x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

The iPad brings students one touch closer to better fitness levels

At the Dubai Women's College, the health and fitness course is using iPads to get students more interested in fitness and to encourage competition between them.

Susan Carter, a health and physical education teacher at Dubai Women's College demonstrates using an iPad application that displays a virtual space as the user conducts their exercise. The health and physical education teachers have formulated an ibook for the iPad that students cary around that helps track their weight, fitness goals and nutrition.
Susan Carter, a health and physical education teacher at Dubai Women's College demonstrates using an iPad application that displays a virtual space as the user conducts their exercise. The health and physical education teachers have formulated an ibook for the iPad that students cary around that helps track their weight, fitness goals and nutrition.

Melanie Swan

DUBAI // Students at Dubai's Higher Colleges of Technology (HCTs) are embracing the college's iPad initiative and taking it one step beyond the classroom - into the gym.

All 17 of the HCT colleges introduced iPad learning for all this year's foundation or remedial students in September, in subjects such as maths and English.

At the Dubai Women's College, the health and fitness course is using iPads to get students more interested in fitness and to encourage competition between them.

All foundation students have to take one physical education class per week.

"The majority of our students tend to come with limited fitness backgrounds," said Melissa Jones, supervisor of the fitness centre.

"So we work on fitness levels, skills acquisition, eating healthily and so on, all with the aim that they'll take these skills and extend them to their community, to family, to friends."

Carly Walker, one of the teachers in the centre, said that the iPads have helped greatly. "We've noticed in all the classes that there's more interest now," she said.

Susan Carter, also a teacher, said students are even finding their own apps in addition to the 20 used by the college. "They're inspired enough to do this at home now," she said.

Apps like MyFitnessPal record nutritional intake and activity levels using a sensor that attaches to clothing. "We wear it at the same time so the girls can compare our fitness levels, too, and we can act like role models," said Ms Jones.

Using iHealth, the students can have their blood pressure checked, which has helped the teachers show students how vital it is to eat before their 8am workout class. "It's a good tool when talking to the girls about nutrition," said Ms Jones.

The 5km Runner app, which helps gradually train a non-runner until they can run 5 kilometres, has seen girls getting competitive, as has Step Test, which assesses fitness using a three-minute test.

"The girls can make sure when they have their own sessions that they can sustain and improve their level of fitness as well as helping them remember what they learnt in class," said Ms Carter.

Many are bringing friends and family to the gym and inspiring those around them as well as using apps between class, such as Ball Strike, an action game where the user has to hit virtual balls coming out of the screen.

"They make it a challenge between classes as to who burns the most calories," said Ms Jones.

Tracking their diets through MyFitnessPal has also helped students with English and maths, said Ms Carter. And videos uploaded to the iPad by the staff show the students how to use certain machinery or carry out particular moves.

In time, they hope to develop their own apps that will be specifically relevant to the students.

Next month the initiative will be extended to the men's campus, with specially-tailored videos and apps.

Dr Zechariah McLaren, dean of education and developmental learning at the Dubai colleges, said the apps have been a great success with the women. He said they have less access to sport than the men, many of whom play football or go to off-campus gyms.

"The women are a captive audience as they spend all day at the college, whereas the men can come and go as they please," he said.

"For the men, this initiative was more about capturing their attention and getting them to focus more on being active. What the iPads will bring is creativity to the fitness area with the men."

mswan@thenational.ae