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Teaching Health-Related Fitness Concepts

This is an excerpt from Fitness Education for Children-2nd Edition by Stephen Virgilio.

Now let's discuss a plan for teaching health-related fitness concepts and active lifestyles within your physical education classes. To help get you started, I'll give you models of practical learning activities for each developmental level. Then, in chapter 9 we'll extend our discussion of teaching health-related fitness concepts with a discussion of ways to collaborate with your partner, the classroom teacher.

Begin with simple learning experiences that are associated with active fun and creativity found in developmental level I. Progress to level II, the level of concrete facts, with relevant examples and activities that apply to a concept. Finally, move your students to independence by giving them the opportunity to solve problems and make decisions, as characterized by developmental level III. Remember to teach health-related physical fitness concepts and active lifestyles throughout the school year, incorporating them into each unit of your curriculum.

Developmental Level I Fitness Concepts:

Physical Activity Is Fun

Fit Is Fun


Students express why they like the physical activity in physical education class.


Large colored banner paper, digital camera, tape, markers, magazines, and one pair of scissors per student


Select one grade level for this project. Take individual pictures of each student moving. Attach the pictures to a large piece of colored banner paper for each class. Label the banner Fit Is Fun. Ask your students to cut out pictures from magazines of active people to add to the collage. Then have students write a word or draw a picture under their photos about physical activity. Finally, have students write what they enjoy most about physical education. (You may have to write what younger students dictate or have older buddies do so.)

This is a great activity to do just before an open house at the beginning of the school year. Place the banners for each grade you select around the gym or in the hallway.

Body Part Identification


Students practice body part identification and develop body awareness.


Chalk, outdoor playground surface, large roll of colored banner paper, markers


Before class, draw a large figure of a child about 15 feet (4.6 m) long on the outdoor playground surface with colored chalk. Divide the class in half, making one group the Hearts and the second group the Smarts. Call out specific directions, such as, “Hearts walk to the knee; Smarts skip to the ears. Hearts gallop to the elbow; Smarts hop to the ankle.” Remind students to stay in their own personal spaces.

Divide students into pairs. Give each pair a section of banner paper and a marker. Have each student trace the other lying on the paper. When they are finished, have them draw in the body parts they have learned. Then ask them to verbally identify various body parts.

Developmental Level II Fitness Concepts:

The Best I Can Be



Students recognize that flexibility is the range of motion of a joint. Stretching prevents muscle and connective tissue injuries, improves the range of motion to fully benefit from the activity, and prevents muscle soreness that overextension can cause.


l pound (0.5 kg) of uncooked spaghetti, 1 pound (0.5 kg) of cooked spaghetti, one tennis ball (kept warm), one tennis ball (from freezer)


Explain the need for warming up before physical activity. Say: “We need to raise the temperature of our muscles before stretching through a couple of minutes of large-muscle activity such as jogging or brisk walking. A warmed muscle is less likely to become injured because it takes more force and stretching to tear the muscle. Experts now believe that to improve flexibility, we may be better off stretching directly after an exercise or activity session because the muscles are warm and circulation is increased.” Give examples of typical activities such as Little League games, physical education class, housework, and gardening. Then, demonstrate the difference between warm and cold muscles. Hold up 1 pound (0.5 kg) of uncooked spaghetti, which represents a group of cold muscle fibers. Remark that the muscle fibers are cool, stiff, and brittle, limiting any movement. Now hold up 1 pound (0.5 kg) of cooked spaghetti. Show the class how warm and flexible muscles can move and bend more freely.

Demonstrate the same concept with two tennis balls. First, bounce the warm ball. Ask the class to notice how high it bounces. Next, bounce the frozen ball. Reinforce the difference in performance between the two tennis balls.

Have students practice a typical warm-up:

  • Walking in a large circle (30 seconds)
  • Walking with long strides (30 seconds)
  • Walking briskly (30 seconds)
  • Skipping (30 seconds)
  • Sidestepping (30 seconds)
  • Jogging slowly (30 seconds)

Muscle Mania


Students practice muscle identification, learn the difference between muscle contraction and relaxation, and learn specific exercises for arm muscles.


