Basic to any health education program is an understanding of the relationship between behavior and health, as well as a means for assessing that relationship. As educators, we must develop methods for helping our students set realistic goals based on proven methods that are specific to their bodies and interests. These goals need to be assessed and a measurement tool designed to show each student’s progress toward attainment.

Wellness education is not a simple task, and to date, it is not one we have done well. Our failure has been rooted in one basic premise: that what works for one student works for all students. In fact, as we now know well, it hasn’t worked. The net effect is what we increasingly see in today’s kids: they are more sedentary, are less fit, and have fewer strategies for getting fit.

Americans know a great deal more about the impact of today’s lifestyle on tomorrow’s health than they did a generation ago, yet the United States remains a nation at risk. The U.S. surgeon general’s 2010 report states that the nation stands at a crossroads. Today’s epidemic of overweight and obesity threatens the historic progress Americans have made in increasing their quality and length of life. Two-thirds of American adults and nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese. In recent decades, the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically in the United States, tripling among children and doubling among adults.

The HZE program enables each student to set and reach optimal wellness goals. Of course, wellness levels differ among students, and performance can be affected by many factors. The advantage of HZE is that students can assess their own needs, make adjustments to attain their own goals, and measure their own improvement. They do all this with the help of a heart rate monitor.

HZE involves matching heart zones (i.e., ranges of heartbeats) to fitness goals. Because exercising in different zones achieves different results, students can individualize their advancement. The constant feedback provided by heart rate monitors helps students improve their performance and maximize their physical activity time in class. No other program accomplishes this. In the past, outcomes were judged on norm or perceived performance standards. With HZE, exercise programs can be customized to each student’s data.

Health-literate students are those who can maintain a level of optimal health throughout their lives. Knowing their bodies’ responses to stimuli such as stress, exercise, and diet helps students determine the wellness lifestyles best suited to them.

After nearly 40 years in education, I am thrilled to bring Heart Zones Education into classrooms. This advancement in technology and training provides the immediate feedback often lacking in physical education programs and provides new stimuli for students and teachers alike. Its universal application may also motivate you to assess your own wellness and follow the lessons you are teaching.

Saving Ourselves

“It is the growing belief that any future advances made in improving the nation’s health will not result from spectacular biomedical breakthroughs. Rather, advances will result from personally initiated actions that are directly influenced by the individual’s health-related attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge. School health education can make a valuable contribution in areas such as these and can play an important role in improving the quality of living.” —American Medical Association for the National Health Education Standards