Measuring the Impact of Exercise and Body Position

Activity Overview: 

This activity is an investigation into the different variables that can impact a person's heart rate. Students have the opportunity to collect heart rate data using Polar watches and pulse sticks, during exercise. The impact of body position on heart rate is also investigated.

The goals for this activity are for students to understand:  

  1. there are a multitude of factors that impact heart rate;

  2. technologies vary in their usefulness;

  3. good science relies on logical conclusions drawn from dependable data.

Students will:

  1. Gather data on heart rate during exercise and at rest in three different positions (laying down, sitting, and standing);

  2. compute male and female averages for each different heart rate and graph each;

  3. draw conclusions based upon the data about the heart rate differences of males vs. females;

  4. draw conclusions about the impact of exercise on heart rate and the relative body positions on heart rate;

  5. discuss  the accuracy of the technology used;

  6. propose some alternative ways to check the technology.

This activity is an investigation into the different variables that can impact a person's heart rate.  Students have the opportunity to collect heart rate data using Polar watchesand pulse sticks, during exercise.  The impact of body position on heart rate is also investigated.  

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)  


Curriculum Standards from:



National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators from:

Each student needed to understand the operation of the Polar watches/Pulse sticks

Science 5-8:  A1

Grades 6-8: 4

Each student needed to exercise and record their heart rate 

Science 5-8:  A1, C1

Grades 6-8: 4

Students graphed and analyzed heart rate data.

Science 5-8: A1,C1, C3

Grades 6-8: 4, 9

Class discussion of the significance or lack thereof of the differences between the male and females and what other factors could influence heart rate.

Science 5-8:A1,C1, C3, F1

Grades 6-8: 4

Students proposed ways to determine resting heart rate.

Science 5-8:  A1

Grades 6-8: 4, 7, 9

Students carried out proposed experiment on resting heart rate in different body positions (laying down, sitting, or standing)

Science 5-8:  A1

Grades 6-8: 4, 9

Students found the averages of female resting rate and male resting rate

Science 5-8:  A1

Grades 6-8: 4

In a class discussion, the students compared the data in these two experiments and drew conclusions

Science 5-8:  A1, C1, C3

Grades 6-8: 4

In a class discussion, the students discussed the relative merits and drawbacks of each heart rate monitor.

Science 5-8:  A1, E2

Grades 6-8: 4, 9, 10


Polar Vantage XL Heart Rate Monitor, Polar CIC INC., 99 Seaview Boulevard, Port Washington, NY 11050, 1-800-227-1314,

Polar Pacer Heart Rate Monitor, Polar CIC INC., 99 Seaview Boulevard, Port Washington, NY 11050, 1-800-227-1314, Available:

Pulse Stick Model MPM-2

The students’ learning will be assessed by evaluating student responses on the activity sheet, evaluating their performance during the activity, and their responses to the final unit assessment.

Heart and Health Unit - Rubric

Rating Scale:

Name _________________

4 = exceeding 
3 = meeting 
2 = meeting 
      standards in 
      some areas, 
      but not in others
1 = needs work



____ Knows the structure of the heart (right atrium, left atrium, right ventricle, left ventricle, semi-lunar valves, bicuspid and tricuspid valves, aorta, pulmonary artery, superior & inferior vena cava, pulmonary vein)

____ Knows the function of each chamber and valve (right atrium, left atrium, right ventricle, left ventricle, semi-lunar valves, bicuspid and tricuspid valves)

____ Knows that arteries carry blood away and are thicker walled & that veins carry blood to the heart and that capillaries are the tiny vessels linking both

____ Knows the four components of blood are red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma and knows the relative volume of each

____ Knows the function of each of the four components of blood

____ Knows the four parts of the respiratory system are bronchi, 
bronchioles, alveoli and diaphragm

____ Knows blood pressure consists of systolic pressure over diastolic pressure

____ Knows the effects of continued high blood pressure

____ Understands the impact of exercise on heart rate

____ Understands the impact of body position on heart rate

____ Can explain the reason for the heart rate reaction to exercise

____ Is able to evaluate technology (Polar watches vs. Pulse stick) for accuracy

___ Is able to evaluate the "significance of number differences"

___ Is able to design an experiment to measure heart rate, analyze data, and draw conclusions

____ Understands the impact of lifestyle choices on a healthy heart

Dr. Lyn Le Countryman, Malcolm Price Laboratory School, Cedar Falls, Iowa

This activity is the second activity in the Healthy Heart Unit. The first activity involved an exploratory pig heart dissection. This dissection served as the jump off point for a discussion of the parts of the heart and how each part worked together to pump blood. Students have some intuitive notions about the function of the blood and heart because of their experiences. These experiences serve as the basis for this activity. Using heart monitors, students are able to challenge their views of how the heart reacts to exercise. After these activities are complete, students will role-play blood cells in their path through the heart. This role-play will lead into a discussion of cells and an opportunity to see cheek and blood cells under a microscope. The unit is tied together with a variety of activities using blood pressure monitors to investigate blood pressure. The impact of high blood pressure and lifestyle choices have upon health are discussed as a conclusion to the unit.

This activity would normally take three - four 45 minute long periods. Since we have blocked periods (90 minute long periods) this will take two days.

This is not a reenactment. Students began the activity yesterday and used the heart rate monitors for the first time. This is the conclusion of the investigation of the impact of exercise has on heart rate. To facilitate the discussion, I did make a table using the data students gathered yesterday and I handed it out at the beginning of class.

The first time I did this activity, I had students count their own heart rates. This worked, but produced some inaccuracies due to students having a difficult time finding their heart rate.