One long balloon, poster board for task card, markers, several exercise toners (rubberized resistance equipment)


Ask students to extend their arms with their palms facing the ceiling. Show the class where the biceps is located. Have students place the opposite hand across the muscle. Remark that the muscle appears flat. Now ask them to “make a muscle,” keeping the hand on the biceps muscle. As the muscle pops up, explain that the muscle is contracting.

Blow up the long balloon. Grab both ends and stretch it. Show the class that the balloon becomes elongated (stretched out) just like a muscle when it is relaxed. Then explain the concept that a muscle in a contracted state will shorten and become wider. Tell students that the balloon is now going to contract. Push gently from both ends to make the balloon come back slightly. Have students describe why the balloon becomes wider (Meeks and Heit 2010).

Design a fitness station with muscle fitness for the arms as its primary focus. Develop a task card with the picture of the entire arm illustrating the biceps. Color the biceps red and label it. Describe the arm curl movement using the exercise toner (see chapter 11) and illustrate it on the task card. Ask students to perform the arm curl three to five times with the resistance toner of their

Developmental Level III Fitness Concepts:

Let's Get Heart Smart



Students consider accepting friends for who they are, not what they look like, and recognize that games and sports are a good way to enjoy old friends and an opportunity to make new friends.


One roll of yarn, one book with a plain cover, one book with a colorful cover and blank pages, one large parachute


Show the class two books, a plain book and a colorful, fancy book. Ask, “Which book do you like the best? Why?” (Most students will prefer the colorful book.) Now show them what is inside the fancy book: nothing but blank sheets of paper. Now explain to them that the plain book is an important work of a famous author. Explain: “Just because someone is a little heavy or wears glasses does not make them less of a person. That's just the outside. What really counts is what's on the inside.” Ask: “Have you heard the expressions ‘Beauty is only skin deep' or ‘You can't judge a book by its cover'? These old expressions hold true even today!”

Friendship Knots

Have students sit in a large circle. Take a roll of yarn, tie it around your index finger, and state a characteristic that you like in friends—for example, honesty. Now pass the yarn around the circle and have each student tie a knot around his or her index finger and state a positive characteristic he or she values. When everyone has had a chance, ask the class what the yarn has done. [It connects us.] Explain to the group that classes in school should work together as teams, help each other, and develop close friendships.

Parachute Jog

Have each student grasp the parachute with the inside hand. Explain that they will be going on a class jog up to the large tree and back. Say, “Some in class are faster runners, but in this activity, everyone has to stay together as a class.” Jog with the class the first time you introduce this activity, reinforcing working as a team and some of the positive characteristics mentioned earlier in the class.

Team Concept

Hold up a poster with the word TEAM written on it. On the back of the poster show the class what TEAM stands for: Together Everyone Achieves More. Ask students to describe the benefits of teamwork when they play a game or team sport. Ask them to name a popular professional team that plays well together and is a good example of good sporting behavior. Another example of teamwork is a family working together to help with routine chores and responsibilities around the house.

Components of Health-Related Physical Fitness Principles


Students learn that the components of health-related physical fitness are cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle fitness, flexibility, and body composition, and that they can develop each component by incorporating certain exercises into a balanced physical activity plan.


Four boxes, each labeled as a fitness component (cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle fitness, flexibility, and body composition) and colorfully decorated; 20 index cards, each labeled with an activity or food (e.g., 1-5 push-ups, 1-5 curl-ups, jog in place, frozen yogurt, sit-and-reach)


Organize a learning station for a small group of students. Set up the four fitness component boxes. Offer task cards face down to students so that they can each select one. Have them turn their cards over, perform the activities on the cards, and then place them in the appropriate fitness component boxes. Have at least two cards for each member of the group so that students can repeat the process. When the students are finished, go over to the boxes and check the cards. If you find mistakes, don't ask who placed them incorrectly. Simply reinforce the correct answers.

Learn more about Fitness Education for Children, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Fitness Education for Children 2nd Edition