Heart Rate Monitors: The Unrecognized Torture Used in Gym


Tom Britt


Zane Roush, Head Writer

Stair laps. Pounding around the upper deck of the gym. Sprinting back and forth across the gym floor. Spinning on the stationary bike until you can’t walk without feeling dizzy. Every week, the freshman and sophomores taking mandatory physical education participate in graded heart rate monitor usage. Their grade is based off their ability to spend at least 25 minutes with their heart rates at 135-185 beats per minute, or in “the zone.” This weekly chore is the butt of innumerable complaints from students, and is dreaded by all. But for what gain? While some may gain slightly improved cardiovascular health, the majority of students see no improvements in health or attitude towards fitness.

Endurance athletes such as distance runners and soccer players develop low resting heart rates. There is no issue with this, other than the gym teachers aren’t willing to shift the zone so it’s based off of an individual’s resting heart rate. Instead of keeping the zone standardized, the zone should be personalized to each student, allowing endurance athletes to have the zone at 100-150 BPM. Along with this, athletes are able to recover relatively quickly, meaning they are able to return their heart rate to lower than the zone quickly. This vile combination leads to some people with high resting heart rates running four laps and then walking four, milking their long recovery time, all the while at 155 BPM. On the other hand, the distance runners sprint 5 laps, maintaining 155 BPM, and then recover after 50 feet of walking. This wild difference creates animosity between peers, and distaste towards teachers who aren’t willing to sympathize with the soccer player who has 5 minutes of class left and 10 minutes of zone to complete, even if they have obviously worked their heart out.

Outside of fitness, heart rate monitors make people uncomfortable with their body image, as well as the sanitation of the monitors. Many students feel uncomfortable exposing their stomachs and chests to apply the monitor. This self-consciousness makes students generally dislike the monitors. But the lack of comfort doesn’t stop at body image. With upwards of 4 students using each monitor a day, it is easy to imagine the sweat and grime that comes in contact with the straps and monitors. Along with sweat, the ultrasound gel used with the heart rate monitors is sticky and can irritate sensitive skin. After four periods of sweat, gel, and skin, the monitors are beyond disgusting, and the weakly diluted cleaning solution barely makes a scratch on the growing bacterial infection experiment to be found on the straps.

Because of this mounting case against heart rate monitor usage, we should discontinue their use and replace the class period lost to it with something more appreciated or useful, like a more diverse list of games like tennis, basketball or tag; organized time spent in the weight room or training room would also be beneficial. The use of these heart rate monitors is biased against athletes and unsanitary, and therefore, we should end their abhorrent usage.

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