Why Be Active?

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


Students will

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


  • Two sets of the "Benefits of Physical Activity Cards" reproduced and cut out
  • 20 cones
    1. 4 rings that could fit over cone tops
  • Radio or other music source
  • 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: jump rope, run in place, or do jumping jacks. Before starting the clock, challenge students to predict what will happen to their heart rate. Will it increase? Decrease? 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 aerobic activity helped their heart. Share information from the Instant Expert section.

  3. Finally, direct student teams to use what they've learned to create a poster that persuades kids their age to be physically active each day. Each team's poster should include at least three benefits of being physically active!

  1. Before students enter the room, clear a large space and place cones in different areas within that space. Make sure that they are at least a few feet from each other. Cut out two sets of the "Benefits of Physical Activity Cards" so there are 40 cards. Place two cards under each of the 20 cones.
  2. As students enter the room, read the following statement and poll students to see if they agree, "Regular physical activity is good for your health." In all likelihood, most if not all students will agree. Then follow up with the following question, "How is it good for your health?" Encourage student volunteers to share everything they know about how activity is good for them. Record answers.
  3. Tell students that they are going to play a game to learn 20 ways that physical activity contributes to their health! Divide students into two teams. Distribute two rings to each team. Tell students that under each cone they will find a card that lists a benefit of being physically active. Their team goal is to collect all 20 cards. In order to collect a card, a player must throw the ring toward one cone while standing next to another cone. If the ring lands directly over the cone, their team may collect the card under it. If the ring does not land directly over the cone, all team members must do 10 jumping jacks! Once all team members have had a turn (or once 20 turns have been taken), it is the second team's turn to collect the second set of cards. The team that collects the most cards wins!
  4. After the game, have each team read their list of benefits and see if 20 have been collected. If not, try to guess the remaining ones and uncover the cones to see if guesses were right. Ask students to share what they know about each benefit and how it relates to physical activity.
  5. Again, poll students with the same question they were asked at the beginning of the lesson, "How is regular physical activity good for your health?"
  6. Tell students that they are going to conduct a demonstration on themselves to see how physical activity impacts their heart. Have students locate their pulse point, either on their wrists or neck. Once everyone has located their pulse point, challenge students to count the number of times they feel a beat in 6 seconds. Time them for 6 seconds and have them write down the number. Then have them add a zero to the end of that number (or multiply by 10). Explain that this is their number of heart beats in one minute.
  7. Draw the following table on the board and collect the heart rates of students before exercise (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.)


  • Encourage students to select one benefit of physical activity to learn more about. Ask them to research how exercise is specifically connected to the benefit and the related consequence of not exercising.

Family Connection

Ask students to survey family members to see how many benefits of physical activity they can identify! If they can collectively identify 18-20, they are physical activity experts!

Community Connection

Direct students to create a survey to learn how much daily physical activity community members do each day. After collecting answers, have students graph and analyze their data by gender, age, or job title. Once complete, ask each class to combine data to create a community physical activity profile.

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).