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Go for the goal with evidence-based health education from the Harvard School of Public Health

By Lilliam Carter, Karen E. Peterson, Suzanne Nobrega, and Steven L. Gortmaker

Lesson 8: Go for the Goal

Activity Theme

This lesson examines setting fitness goals using activities that complement the goal setting students may be doing in their physical education classes. Although this lesson may stand alone, consider checking with the PE teachers to verify that they are using Planet Health. You may be able to coordinate timing this lesson for maximum impact in language arts and PE. This lesson is designed to infuse information about increasing physical activity into a language arts class. Students will read several case studies and write physical activity goals aimed at increasing the physical activity of the people discussed in the case studies.

Behavioral Objectives

For students to increase their physical activity by

  • learning how to set realistic goals and
  • trading inactive time for time participating in some physical activity

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to do the following:

  1. Read and comprehend case studies
  2. Understand the concept of goal setting and its components, including planning, setting, and evaluating progress toward a goal
  3. Write clear and realistic physical activity goals


  • Activity 8.1, Making Time to Stay Fit
  • Activity 8.2, Choosing a Lifestyle That Helps You Stay Fit (case studies)


Because this lesson asks students to set a goal over a 24-hour period, it is best not to teach it on a Friday.

  1. (Up to 5 minutes) Write "goal" on the board and have students brainstorm what the word means to them. Write each response on the board.
  2. (5 minutes) Give examples of a few simple goals, especially goals related to physical activity. Ask students to give examples of goals they’ve set and achieved in the past and to explain why they were successful. What motivated them to achieve their goals in those cases? Ask students to also think of goals they failed to achieve and to explain why they failed.
  3. (5 minutes) Review the acronym GoAL (Go for an Activity you Like!) and the concept of "trading time."
  4. (7-10 minutes) Distribute activity 8.1, Making Time to Stay Fit. Have the students complete the activity, and instruct them not to fill in section D. They will reflect on their progress tomorrow in class. Explain that they should create goals for themselves that they can complete by class the next day. Make sure students understand that their homework is to pursue their goals over the next 24 hours. These goals can be similar to the goals they set in PE class, but they need to be goals they can realistically reach in a day. PE goals are for four to six weeks. Collect the activity 8.1 worksheets for class tomorrow.
  5. (7-10 minutes) Distribute activity 8.2, Choosing a Lifestyle That Helps You Stay Fit. Have the class review each case study. Have students write solutions to the problems individually or, as a group, develop and discuss solutions for the problems presented.
  6. (7 minutes) During the next class period, pass out the activity 8.1 worksheets and have students fill in section D to reflect on their progress. Discuss the goals and evaluation with the class. Were their goals realistic, or would they like to change them? What things get in the way of being more physically active?

Extension Activity

Have students interview a member of their family to find out whether they have any goals for themselves (e.g., to be more physically active, to go to college, to get an A on the next math test, to get a promotion, to better their time in the 100-yard dash).

Teacher Resources

General Background Material

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

  • National Association for Sport & Physical Education, Physical Activity for Children Ages 5-12: A Statement of Guidelines.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People 2010, physical activity objectives.

See appendix B for information on obtaining these documents. You also may want to refer to microunits 4 through 7 in part VII.

Specific Background Material

Planet Health’s Activity Message

Physical activity promotes health and well-being and offers opportunities to socialize and have fun. Adolescents should strive for at least 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity every day as part of play, games, sports, chores, transportation, and planned exercise. As part of this, they should participate in at least three sessions per week of vigorous physical activity lasting 20 minutes or more. These guidelines are recommended minimum levels of activity for health.

Goal Setting

  • A goal is defined as a purpose to which an endeavor is directed.
  • A goal is something you are trying to achieve, and the strategy is the plan for how to get there. People set goals and carry out plans all the time. You can remind students that friends, parents, teachers, and other adults all set goals, too.
  • Some examples of goals are getting to school on time or reaching the top of Mount Monadnock on a hike.
  • It feels good to achieve a goal.
  • Students may find it difficult to set realistic goals. Setting goals involves a process of refining and defining. A goal that initially seems realistic may later need adjustment. For example, you may think that you will be able to run a mile three times a week by the end of the month, but come to realize that you need more time to reach that goal. You might need to change your goal to half a mile three times a week.
  • Difficult goals can be achieved with patience and diligence. Focusing on and achieving goals takes mental discipline.
  • Students are also practicing goal setting in PE as part of Planet Health. This lesson helps reinforce the PE component.
  • The most important part of a goal is to Go for an Activity you Like (GoAL)!

Inactivity and Trading Time

  • Strive to decrease inactivity. On average, youth watch three to four hours of TV a day; they spend additional time on the computer, playing video games, or both.
  • Some amount of physical activity is required for health. Children need activity to develop and retain cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, flexibility, and confidence in their physical ability.
  • Physical activity builds fitness, is fun, and helps release energy! Just a small increase in physical activity can generate genuine health benefits.
  • To prevent disease, it is important for students to create lifestyle patterns now that they will carry into adulthood.
  • Encourage students to think about trading some time they currently spend on activities such as TV, computer games, and video games for some moderately intense or vigorous activity that they like. This is one way to help set achievable fitness goals and to make space for fitness. Physical activity is a cure for boredom.


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

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Planet Health-2nd Edition

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