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Enable students to assess their fitness improvements over time

This is an excerpt from Heart Education With Web Resource by Deve Swaim.

Ups and Downs

A steady-state heart rate workout requires that students maintain exercise intensity and heart rate throughout the exercise session. In a ladder or interval workout, exercise intensity increases or decreases in a way that is similar to ascending or descending a ladder. This workout is a combination of steady state and ladder.

This workout enables students to assess their fitness improvements over time. They use downloadable monitors with software programs to compare the two portions of the workout. This is a sophisticated level of training and analysis, but it is highly valuable in an HZE program.


Students will gain experience using heart rate monitors, including using time functions, assessing heart rate output and input data, and varying speed or load to increase and decrease intensity.


  • One heart rate monitor per student
  • Ups and Downs worksheets
  • Stopwatch, if the heart rate monitor does not have a timing function


1. Select an exercise activity, such as a cardio machine workout or a sport activity, that accommodates your students and your facilities.

2. Students program the workout into their monitors (if possible; this is also known as uploading a workout), as follows:

  • Time interval (if the monitor has a countdown timer): 5 minutes
  • Zone alarms (if the monitor has multiple zone alarms): 60, 70, and 80 percent of MHR
  • Record mode (if the monitor can store data for later retrieval): on

3. Students warm up for 5 to 10 minutes, keeping their heart rates below the floor of zone 2. They start the stopwatch timer on their monitor when they begin the exercise activity, after the warm-up.

4. Students slowly increase their exercise intensity until they reach the floor of zone 2 (60 percent of activity-specific MHR). Then they keep up whatever pace is required to maintain this heart rate.

5. After approximately five minutes, students proceed to the next interval. In one minute, they increase their heart rates to the floor of zone 3 (70 percent of activity-specific MHR) and then maintain this heart rate for the remaining four minutes of the interval.

6. After five minutes, students proceed to the next interval, increasing their heart rates (within one minute) to the floor of zone 4 (80 percent of activity-specific MHR) and then maintaining this heart rate for the remaining interval time (four minutes).

7. Now students begin to head down the ladder, dropping their heart rates within the first minute of each five-minute interval to the previous zone heart rate number and then maintaining that heart rate for the remaining four interval minutes. Students first drop to the floor of zone 3 (70 percent of MHR), then to the floor of zone 2 (60 percent of MHR).

8. After five minutes in zone 2, students cool down, lowering their heart rates and maintaining them below the floor of zone 2 for 5 to 10 minutes or until they are fully recovered.

9. If possible, students record the distance they traveled during the workout and complete the worksheet.


Students discuss what they experienced during this workout (e.g., what they learned by trying to maintain a specific heart rate) by answering these questions:

  • How would you rate the difficulty of this activity? Why?
  • Did the monitor present any challenges to you? If yes, what were they?
  • Was it easier to descend the ladder? Explain.
  • Why do some students move faster (or travel farther) than others yet maintain the same percentage of MHR?
  • Besides fitness level, what other factors affect endurance steady-state intervals?

Additional Workouts

The 20 additional workouts on the web resource offer a range of intensity from zone 1 to zone 5. They use a mix of challenges that will help students attain their optimal fitness at a pace that matches their personal goals. The web resource also includes a blank template that you and your students can use to design your own workouts with activities of your choice.

Learn more about Heart Education: Strategies, Lessons, Science, and Technology for Cardiovascular Fitness.

More Excerpts From Heart Education With Web Resource