Students may know that they have a heart and that it’s important to keep it healthy and strong. However, it’s important to highlight exactly which lifestyle habits that have a long-lasting and positive impact on the health of their heart. Here are activities and discussion points to use while teaching the importance of heart health during PE class time.
Understanding Heart Health: What Are Controllable Factors?
When it comes to heart disease, there are factors that can be controlled and others that can’t. Some factors like sex, race, age, and family history can’t be changed. Discuss this with students to help them understand that there are things they can control that will benefit the health of their heart and potentially prevent heart disease. These three lifestyle factors play a role in whether or not a person is at higher risk for developing heart disease:
Low levels of physical activity increases a person’s risk of death and heart disease. Even leisurely physical activities like walking can lower chances of developing heart disease.
Discuss with students the many different opportunities there are to get physical activity each day. Talk about how getting the heart pumping blood around the body during exercise helps to keep it strong and active.
Stress and Anger
Unhealthy high levels of stress and anger may result in a higher risk for heart disease. Practicing relaxation techniques and learning time management skills will help to keep stress levels lower.
Discuss with students different ways that they can practice physical and mental relaxation when they are feeling angry or overwhelmed.
A healthy and balanced diet is one of the most important ways to lower risk of heart disease. A heart healthy diet should be low in salt, saturated and trans fats, as well as refined sugars.
Discuss with students some of their favorite plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables) and some healthy alternatives to common junk foods.
Heart Health Habits Stations Activity
Don’t have a big plan for Heart Health Month or your average PE day? Stations are a great way to keep students moving, try out new or engaging activities, and utilize your creativity. Use one or all three of these stations to highlight three different ways that students can lower their risk of heart disease:
Station 1: A Heart of Gold
The goal of this station should be to keep students’ heart rates in the target “golden” zone. Students can either check their pulse periodically throughout the activity or wear heart rate monitors.
Students will use a series of suggested cardio/strength activities to make their own four-activity circuit. The goal is to complete the circuit as many times as possible during the set station time, taking a 30 second rest between each of the four activities.
Example Circuit Activity Suggestions:
- Jumping jacks
- Star jumps
- Cherry pickers
- Skater hops
Station 2: Nutritious Noshing
Making healthy food choices is an important part of keeping the body healthy and lowering the risk of heart disease. When students arrive at this station, give them a blank print-out of the MyPlate chart to fill in. Before moving onto the next part of the activity, students must correctly label each part of the MyPlate chart and bring it to you for approval.
Once you have approved their chart, give students a series of tossables, with each color/shape representing a different type of body fuel (Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Dairy). Set up a corresponding basket for each of the different body fuel groups and a tossing line approximately 10ft away from the baskets.
Students must toss each tossable into its corresponding basket from behind the line to complete the activity.
Station 3: Restful Relaxation
The last station is a great cool-down and will help students to learn more about healthy ways to relax and keep stress levels low. Create or find a series of yoga poses and walk students through each of the moves, emphasizing deep, slow breaths and relaxing the muscles.
End the activity with some time in the the Savasana pose, encouraging students to relax both their body and their mind for a few moments before leaving class.
More PE Class Activities for Heart Health All Year Long
If you’re looking for more ways to promote heart health in PE, or for more great ideas for activity and lesson plans, be sure to head over to the Physical Education category and see what’s new. You’ll find group activities and games, inspiration from award-winning PE teachers, and more.
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