877-542-5504 877-542-5504

Heart Rate and Exercise Lesson Plan

Want to Help Fellow Teachers?

Please help us grow this free resource by submitting your favorite lesson plans.

Lesson Plan #: AELP-ANA0201
Submitted by: Alecia Gailey
Email: aleciagailey@yahoo.com
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

September 17, 2001

Grade Level: 4


  • Science/Anatomy
  • Health/Body Systems and Senses
  • Physical Education/Skill-Related Fitness

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: In this lesson, students learn about the parts of the circulatory system and how heart rate is calculated. Students participate in an experiment to determine how exercise affects heart rate.

Goals: Students will learn about the various components of the circulatory system and how the heart operates as part of that system.


  • Students will be able to find their pulse and determine how many times it beats per minute.
  • Students will run, jog, walk, or do jumping jacks to determine if their heart rate/pulse will rise due to exercise.
  • Students will be able to calculate their target heart rate.
  • Materials:

    • watch or clock
    • diagram of heart transparency (see Internet Resource below)
    • diagram of target heart rate (see Internet Resource below)
    • a poster with clues about the heart
    • computers with Internet access (optional)
    • paper and pencils


  • Pulmonary Circulation (the lungs) – The movement of blood from the heart, to the lungs, and back to the heart again.
  • Coronary Circulation (the heart) – The movement of blood through the tissues of the heart.
  • Systemic Circulation (the rest of the system) – Supplies nourishment to all of the tissues located throughout the body (except for the heart and lungs because they have their own systems).
  • Blood Vessels – Hollow tubes located throughout the body that circulate blood. There are three varieties of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries.
  • Arteries – Carry blood away from the heart.
  • Veins – Carry blood to the heart.
  • Capillaries – Connect the arteries to veins.
  • Pulse – Can be found on parts of the body where arteries lie close to the surface.
  • Procedure:

    Lesson Introduction:
    Greet the class and give a few clues about what the topic is today (the clues can be placed on a poster if desired). “This is the most powerful and most important muscle in your body; it is the size of your fist, it weighs about eleven ounces, it beats about one hundred times a minute, and it pumps about 4,300 gallons of blood a day. Wait for a few responses from the students. Inform the class that today they will be learning about the heart, the circulatory system, and also about heart rate and exercise. Ask, Does anyone know what your target heart rate is? Explain to the class that they will learn how to determine their target heart rate today.

    Lesson Focus:
    The circulatory system has three distinct parts: pulmonary circulation (the lungs), coronary circulation (the heart), and systemic circulation (the rest of the system). Each part must be working independently in order to work effectively together. Pulmonary circulation is the movement of blood from the heart to the lungs and back to the heart again. Coronary circulation is the movement of blood through the tissues of the heart. Systemic circulation supplies nourishment to all of the tissues located throughout the body (except for the heart and lungs because they have their own systems).

    Explain the basic parts of the heart (right and left ventricle, right and left atrium, septum, aorta, tricuspid valve, mitral valve). (Show overhead transparency at this point). Blood vessels are hollow tubes located throughout the body that circulate blood. There are three varieties of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries. During the circulation of the blood, arteries carry blood away from the heart, the capillaries connect the arteries to veins, and the veins carry the blood back to the heart. (These terms can be written on the board).

    The blood vessels circulate blood, but they are also a way to measure pulse and blood pressure. The rhythmic contraction of the artery keeps pace with the beat of the heart. That is why when you take a pulse you feel for certain places on your body where an artery can be easily felt, for example, on your wrist or neck. Go over the meaning of the word “pulse.” Remind the students that a doctor uses a special instrument to hear your heart beating (a stethoscope). Instruct the students to find their pulse (wherever it is easier for them, wrist or neck). A pulse can be found on parts of the body where arteries lie close to the surface.

    Pass out a piece of paper to each student. Ask students to time their pulse according to a watch or clock for 15 seconds and then multiply the number by 4 (in order to get the number of beats per minute). Do a sample calculation on the board. Students will write this number down and leave the piece of paper at their seats. Ask, “How many students think that their pulse will go up if we do some form of exercise?” Form a quick tally chart on the board (how many for yes and how many for no). “Let’s find out!” Explain the rules for the activity. We will be going outside (if it is nice weather, if not, we will stay inside the classroom and do jumping jacks). We need to walk outside quietly so we don’t disturb the other classrooms. If you are wearing shoes or clothing that is not appropriate to run in, then please talk to me once we are outside and we will work something out. Once outside, remain quiet in a single file line. We will be running around a circle on the blacktop one time. You can run, jog, or walk fast. We will begin once I say ‘1, 2, 3 Go!’ Until then, no one should be moving. This is not a race! Do not try to race your classmates. If I see this, I will pull you out. Once you have gone around one time, line up by the door to go back inside. Once everyone is finished, we will enter the classroom. You can get a drink at the water fountain once inside. Remember to try to run, jog, or at least walk very fast. At this point, everyone can line up to go outside. Once outside, have the class line up with about three students in each row. “1, 2, 3, GO!” After everyone is finished, students go back to the classroom and return to their seats.

    Once every student is seated and quiet, have them take their pulses again to determine if their heart rates went up or not. Time the class again for 15 seconds and have them calculate their heart rates. The students will record the new number on their piece of paper. Find out how many students’ heart rates went up due to the physical exercise. Students will look at the predictions on the board. The students will compare their before and after results. Go over the chart of target heart rates (see Internet Resource below), and according to the students’ ages they can determine their own target heart rate. (Students will need to subtract their age from 220.) Discuss other situations which might cause a person’s heart rate to go up (when you are afraid, lost, stressed, excited, etc.). Discuss the importance of the heart getting exercise (to keep the muscles strong and to allow the heart to pump blood to the body).

    Lesson Extensions:
    Students can extend this lesson outside of the classroom. Students can keep a journal of their heart rate, recording their pulse before and after some form of exercise. Also, the class could invite a nurse or physical trainer to come to their classroom. The class could also take a field trip to a local health club. Assessment: Observe students’ participation in class discussions. Observe students while they are calculating their heart rates to see if they understand the directions. Walk around the room and assist any student that might need help locating his/her pulse.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * Target Heart Rates

    * Diagram of the Heart

    * How Your Heart Works

    * The Circle of Blood

    * American Heart Association

    Special Comments:
    Special Needs Adaptations – A student who is wheelchair bound would still be able to participate in this activity. The student could move the wheels of the wheelchair fairly fast with his/her hands and continue to move with the group. This would enable the student to still be doing some form of physical activity. If a student had a visual impairment, he/she could simply do jumping jacks in place near the teacher or other students that are doing jumping jacks also. If a student had a hearing impairment he/she could watch the teacher’s lips closely when explaining the directions. The student could also watch and follow where the other students run.

    Technology Integration
    – If one computer was set up in the classroom, I would go to an appropriate Internet site that shows a diagram of the heart. Students could view the screen as I explained the information. If there were a cluster of six computers in the classroom, I would allow the students (6 at a time) to view a web site with the diagram of the heart. Some of the remaining students could look at pictures of the heart (from books) while the rest of the class would be learning how to calculate their heart rate. If a computer lab were available, I would allow all students to go to the same web site during my instructional part of the lesson. Every student would be able to view the same material while I am discussing the information. Afterwards, students could browse pre-selected web sites related to the heart.