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West Ottawa middle schoolers use heart sensor technology to track fitness

The sensors are used by professional athletes in the NFL, NBA and NHL.

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. - An Ottawa County middle school is using advanced sport technology to help kids better understand fitness.

Students at Macatawa Bay Middle School spend gym class wearing sensors to track their heart rates during a 50-minute period. The devices are made by Polar, a wearable sports technology company, and were granted to the school by the West Ottawa Education Foundation.

“We really try to think outside of the box,” said Carrie Lehocky, a physical wellness educator at Macatawa Bay Middle School. “How can we start to use technology within the means of a physical education system?”

Each student attaches a sensor to their arm at the start of class. They monitor their progress throughout the period on their personal computers.

“We run over, put them on and once we see we have no minutes on the board, we get motivated to start moving and start playing,” said sixth-grader Aleah Feliu.

The students track their heart rate zones with a target of 70 percent of their max heart rate, Lehocky said.

“It becomes almost a game for them,” she said. “They earn different badges and awards, as they achieve their goal throughout the hour. They are even able to log into a personalized account at the end of the class period and see their second-by-second heart rates.”

The Polar tracking technology is used by 13 NFL teams, 5 NBA teams and more than 150 college teams, according the company’s website.

“When I was little, I didn’t expect to be using all of this technology,” Feliu said. “I feel kind of special to be able to use these that pro stars use.”  

The new technology is part of Macatawa Bay Middle School’s move away from teaching just traditional sports during physical education classes, LeHocky said.

“We want kids to be able to be lifelong movers and to enjoy moving in a way that is different than all their other peers, instead of putting them in just tone sport and making them play that for three weeks,” she said. “This technology is really helping us to teach them what it is to be healthy."

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