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Teach your students a fun way to exercise with the Cardio March

This is an excerpt from Learning Through Movement and Music by Debby Mitchell, GeoMotion Group & Inc..

Activity 6

Cardio March

Dr. John Ratey is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has authored many books related to the importance of physical activity and the brain. His publications explain how exercise is crucial for the brain and body to work at peak performance. He says that there is a “connection between exercise and the brain's performance that shows how even moderate exercise will supercharge mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen thinking, enhance memory, and much more” (2008).

After a warm-up and a dynamic stretch a person is ready for the actual workout. A person may want to work the muscles for strength and endurance or perform a cardiovascular workout to improve cardiovascular fitness (heart, lungs, and circulatory system).

Cardiovascular fitness is thought to be the most important component of physical fitness. It is considered the best indicator of overall health. Cardiovascular fitness is often called cardiorespiratory or aerobic fitness.

Cardio refers to the heart and vascular refers to the blood and circulatory system. The heart is a muscle (cardiac muscle), and just like a person's skeletal muscles, it gets stronger when it is worked. When performing a cardiovascular workout, a person is exercising the heart and circulating the blood.

Aerobic exercises are best for developing cardiovascular fitness. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and includes continuous activities that use oxygen. That means that breathing may become more difficult, but a person should still able to talk while exercising. If it gets to the point where a person is exercising too hard to talk, then the exercise has become anaerobic. Aerobic exercise (with oxygen) can reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems in the following ways:

  • strengthens the heart,
  • improves circulation,
  • reduces blood pressure,
  • facilitates the transport of oxygen to all parts of the body,
  • facilitates flow of air in and out of the lungs,
  • reduces the risk of diabetes,
  • reduces stress,
  • improves the ability for muscles to use fat as energy during exercise,
  • improves aerobic capacity, and
  • lowers the incidence of depression.

Anaerobic exercise is exercise without enough oxygen circulating through the body; the body can keep that pace for only a short time. This means that even if students are doing an activity that is typically considered a part of a cardiovascular workout (such as running), but are doing it at extreme levels of intensity (like sprinting), the activity is actually not a part of a cardiovascular workout. For example, when running as fast as possible, eventually a person reaches a point where keeping up the pace is impossible; without enough oxygen, the body slows down. Usually athletes perform anaerobic drills since sprinting types of activities are needed in sporting events.

Every person should try to exercise 60 minutes a day. For a cardiovascular workout, individuals should perform most of the exercise at a rate that is called moderate to vigorous. Moderate means breathing at a somewhat fast pace (6-7 on a perceived exertion scale) (see the Perceived Exertion Method poster on the DVD-ROM). Vigorous means an even faster pace but not so fast that talking is impossible while still exercising (8-9 on a perceived exertion scale).

Cardiovascular exercise improves aerobic capacity. Aerobic capacity is how well the heart, lungs, and blood vessels work together and is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during a specified period. Typically, the more fit an individual is, the higher that individual's aerobic capacity.

Heart Rate

When the valves in the heart open and close, they make a sound that we call the heartbeat. The pulse is the beat of the heart that can be felt in an artery that lies close to the skin. Heart rate means the number of times the heart beats in 1 minute (BPM = beats per minute). An individual can take a pulse at the carotid artery in the neck by placing the tips of the index and second fingers of one hand in the groove on the side of the neck on the side of the windpipe.

The individual should supply light pressure with the fingers until they can feel the pulse beneath the fingers (see figure 6.1). If they can't feel a pulse, suggest moving the fingers around slightly until the pulse is found. Using a watch or clock with a second hand, the individual should count the number of beats for 10 seconds, then multiply that number by 6 to estimate the rate at which the heart is beating.

The heart beats at different rates depending on whether the body is at rest or working. At rest the heart rate may be beating from around 70 to 85 BPM (or for 11 to 14 beats/10 sec). As an individual exercises, the heart rate increases.

Target Heart Rate

The heart circulates blood throughout the entire body, so the heart adjusts and speeds up or slows down depending on how hard an individual is working. A person's heart rate constantly changes while exercising, depending on whether the exercise is light, moderate, or vigorous. As soon as a person stops working to rest or take a break, the heart begins to slow down. So, if a person wants to measure the exercising heart rate, it must be done immediately upon stopping work; the person counts for 10 seconds (then multiplies by 6) to estimate how many BPM the heart was beating during work.

Monitoring the heart rate is one way to determine the intensity or how hard a person is working. To get the best cardiovascular workout that has health benefits, an individual should work in a target heart rate zone. It is recommended that individuals work at 60 to 85% of their maximum heart rate, or HRmax. To determine the different percentages, a mathematical calculation is required. To make it easier, charts such as table 6.1 have been developed to show what a person's heart rate should be for ages 10 to 25.

For an 8- to 12-year-old the target heart rate zone would be approximately 125 to 180 BPM. In other words, when taking the pulse, the person would count 21 to 30 heartbeats in 10 seconds. If a person is at a rate above or below the target, exercise must be adjusted. At the target heart rate, the heart works twice as hard as when the body is at rest. This type of cardiovascular workout makes the heart stronger.

Perceived Exertion Method

Another way to calculate how hard a person is working is to use a perceived exertion scale (see the Perceived Exertion Method poster). This kind of scale asks a person to think about the question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard do you feel you are working?” The individual determines the perceived level of exertion. This method is based on how fast a person is breathing, how fast the heart is beating, and how intense the work feels. When using a perceived exertion scale, students should work at 6 or 7 for a moderate and 8 or 9 for a vigorous cardiovascular workout.