Each year this activity has new twists and turns. Although students come up with similar data and explanations there are usually some unusual twists and additional experiments we do to answer student generated questions. One of the great side routes we took was when students questioned whether age made any difference to heart rate. They devised an experiment to collect data from a variety of age groups and compared their findings. They found that often younger kids have higher resting heart rates. They confirmed their findings in a RED CROSS CPR book listing average heart rates for infants and small children.

Technology Resources:
The technology materials I used were Polar Heart Rate Watches and for the first time I used Pulse Sticks. I chose these resources because the PE department purchased sixteen Polar Heart Rate Monitors. This enabled me to move from "manual" heart rate monitoring. This year the PE department added Pulse Sticks. I used these because they were available. I would not purchase Pulse sticks for my class because they are so finicky. In addition the battery compartments corrode easily and then they become unusable. I like using the Polar Watches because it is a technology well within the reach of these students and allows them to obtain immediate accurate results on heart rate. Although one can do this lab having students "manually count their own heart rate", kids are curious and motivated by the technology. When working with middle school students, motivation is everything.

School Background Information:
The town of Cedar falls, Iowa has a population of 36,145 people. Most parents are employed in industry and service occupations in the two adjoining cities.  The enrollment preK-12 is 539 students. The percentage of students who have limited English fluency is 2%.

Teaching Strategy:
I chose the teaching strategy of allowing students to collect their own data on heart rate because it is an inquiry method. I believe students learn better when they collect information first hand and work to make sense out of the information through help from their instructor. Students need to construct their own meaning from their experiences.

Teachers are there to guide them and to provide the experiences that focus students attention on specific concepts.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.

In the Principles of LearningActive Involvement andDirect Experience are evident throughout the activity. Students are collecting data on their own bodies and sharing this information with others. Students are required to findPatterns and Connections in the data they have collected. They have to connect the previous information about how the heart works as a pump with how it reacts given different body requirements. They have to reflect on the data and drawn conclusions from it. You also see this Reflectionwhen they question the validity of the technology they used and the data they analyzed. Informal Learning can be seen throughout the activity with students helping students and discussing information. Teachers are learners in this classroom community and the students often share responsibility informally as the teacher. This activity presents students with a Compelling Situation, in that it requires them to investigate a topic near and dear to their hearts, themselves. Young adolescents are just entering in a new facet of their lives where their bodies are changing rapidly. Because of this, they are very interested in what their bodies do and why. Having them study their bodies helps them cope with some of the changes they are beginning to experience. This activity provides anEnjoyable Setting because it allows them to move around, communicate with their classmates, and enter into lively class discussions.

The Information Processing part of the model, at first glance, doesn't appear applicable, but when viewed in the context of a science activity essential parts of this section are evident. The Appreciation and the Presearch were implemented in the heart dissection activity immediately prior to this heart rate activity. During this activity theSearchInterpretationCommunication, and Evaluationwere obvious. Students had to seek relevant information by collecting heart rate information (Search). They had to interpret this information, communicate it to others in class discussions, and evaluate the validity of their conclusions and the technology.

Many Content Standards were met during this activity. Students worked on the science standard Unifying Concepts and Processes. They investigated the reaction of the cardiovascular system and how different factors influence heart rate (Systems, Order and Organization). The students also looked at the heart rate evidence and devised explanations for this evidence (Evidence, Models & Explanations). They measured heart rate (Constancy, Change and Measurement) while at the same time used their previous knowledge of the form of the heart to apply it to its function (Form and Function). In Science Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry, it is clear that in this activity students were developing the abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: asking questions about the heart, employing tools , Polar watches, to gather data, use data to construct a reasonable explanation, and communicate these explanations. In Science Content Standard C: Life Science, students look at the structure and function of the heart and its role in the cardiovascular system. (Structure and Function in Living Systems). In addition, they investigate the role of the heart in regulating the internal environment of the body by sensing needs within the body and changing rate to meet those needs (Regulation and Behavior). InScience Content Standard E: Science and Technology, when students evaluate the relative accuracy of Polar watchesand Pulse sticks they learn that certain technological designs have constraints (Understandings about Science and Technology). Finally, as part of Science Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives, in this activity they begin to develop the experiences that will allow them to see that choices they make impact the health of their heart (Personal Health). During the discussion after this activity students started to bring up the fact that exercise may be good for your health.

The last part of the model involves the Tenets of Democracy. In my classroom I work to get students to listen to other students, make eye contact, and refrain from negative comments (Tolerance). In the first days of the year, our seventh grade team worked with the class so they could build their classroom expectations. We realize that students want and need a voice in decisions. They came up with these expectations: 1. Be nice to everyone.(Treat others how you expect them to treat you.) 2. Be polite. 3. Listen in class & pay attention. (Be prepared.) 4. Do homework. 5. Chew gum responsibly. 6. Refrain from bringing bags or hats to class. Although these students honorable intentions,Tolerance is an attitude we continue to work on. Students have to use Critical Thinking and Decision Making to analyze their data. Through the class discussions we Think Together and Make Meaning. Students are empowered in this activity as their data and conclusions drive the discussions. In the end students take Individual Responsibility to return equipment in proper condition.

For the Technology section of the model, the students are still learning the Basic Technology Equipment Operations, students still look to me as the primary troubleshooter, and this is an area in which I need to improve. I have a tendency to go ahead and troubleshoot because I am more interested in getting students operational than teaching them how to troubleshoot.

Student Characteristics:
Characteristics of students in this class that affect this activity are that they are extremely talkative, enjoy socializing and are eager to volunteer answers. The boys tend to be more willing to volunteer and you can see I have to work hard to get answers from the girls in my class. I think it is critical to involve everyone in the discussion and the activity, so they will all see themselves as players in this community.

Evolution of the Activity:
The first time I did this activity, I had students count their own heart rate. This worked, but produced some inaccuracies due to students having a difficult time finding their heart rate.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology