Tracking Physical Fitness
Children need to exercise to build strong bones and muscles, have a healthy weight, and be alert during the day and sleep well at night. Over the past four decades, children have become increasingly sedentary and that lack of physical movement is showing up in medical conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes.
How much exercise do children need? The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services recommend that "all children 2 years and older should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise" most days if not every day. To develop endurance, strength, and flexibility, children need to engage in different activities. The activity that follows will show children the difference a little sustained physical activity can make.
Purpose: To help students see the value of regular, sustained exercise in increasing their physical fitness.
- Fitness Tracker Chart [PDF]
- Clock/watch/stop watch per group
- Large sheets of construction paper
- Pencils, markers, or crayons
- Enlist the help of two to three other adults.
- Plan to begin the first day of the week and choose the same time of day when this activity can be repeated daily over a 4-week period.
- Make a copy of Fitness Tracker Chart, at least one for each available adult.
- Ask: What do we do at school to get your body moving for exercise? (Have recess; play ball; climb the play structure.) Can you think of other ways you exercise? (Climb the stairs, run to catch the bus, ride my bike, etc.) List the many ways the students suggest on chart paper or the chalkboard and add a few obvious ones that they may have missed.
Teaching Note: Preschool children may need prompting with questions, such as "Do you like to kick a ball?" or "Can you dance?"
- Tell students that moving their bodies every day helps the body get stronger and that they will be doing an activity every day that will show them how much stronger they have become.
- Divide the class into small groups and assign one adult per group. Distribute a copy of the weekly chart and a stop watch or timer to each group. Have the adult write each student's name in his or her group down the lefthand side of the page. Then, have each student describe the fitness activity he or she would like to do—jump rope, hop, do jumping jacks, run in place, etc. Each adult overseer should make sure that the activity is safe and that it can be counted or timed in order to see improvement.
For the youngest students: You may choose to have everyone do the same exercise—see how long students can jump or how many times they can jump in 30 seconds or a minute.
Teaching Note: Teachers and other adults in the classroom should participate in this activity as well to model changes in their own endurance.
- Next, have the students and adults perform their activity, keeping track of the amount of time or the number of repetitions completed. Students should perform the activity each day, at the same time of day. Times and numbers should be recorded for the beginning of the week and the end of the week for 4 weeks.
Teaching Note: Make sure you emphasize that everyone will be competing only against his or her past performances, not each other. Encourage students and adults to practice their fitness activity as often as they would like away from school or at recess.
- At the end of Week 4, have the students share their results and talk about how they have improved. How much longer can they run or jump? How many more times can they hop in a minute?
- Finally, distribute the construction paper to the students. Have the students draw a picture of themselves as strong people and have them write or dictate information from the chart to show their success. Display these in the classroom.
- Cut out each child's individual box from the weekly chart to share the results with his or her family.
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