Begin the discussion by revealing to the student that the cardiovascular system includes one of the most important organs in the body--the heart. Explain to students that the heart is a muscle and it is important to exercise all muscles to keep them healthy and strong. Exercise helps the heart function better and prevents it from working as hard or as fast to supply the same amount of blood throughout the body with the same amount of force. The stronger and the healthier the heart, the less likely the heart will be stressed from doing extra work. A healthy heart can be conditioned by exercising the heart so that it reaches its target heart rate. Complete the Diagram Worksheet, the Pulse Activity, and the Target Rate Activity to show how the heart functions and the process of circulation.

Now that students understand the importance of exercising the heart, introduce the concept of using a cardiovascular fitness program as a way for students to stay healthy. Cardiovascular fitness programs involve doing a scheduled physical activity or exercise to make your heart and cardiovascular system stronger. Fitness programs help to increase muscular strength, increase endurance, improve the quality of life, and extend life. Explain the importance of a cardiovascular fitness program. Emphasize that exercise makes your heart stronger by making your heart beat harder and faster. Also, explain that doctors recommend that people exercise at least three times a week for at least 20 minutes each time.

Ask students to identify activities that they could incorporate into a cardiovascular fitness program. Brainstorm with students how they could fit certain activities into their days. List their answers on the chalkboard. Some strategies include:

- Exercises: jumping jacks, yoga, Pilates, lifting weights, jump rope

- After-school activity: cheerleading, swimming, sports

- Extra-curricular activity: martial arts, dancing

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