, that is the #1 factor for why Heart Rate Monitors should be mandatory in PE classes. In every type of presentation about heart rate monitors, that is the one statement heard every time...Every body....every student... is different and should be treated as such! No more teachers guessing by looking at a student to see if they are being safe or working out in the correct zone or trying hard enough or putting in effort. The heart rate monitor treats everyone as an individual giving them instant feedback about THEIR levels the playing field and makes individual assessment fair and most importantly keeps individuals SAFE!!

4. Is it the schools place to determine what a healthy heart rate is for any student?
No it is not. As stated in the previous question/response, a healthy resting heart rate is determined by the medical/science field. Schools/PE teachers should use that information they are given to do the following for their students.

It is the schools place to....
  • Educate them on what is RHR (resting heart rate), MHR (maximum heart rate), and THR (target heart rate). Why are those important to know and to measure? How are those different from person to person? How can you control or change any of those?
  • Educate them on how to find their own Maximum Heart Rate
  • Educate them on how to find their own Resting Heart Rate
  • Educate them on how to use both MHR and RHR in the Karvonen Formula so that they can find their own THR (great interdisciplinary lesson with Math)
  • Educate them on the different THR zones they can train in. Help them understand and appreciate how each individual's "numbers" for their zone are going to be different because every human body is different (due to the differences in the Resting Heart Rate).
  • Educate the students on how the heart rate monitor works and how it is a window to their heart. Since each person has now calculated their own THR zone that is unique to them, they can personally monitor what zones they are working out in and do it in a safe manner.
  • Educate them on how one type of exercise may produce different data for different people.
  • Educate them to find what types of exercise or activities get them into specific zones - you want them to start individualizing their exercise plans and their choices
If it is the school's place to educate each student on all of those and so much more, it is the schools responsibility to provide the appropriate educational measurement tools to do that.... Heart Rate Monitors.

6. Doesn't the HIPPA privacy act make this is an invasion of privacy?
Schools are not a covered HIPPA entity and the data obtained is considered Educational Records and protected by FERPA. Their heart rate data (scores) should be treated like any other scores they get on a math test, english test, ITBS is private information between the student - teacher - parents.

7. Is a students' current health condition taken into consideration?
Of course....with every exercise or workout or athletic practice or testing situation....anytime a child is ill or having health issues that would be brought to the attention of any teacher and accommodations made. The difference in heart rates and the factors for variance and how that is accounted for in the training zones for each person have been well stated in the answers above.

Looking to purchase heart rate monitors for your classroom? Check out this list of our Preferred Vendors, including Ekho and Polar, for discounts and special offers!

Any additional questions you’ve been asked that aren’t on the list? Leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.


Biocom Tech said...

You have shared an informative blog. We should use heart rate monitor while doing physical workout like running, swimming and cycling. People should test their HR monitor that it is 100% accurate

Иван Охотов said...

My wife has a sick heart, so she uses heart rate watch. They even once saved her life, yes, and this is not a joke. Very useful thing.