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Evidence-based health education from the Havard School of Public Health

By Jill Carter, Jean L. Wiecha, Karen E. Peterson, Suzanne Nobrega, and Steven L. Gortmaker, PhD

Lesson 9—Lifetime Physical Activities: Research One, Describe One, Try One!

Lifestyle Theme

In this lesson students discuss the benefits of being physically active throughout life. They research one type of "lifetime" physical activity and write an article describing the activity for a health fitness newsletter. (An extension activity suggests publishing a health fitness newsletter as a way of displaying the students’ Planet Health work and passing on what students have learned about Planet Health concepts to the school community.)

Behavioral Objective

For students to be involved in a lifetime physical activity that will help them maintain an active lifestyle

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to do the following:

  1. Obtain information that draws from a variety of sources (experts, observations, experiments, libraries, online databases)
  2. Take notes and summarize information gleaned from reference works and experts
  3. Write a coherent composition about a lifetime physical activity
  4. Be independent learners
  5. Discuss the importance of being physically active throughout their lives


  • Activity 9.1, Lifetime Physical Activities
  • Access to encyclopedias or books that discuss various physical activities
  • Optional: Access to the Internet or other electronic research tools


  1. Point out the goals of this activity:
    • To discuss the benefits of being physically active throughout life
    • To practice being independent learners by researching a lifetime physical activity
    • To write a coherent composition describing the lifetime physical activity they researched
  2. (5-7 minutes) Conduct the following brainstorming activity. Display a model of the K-T-W chart shown. Ask the class what they know, think they know, or want to know about this topic. As students offer ideas, they should identify the column in which the idea should be placed. After eliciting a number of responses, validate or correct the "I Know" and "I Think I Know" responses. The materials listed in the Teacher Resources will help you with this task. If you are unsure of the accuracy of some of their comments, you may want to ask students to research their questions or verify their statements as part of the research and writing activity. If possible, save a copy of the chart to review at the end of the lesson.
  3. (5 minutes) Hand out activity 9.1 and describe the assignment as outlined on the sheet.
  4. (Time will vary) Allow students to begin their research in the library, computer room, or classroom. Assign a deadline for when their research must be completed. You also may want to require students to record and report their sources of information to you in a standard format of your choosing. (See the Teacher Resources for a list of reference works you may want to borrow from local libraries.)
  5. (Time will vary) Give students time to write their compositions in class or assign them as homework.
  6. (5-10 minutes) Review the K-T-W chart. What new information can you add to the "I Know" column?

Extension Activities

  1. Publish a Planet Health newsletter. Include student compositions from this lesson, student poems from lesson 5, public service announcements from lesson 6, fables from lesson 7, and activity goals from lesson 8. Send copies home to parents.
  2. Have students make a poster that visually reports the findings of their research on lifetime activity.
  3. Have students give oral reports to share their findings.

Teacher Resources

General Background Materials

In preparing for this lesson, you may want to refer to the following resources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fact sheets on physical activity (see appendix B)
  • Gortmaker et al., "Television Viewing as a Cause of Increasing Obesity Among Children in the United States, 1986-1990" (see appendix C)
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People 2010 (see appendix B)

Specific Background Material

What are lifetime physical activities?

Unlike many competitive team sports, lifetime activities can be done throughout your life. Examples of lifetime activities are running, walking, dancing, hiking, bicycling, swimming, skiing, gardening, and canoeing (see activity 9.1 for more examples). Team sports require facilities and a number of people, both of which may be difficult to find. Many lifelong activities can be done alone or with a small group of people. You can walk right out your door to participate in many lifetime activities, such as jogging, hiking, bicycling, and swimming. People at various levels of fitness can participate in these types of physical activities by varying the intensity of the activity. Finding a lifetime activity that you enjoy will help you maintain an active lifestyle.

What changes in society have brought about a decrease in daily physical activity?

