Language Arts Strand

It Takes More than "Just Do It"


Lesson Overview:

Exercise and physical activity provide many benefits, including those that extend beyond physical well-being. There are many people, however, who do not recognize these benefits. In this lesson, students keep journals of their physical activity/exercise for a week, with a specific focus on identifying the ways in which they benefit from the activity. Students will reflect on the benefits from walking/running (and exercising in general) - such as providing opportunities to socialize, relieving stress and generally having fun. Then, students write a persuasive essay on the need to engage in physical activity.


Connection to Core Lesson:

The core lesson (Steppin' into Fitness to Find an Energy Balance) centers on having students determine their individual caloric needs in a typical day, illustrating the impact physical activity can have in burning calories. That may be compelling enough for some students to engage in more physical activity and exercise, but more often it is the other benefits that make physical activity enjoyable. And enjoying an experience makes it more likely to be a sustained activity. This lesson encourages students to reflect on the benefits that extend beyond the burning of calories.

Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

National Standards 

Learning Objectives:

By completing this lesson, students should:

  • Identify the benefits and joys of physical activity/exercise.
  • Record and reflect on their daily physical activity/exercise. 
  • Write a persuasive essay aimed at convincing others to maintain an active lifestyle.

Materials Needed: 




It is helpful for students to have some experience writing persuasive essays and keeping journals. Without much prior experience, your students will likely require more guidance in the writing process, and they may possibly need extra help knowing what to include in their journals. Also, as a model, you should consider doing what the students do - i.e., keep a journal of your daily physical activity/exercise and write a persuasive essay on the benefits of daily activity/exercise!


Suggested Lesson Steps:

1. So it is displayed when students walk into the classroom, write on the board or overhead: "Physical activity = ?"

2. Give students a few minutes to complete the sentence, writing down as many words/phrases that complete the sentence.

3. As a class, have students share some of what they wrote down. Organize their words/phrases into categories, such as benefits, pleasures and drawbacks. Many of the words/phrases may fall into more than one category.

4. When you have exhausted much of the students' lists, ask students to pick out those words/phrases that describe a benefit and/or pleasure that does not necessarily relate to direct benefits to cardiovascular health and weight maintenance. With those in mind, tell students they must keep a daily journal of their physical activity/exercise. Remind students their activities may not necessarily include sports or workouts. It might be walking to the bus stop, carrying bags of groceries or lugging around a baby brother or sister. In their journals, they should specifically reflect on the benefits and pleasures they experienced while engaged in each activity. Students should also record information about what they did, how long they were engaged in the activity and so on.
5. After a week of keeping a journal (or whatever time you designate), have students review their entries and determine the benefits and pleasures they think will most convince people they should engage in regular physical activity. These benefits and pleasures should serve as foundations for pre-writing steps for a persuasive essay on engaging in physical activity and exercise. Examples might include: providing opportunities to socialize, relieving stress and generally having fun.
6. Have students write their persuasive essays that highlight these benefits and pleasures. Encourage students to read their essays aloud as they write them - the ear is particularly effective in evaluating persuasive essays.
7. Create a book of essays to share with other classes. 

Academic Extensions/Modifications: 

  • To abridge the lesson, eliminate either the journal portion of the assignment or the persuasive essay.
  • Step 7 suggests creating a collection of essays. This lesson is an opportunity to publish some of the more compelling essays and distribute them throughout the school (even the district).
  • Encourage students to write letters to the editor of a newspaper. The letters should be shorter versions of their essays, aimed at persuading readers to engage in more physical activity.  


Assessment Criteria:

  1. Class participation.
  2. Journal entries.
  3. Persuasive essays.​​