Focusing on fitness


Schools / gym class

P.E. ‘not like it used to be’

By Edie Grossfield


Until about 15 years ago, high school physical education was mostly about mastering the skills of soccer, basketball and other team sports.

However, teachers began to realize that since very few students would go on to become professional athletes or even play team sports after high school, it would be more beneficial to teach them lifelong fitness and recreational activities.

With growing concerns about childhood obesity and heart disease in the United States, that philosophy is now embraced by communities around the country, including Rochester.

"We cover not only cardiovascular, but muscular fitness and muscular endurance, and some dieting issues," said Daniel Eickhoff, a Century High School physical education teacher. "So, it’s not like it used to be. ... We try to include a lot of fitness knowledge."

Two years ago, the high schools began using portable heart monitors to teach kids how to effectively exercise their hearts.

Once a week in Mark Kieffer’s 10th-grade physical education class, students come in and strap heart monitors around their chests. Wrist devices, which look like watches, receive signals from the monitors and show the students their heart rates.

"And I just ask them to get into their heart target zone for 20 to 25 minutes," Kieffer said.

During one of his classes earlier this month, students jogged around the perimeter of the gym while others walked at a quick pace. Some students jumped rope and some jogged and jumped rope at the same time. The students frequently glanced at their wrist devices to check their heart rates. It was obvious that there were varying levels of fitness in the gym, yet all of the students had to work to keep their heart rates up.


"It’s hard to keep up with the monitor, especially if you’re in shape," said Jordan Ziegler, a Mayo sophomore.

Kieffer watched the kids from the edge of the gym.

"Why I like this activity so much is because one of the things I’ve tried to emphasize is ‘OK, you’re doing this now, but what are you going to do when you’re 25, or 51, which is my age?’" Kieffer said. "I want it to be a lifetime thought."

Physical education teachers at Century and John Marshall high schools also consider the heart monitors effective tools for teaching kids about fitness.

"And we’re starting to push them hard and use them in a variety of different classes," JM teacher Brendan Adams said.

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