Why Be Active?

Students will explore the physical, emotional and social benefits of physical activity.


Students will

  • Identify benefits of physical activity.
  • Calculate their heart rates before and after physical activity.
  • Create a poster that highlights the benefits of physical activity.


  • Prepared sentence strips (see lesson procedure below)
  • Dry erase boards and markers one for each student
  • Stopwatch
  • Video or art equipment - optional

Instant Expert

Physical activity is an important part of maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. In fact, it is recommended that kids ages 6-17 get an average of 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. In addition to helping to maintain Energy Balance, there are many benefits to being physically active each day. Some will be more immediately relevant to students (improves appearance) while others will seem less relevant or immediate (improves heart health). But they are all important in maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle. Benefits of physical activity include


  • Burns calories and helps to maintain Energy Balance
  • Increases muscle strength
  • Increases efficiency of heart and lungs
  • Increases stamina
  • Increases bone strength
  • Improves circulation
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Maintains a healthy body weight
  • Helps with digestion
  • Increases resistance to disease
  • Boosts energy
  • Improves posture


  • Reduces stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces the chance for depression
  • Build self confidence
  • Increases enthusiasm
  • Establishes good habits


  • Provides a fun way to share an activity with family and friends
  • Helps with problem solving and getting along with others

Some studies even suggest that regular physical activity can improve students' attention level and improve academic performance. Exercise grows brain cells!

From an Energy Balance perspective, physical activity burns calories that we consume through what we eat and what we drink. That helps us maintain a healthy weight. The more vigorous the activity, the more calories we burn.

In the lesson, students see firsthand how aerobic activity impacts their heart by measuring their heart rate before and after physical activity. During aerobic activity, our pulse rate and breathing rate increase. During each heartbeat, the muscles of the heart contract causing a wave of pressure which forces blood through their arteries. This wave of pressure is called a pulse. The normal heart rate varies with age. At six to eight years of age, the heart rate should be between 70 and 115 beats per minute. From nine to eleven years of age, the normal heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute. During aerobic physical activity, the heart rate increases to supply the muscles with more oxygen to produce extra energy. To meet the body's need for oxygen during aerobic exercise, it beats faster and harder to get more blood out in each beat-stroke volume. But it can only beat harder if it has been strengthened through exercise. Like other muscles, the heart enjoys a good workout. When we give the heart this kind of workout regularly, it will get stronger and more efficient in delivering oxygen (in the form of oxygen-carrying blood cells) to all parts of the body.


Range of heart rate

Heart rate before activity

Number of students

Heart rate after activity

Number of students

Less than 60

60 to 70

  1. Put on music and lead students in one or more of the following activities for one to two minutes: dance, march in place or around the room, hula hoop or do another fun activity! Before starting the clock, challenge students to predict what will happen to their heart rate. Will it get higher? Lower? By how much? Time students for one to two minutes and repeat the heart rate exercise. Record the results. If you have time, have students rest for a few minutes and repeat so they see that their heart rate goes back to normal. The exact numbers here are not important, but students should understand the pattern that their heart rate increases after exercise and then goes back to normal after a period of rest.

  2. Ask students how they think the activity helped their heart. Share information from the Instant Expert section.

  3. Finally, direct students to create a poster to convince other students at the school to be physically active every day. Their poster should include at least one benefit of physical activity we can see and one we can't see.

  1. Tell students to think about one physical activity or type of exercise that they like to do. One by one, ask each student to come to the front of the room and act out the activity. Challenge other students to guess what activity is being acted out.
  2. After everyone has gone, ask students to complete the following sentence on a piece of paper using the activity they acted out. I like to do ___________________ because ________________________.
  3. Have each student share his or her sentence with the class. What are some common reasons students shared? Common reasons may be that they like playing with friends, because they're good at it, or it makes them feel healthy. Tell students that all of their answers are called "benefits." See Instant Expert for additional benefits.
  4. Ask students to raise their hand if they think that being active is good for their health. Share that there are many ways that physical activity helps us.
  5. Distribute a dry erase board and marker to each student and tell them to write the numbers 1 through 10 down the side. Then hand out the 10 prepared sentence strips to 10 volunteers. Ask the first volunteer to read his or her sentence aloud. Tell other students that, if they agree with the sentence, they should write a tally mark next to the number one on their board. If they disagree, they should leave the space blank. Repeat until all 10 sentences have been read. Ask students to add up their tally marks. Guide the students to understand that each tally mark represents a benefit (good thing) about being physically active.
    1. When I exercise, I feel happy.
    2. I have fun exercising with my friends.
    3. My heart bats quicker when I exercise.
    4. When I exercise, it helps me balance energy from what I eat and drink.
    5. After I exercise, I feel strong.
    6. Some types of exercise help me have better balance.
    7. When I exercise, I am giving my heart a great workout.
    8. Exercising makes me feel good about my body.
    9. I have fun exercising with my family.
    10. Exercising helps my bones get stronger.
  6. Have students sort the 10 sentence strips into those benefits we can see with our eyes and those we can't. Explain that sometimes we help our bodies in ways we can't see. Physical activity can do this. One example we can't see is how physical activity helps our hearts.
  7. Draw the following table on the board and collect the heart rates of students by asking them to place two fingers on a pulse point and count the number of beats in 6 seconds. Then adding a zero to their number. (Younger students may need help.) Explain to students that this number is called their heart rate. You may want to explain that if their heart rate is not shown or if they are not in the largest group, it is probably because they are inexperienced at this type of measurement.


  • Have students write and read morning announcements about the benefits of physical activity.
  • Have students write a letter from their heart to themselves thanking them for exercising!

Family Connection

Ask students to repeat the heart rate exercise with family members and to explain how exercise is good for their hearts!

Community Connection

Have students think about all of the places in their community where they can do activities that make their hearts beat faster. Have them create a map with at least 10 places, using a heart as the identifying legend!

Standards Connections:

National Standards for Physical Education

  • Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.
  • Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
  • Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

National Health Education Standards

  • Standard 2: Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.
  • Standard 4: Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.
  • Standard 5: Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.
  • Standard 6: Students will demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting skills to enhance health.

National Reading/Language Arts Standards

  • Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Standard 12: Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).