Heart rate monitors provide high-tech lesson in fitness, heart health for yoga students

SCHS Yoga Class
SCHS students follow Ms. Aguilar’s lead during a morning routine during yoga class on the athletic field.

Summer Creek High School is the first campus in Humble ISD to offer students a yoga class that teaches them not just about the basics of yoga, but also how to monitor heart health and how it impacts their overall wellness.

“Physical education in schools has changed dramatically over the years,” Helen Wagner, Humble ISD Coordinator of Physical Education and Wellness, said. “The focus is no longer just about playing a variety of sports, it’s about more choices for students that promote lifetime wellness.”

As part of the yoga curriculum, students are given electronic heart rate monitors to wear on their wrists that monitor heart rate. The device, which looks like a large wristwatch, glows a color based on the student’s heart rate.

The heart monitors allow students to be more conscious about their health and to experience in real-time the link between physical and mental health.

A total of 180 heart rate monitors were purchased using federal grant funds. There are enough monitors to accommodate students in six classes.

Heart Monitors
A heart rate monitor used by yoga student glows a color based on the individual’s heart rate.

“Offering yoga has created new possibilities for our students,” Sarah Aguilar, Summer Creek High School P.E. teacher, said. 

Aside from monitoring heart rates, the 40 minute class is helping students strengthen their overall physical and mental health, along with flexibility. Students practice mindfulness which includes breathing techniques that promote calmness and relaxation.

Interest in the class has been growing since it was first offered for the 2019-2020 school year. In that first year, enrollment was just 30 students. For the 2020-2021 school year, that number has doubled for the year, with 30 students enrolled in the fall semester class, while another 30 students have signed up for the spring semester class. The class is offered either in-person or virtually.

In-person classes are typically held in the SCHS gym because of the large space that allows for social distancing. A third gym, expected to open by 2021, could help house additional yoga classes in the future while allowing more groups to utilize the gym. 

During favorable weather, classes are held on the athletic field outdoors. Students bring their own mats.

SCHS Yoga Class and Instructor
SCHS P.E. teacher Sarah Aguilar instructs her yoga class during a morning workout on the athletic field.

The class is offered in the morning to help students energize and focus for the day ahead.

“It definitely gets the blood moving,” Ms. Aguilar said. “Yoga helps students stay more alert and supports greater concentration on what they’re learning in yoga class as well as other classes.”

Ms. Aguilar became interested in yoga after injuring her back while participating in high school athletics.

“I found my way into a yoga class to help alleviate back pain,” Ms. Aguilar said. “Once I improved my flexibility, the injury went away and I improved my core strength.”

According to Ms. Aguilar, the popularity of her yoga class has reached beyond students.

“I have had teachers ask if they could take the class with the students,” she said. “I welcome all teachers who are interested in finding out more about this class.”

Ms. Aguilar has spent four of her eight years as a teacher at SCHS. She began her career as a biology teacher, while spending the last three years as a P.E. teacher.

Heart Rate Monitor Chart
A chart displays what each color means when displayed on individual heart rate monitors. Each “zone” assesses breathing, heart rate, activities, fuel burned, and how it all benefits the body.