Physical Education Homework: Is There Such a Thing?

By: Brad Hull-2020 SHAPE America District Teacher of the Year; Customer Support and Sales at Heart Tech Plus

Brian Hull-2020 SHAPE America National Teacher of the Year; Physical Education Ambassador for Heart Tech Plus

It is always frustrating when a colleague or a parent gets surprised when students get assigned homework for “gym class.” We quickly remind these individuals that it’s physical education and not “gym.” The “E” in PE stands for education, which is most important because we are supposed to be educating students on the importance of physical activity and fitness. With that said, it’s almost essential to assign some type of homework in physical education. In 2017-2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the obesity rates among adolescents are listed in the table below. These numbers are astounding! Physical education can help with this problem.


Obesity Percentage:







The importance of engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is well documented. There are numerous studies that document the strong correlation between physical activity and academic success. A physically fit student is a smart student! The American Heart Association recommends that a weekly goal for adults is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of the two. The American Heart Association also recommends that school age kids should be getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. How do we know if students are actually meeting that recommendation?

According to the CDC, moderate-intensity physical activity is between 64% and 76% of an individual’s maximum heart rate, whereas vigorous physical activity is between 77% and 93% of an individual’s maximum heart rate. With the Heart Tech Plus system, MVPA is 60%-100% of an individual’s maximum heart rate.

The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America), has developed numerous Grade Level Outcomes (GLOs) that address the concept of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The letters and numbers in parentheses below refer to the specific SHAPE America standard and grade level outcomes. Some examples include:

  • S3.M2.8 (Standard 3, Middle School Outcome 2, Grade 8): Participates in a physical activity 3 times a week outside of physical education class.
  • S3.M3.8: Participates in a variety of self-selected aerobic fitness activities outside of school such as walking, jogging, biking, skating, dancing and swimming.
  • S3.M5.8: Participates in a self-selected lifetime sport, dance, aquatic or outdoor activity outside of the school day.
  • S3.M6.8: Participates in moderate to vigorous aerobic and/or muscle- and bone strengthening physical activity for at least 60 minutes per day at least 5 times a week.
  • S3.M8.8: Uses available technology to self-monitor quantity of exercise needed for a minimal health standard and/or optimal functioning based on current fitness level.

If PE Teachers are required to implement a standards-based curriculum, how do they document that their students are meeting GLOs such as the ones described above? Many can use a heart rate sensor and record activity, which can show whether students are moving at a moderate to vigorous level-both within a class at school, and outside of class, at home for example.

With a heart rate sensor, physical education is the only subject in schools that can assess effort objectively. Don’t we, both teachers and parents, want to see if students are meeting the American Heart Association’s guidelines outside of class?

As we grow older, what are some things that concern us, at our annual checkups? For me, I’m concerned about four measures: what my resting heart rate is, what my recovery heart rate is, what my blood pressure is, and what my BMI (Body Mass Index) is. All these concepts should be taught in physical education. Optimal daily physical activity will help improve all of these. Shouldn’t we be teaching students lifelong concepts so they can become physically literate individuals? After a long day of work, going for a walk or a run definitely helps me to “blow off steam” and it helps clear my head because of all of the endorphins that are getting released. Don’t we want [to teach] students to learn healthy ways to cope with stress after a long day at school?

Heart Tech Plus has developed the HTP HOME app to allow students to complete workouts and document their physical activity efforts at home. After each activity, all workout data will instantaneously upload to the web portal for the teacher to easily view. Teachers can provide feedback to students virtually, by viewing and reviewing the data. Wearing a heart rate sensor at home is ideal, so the student can see MVPA minutes based on heart rate. However, the HTP HOME app also allows students to complete workouts outside class, without a heart rate sensor. This is a cost-effective way to get students to be physically active outside of class while still collecting data. As long as students have a phone with a built-in accelerometer (most phones have them these days), they can complete a Steps workout. A student can track steps per minute, total steps, MVPA time, points, and approximate distance. The HTP HOME app can convert steps per minute data into MVPA time if the student is moving at a fast enough rate.

This HTP HOME app can help PE teachers assign homework whether it be goal setting, activity logs, achieving a certain amount of MVPA minutes, and reflecting on performance. Some teachers may assign students specific activities to do at home, but it may be smarter to allow students to choose their physical activity. Think about it, if someone assigned me homework to go for a swim, I would not be interested and would not do it. I’d much rather go for a run. Students are no different. There are hundreds of ways to be physically active at the moderate to vigorous level. Everyone likes different types of physical activities. When students are allowed to pick the activities they want to do, while using the HTP HOME app, they will be more motivated to do them. Our goal is to develop lifelong movers! You may be surprised what students pick in order to be physically active. Some may choose walking, biking, dancing, skateboarding, Foursquare, hiking, mowing the lawn/yard work, hop scotch, martial arts, rock climbing, disc golf, ultimate frisbee, roller skating, or even playing games such as hike-and-seek.

After workouts, the HTP HOME app can show the student a Workout Review page and send an email to the student and parent for discussion. This allows for students to reflect on their workouts and note changes over time-for example, more or less time in MVPA over a semester. Examination of data may motivate positive changes. Teachers will be able to easily see workout data from students in their web portal. Even without access to a web portal, students can still use the HTP HOME app by logging in as a guest. After completing workouts under this account, students can see a Workout Review page to help them reflect. Isn’t reflecting on performance a life skill? Absolutely! No matter what people do, there should always be some type of reflection after the activity or event in order to get better.

So, what do you think? Should physical education homework be as acceptable as math or English homework for all students across the nation? We do!

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