An individual can use a scale of 1 to 10; 10 is the hardest. If a person perceives not working hard at all, the person might be at a 1 or 2. If the intensity gets a bit higher, the person might perceive a 3 or 4. If the person perceives working hard but is still able to talk while performing the exercise (called the talk test), the person would be below a 9. If the person cannot talk, then the person is at a 9 or 10.

Lyrics and Actions to “Cardio March”



Verse 1:

You need to exercise 60 minutes a day

Fitness activities, games, or play

Aerobics should make up most of the hour

Moderate to vigorous will empower

March in place; do a narrow march until the chorus. (If using a GeoMat, march on 5.)


Cardio, cardio, cardio march

Move, move, pump your heart

March, march, cardio march

Cardio, cardio, cardio march

Perform X step 2 times with a left-foot lead.

1 rep = forward wide march, step back narrow march, step back wide march, step forward narrow march, stepping every 2 beats. (If using a GeoMat, march on 1,3,5,5,7,9,5,5.)

Verse 2:

Cardiovascular is often used

Means the same as aerobics, so don't be confused

Cardio for short—which refers to the heart

If you understand this—it makes you smart

Repeat Chorus.

Step forward with one foot and then step back onto the other foot (if using a GeoMat, use 2 and 5). Step forward with the opposite foot and back onto the other foot every 4 counts.

Perform X step 2 times with a right-foot lead. 1 rep = forward wide march, step back narrow march, step back wide march, step forward narrow march, stepping every 2 beats. (If using a GeoMat, march on 3,1,5,5,9,7,5,5.)

Verse 3:

Your cardiovascular system delivers oxygen

To the muscles so work can be done

The most important thing for an aerobic activity

Is continuously moving—that's the key

Narrow march for four beats, step right and narrow march for four more beats, and step right and narrow march for four more beats. Then jump back to the left.(If using a GeoMat, march on 4, 5, 6 and jump back to 4). Do 3 times and repeat through verse 4.

Verse 4:

When you do physical activity—your heart rate quickens

Breathing gets deeper—using the cardiovascular system

Staying aerobic—means with oxygen

You'll be able to tell—you can do it with a grin

Repeat Chorus.

March on 5.

Perform X step 2 times with a left-foot lead.

1 rep = forward wide march, step back narrow march, step back wide march, step forward narrow march, stepping every 2 beats. (If using a GeoMat, march on 1,3,5,5,7,9,5,5.)

Verse 5:

If you are aerobic—you can pass the talk test

Talk while moving without too much stress

If you're exercising at a rate where you're breathless

Then you're pushing too hard—ease up I suggest

Narrow march for four beats, step left and narrow march for four more beats, and step left and narrow march for four more beats. Then jump back to the right. (If using a GeoMat, march on 6, 5, 4 and jump back to 4.) Do 3 times and repeat through verse 6.

Verse 6:

On a scale of 1 to 10—try for 7 or 8

You'll see that it is the most effective rate

You can also stay in your target heart rate zone

It's the best method today that is known

March around in a circle.

Verse 7:

Target heart rate is the range of heartbeats

Heart rate continues and repeats

60 to 85 percent of your heart rate max

Use that rate—don't relax

Change direction and march the other direction in a circle.

Change direction and march the other direction in a circle.

Verse 8:

To know your heart rate—you need to know

How to take the pulse of your blood flow

How many beats is your heart beating?

How much work are you achieving?

Extra Bridge of Music

March in a circle with knee lifts.

March in a circle with straight legs.

Jog in a circle.

Verse 9:

One location for a pulse check

Is the carotid artery on the side of your neck

Place two fingers gently to feel

Count the beats—that's the deal

Jog in a circle in the other direction.

March in place.

March in a square, 4 beats for each location. (If using GeoMat, march on 1, march on 3, march on 9, march on 7.)

Verse 10:

Count for 10 seconds, then multiply by 6

That equals the times per minute your heart ticks

Use this number to be your guide

How to exercise your heart is for you to decide

Change direction for the square step.

Verse 11:

Continuous activity is your goal

Remember, you are the one in control

Try speed walking, jogging, riding your bike,

Jump rope, swimming, dancing, and things you like

Change direction for the square step.

Verse 12:

So many benefits—exercise regularly

Better fitness and aerobic capacity

Lower blood pressure—one of the things it will do

It will reduce your risk of heart attack, too

March in place. (If using a GeoMat, march on 5.)

March with the knees high.

Verse 13:

Increased bone mass means strong bones, you see

You may also live longer—significantly

May help to control your weight

Just be careful of what you put on your plate

Pretend to jump rope.

Pretend to swim.

Pretend to jump on a pogo stick.

Do slow jumping jacks.

Verse 14:

Improved thinking, learning, and memory

Say the experts—like Dr. Ratey

Release of endorphins by the pituitary gland

Makes you happy—makes you feel grand

Pretend to bicycle.

Verse 15:

So exercising makes you feel great

Your mood enhanced—so don't wait

Try to exercise most every day

Mix it up—have fun—do it your way!!

Jog in place.

March with high knees.


Cardio, cardio, march, march

Move, move, pump your heart

Cardio march

Show pumping heart while still marching.

Show biceps muscles.

Read more from Learning Through Movement and Music by GeoMotion Group Inc.

More Excerpts From Learning Through Movement and Music