In the latter part of the 20th century, there was a dramatic reduction in the amount of physical activity performed in daily life. An increase in the number of white-collar jobs has occurred, whereas blue-collar and farming jobs, which require physical work, have decreased. Modern appliances, machinery, and motorized transportation have reduced the amount of activity required to complete household chores and work-related tasks. The growth of technology and inactive leisure activities has also been enormous, with computers, video, and TV being the major factors. The Internet, CDs, DVDs, video games, and continued expansion of the TV channel market will help these trends continue.

How much time do adolescents spend watching TV?

According to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (2005), American children spend more time watching TV than they do engaging in any other activity except sleeping. In 2005 the average adolescent viewed approximately 21 hours per week, but that number jumps to 28 hours when you include videos, DVDs, and prerecorded shows. This is nearly as much time as is spent in school. Add to this one hour a day of computer use (outside of school work), about one hour (50 minutes) a day of video games, and 45 minutes a day of non-school-related reading. Altogether youth pack about eight and a half hours of media content into about six and a half hours of time by using more than one media at a time. Essentially, for many children media consumption has become a full-time job! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting TV viewing to two hours or less per day.

What are the benefits of a more active lifestyle?

Activity helps children develop and retain cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and confidence in their physical ability. Regular activity helps people maintain a healthy weight, build lean muscle, and reduce fat. It can reduce stress and brighten a person’s mood. Regular exercise helps build and maintain dense bones, which helps prevent osteoporosis. Active adults have a lower risk of dying prematurely and developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer.

What are the risks of a sedentary lifestyle?

Activity is required for health. Studies suggest that physically active people enjoy lower risks of developing heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, osteoporosis, anxiety, and depression relative to sedentary people. Sedentary habits increase the risk of premature death.

Why is television viewing damaging to health?

Television viewing is one of the major causes of overweight (obese) youth. Excessive TV viewing contributes to a sedentary lifestyle and promotes poor nutrition by exposing children to food advertising for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. TV watching has also been associated with elevated cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, and poor cardiorespiratory fitness.

What are the alternatives to TV viewing?

Anything that involves movement! Participate in lifetime physical activities that you enjoy (dancing, bicycling, walking, hiking, gardening, swimming). Limiting TV time ensures that you’ll do other activities that involve more physical activity. Also, you don’t have to sit still while you watch TV-you can be dancing, cleaning, cooking, and so on.

How much activity is needed to obtain health-related benefits?

Moderate amounts of daily activity are recommended for people of all ages. However, physical activity need not be strenuous to be beneficial. Just a small increase in physical activity can generate genuine health benefits, such as a reduction of body weight and the risk of heart attack, hypertension, and death. For adults, 30 minutes or more of moderately intense activity, such as walking, is beneficial for health when performed regularly. Some kind of regular vigorous activity, however, is the best way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness. Children and adolescents should strive for 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. This is beneficial for physical development, maintaining proper energy balance, and enjoying the feelings of fun and well-being that physical activity provides. For adolescents, active time should include 20 minutes or more of vigorous activity (greater in intensity to brisk walking) at least three times a week to improve cardiorespiratory fitness.

How much activity is needed for fitness?

Experts recommend that children and adolescents be moderately to vigorously active for 60 minutes or more on most, preferably all, days of the week. For adolescents, this should include 20 or more minutes of intense activity (that makes you sweat) at least three days a week. How long, how hard, and how often you are active will determine how fit you are! You can improve fitness by increasing the frequency (if you are not exercising regularly), increasing the intensity (doing something faster, doing more repetitions), or increasing the time you spend on each exercise.

What are some examples of things you can do to increase your activity and decrease your inactivity?

Try a new physical activity; take the stairs; don’t park next to the building; walk around the mall or the neighborhood with friends; watch only your favorite TV shows; remove or unplug the TV in your bedroom; play catch with a sibling, friend, or parent.


This is an excerpt from Planet Health, Second Edition. For more information on the Planet Health program, visit




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The above excerpt is from:

Planet Health-2nd Edition

Planet Health-2nd Edition

Planet Health-2nd Edition

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