Ways to Incorporate Physical Activities Into Lesson Plans

two kids sliding down a slide

Physical activity is essential for childhood development. Exercise supports physical and mental health, making it a crucial daily activity. While recess and physical education (PE) classes provide some exercise opportunities, teachers should also incorporate additional movement activities into their daily lesson plans.

Incorporating physical activities in the classroom can help boost each student’s concentration, motivation, mood, positive behavior, academic performance and overall physical condition. Schools and teachers can implement exciting classroom physical activities to encourage movement during the school day. From quick movement breaks to planned educational games, your school can increase physical activity in the classroom.

Read the full article or jump to a specific section:

  1. What Is Classroom Physical Activity?
  2. 6 Benefits of Incorporating Physical Activity Into Lessons
  3. Ways to Incorporate Physical Activity in the Classroom
  4. Tips and Considerations for Physical Activity in the Classroom
  5. Enhance Your School’s Physical Activities With Thrilling Playground Equipment

classroom physical activities

What Is Classroom Physical Activity?

Classroom physical activity consists of movements and exercises that take place in a classroom. Since kids spend most of their days in the classroom, including movement activities in daily lesson plans is important.

Classroom physical activity occurs outside of scheduled recess times and PE classes. Teachers can utilize physical activities as breaks throughout the school day or implement them into lesson plans.

benefits of physical activity

6 Benefits of Incorporating Physical Activity Into Lessons

Teachers should incorporate physical activity into lessons because it offers the following benefits:

1. Boosted Physical Health and Development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that kids between ages 3 and 5 remain active throughout the day and those above the age of 5 engage in at least one hour of physical activity daily. Exercise helps kids develop endurance and strength, maintain a healthy weight, develop their muscles, and keep their hearts healthy. The following types of physical activity are beneficial for development:

  • Aerobic exercise: Most daily physical activities should consist of vigorous-intensity activities that make the heart pump faster.
  • Stretching: Stretching increases blood flow in the muscles and increases flexibility.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities: The CDC recommends kids engage in muscle-strengthening activities such as pushups and climbing at least three days a week.

While kids can engage in physical activity before and after school and during recess, teachers should also encourage physical activity in the classroom. Families have different routines and habits at home, so some kids may not engage in adequate physical activity outside school hours. Incorporating physical activity into daily lessons helps ensure kids get enough exercise to support their development.

2. Improved Mental Health

Physical activity also supports mental health. Regular exercise can increase self-esteem and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. During exercise, the brain produces endorphins that induce feelings of well-being and happiness.

3. Increased Motivation

Kids are more likely to stay focused and enjoy learning when they exercise regularly. Physical activity increases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that increases mood, motivation, attention and memory.

Kids are more likely to feel happier and motivated during the school day when they engage in adequate physical activity. Some quick jumping jacks or a short dance party can boost motivation in the middle of the school day if students seem tired or unfocused.

Movement is especially beneficial for kids who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because exercise can help reduce ADHD symptoms and improve cognitive function.

4. Enhanced Academic Performance

Since physical activity increases motivation, attention and memory, it can help kids perform better academically. With increased dopamine levels, kids can concentrate in class and do their best work on assignments. Regular exercise can help kids remain on task and receive better test scores, setting them up for successful futures.

Incorporating physical activity into lesson plans can benefit kids with kinesthetic learning styles. A student with a kinesthetic learning style retains information easier when they are moving or performing hands-on activities. Implementing physical activities in lesson plans can reinforce concepts and help students engage with academic material.

5. Improved Behavior

Regular exercise also improves classroom behaviors. Physical activity reduces disruptive behaviors such as talking and fidgeting, and it can help kids perform the following self-regulatory tasks:

  • Solving problems
  • Organizing
  • Planning
  • Managing time and task completion

6. Optimized Teaching

Teachers can benefit from exercise as much as their students. Physical activity can help teachers maintain good physical and mental health, allowing them to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Ways to Incorporate Physical Activity in the Classroom

The more you incorporate physical activity in your classroom, the more your students can benefit. Adding movement breaks to the daily schedule and combining exercise with learning activities can help your students get the most out of each lesson. Consider the following ways to incorporate physical activities into lesson plans:

motions for physical activity

Textbook or Story Movements

Movement can bring a storybook to life or make a textbook section more interesting. Consider asking students to move and act out scenes from stories if your lesson plans include storytimes.

Motions may consist of stomping, jumping, waving arms around, dancing, pretending to climb, marching, running in place, flapping arms like a bird, spinning or stretching. For example, you can ask students to stomp like a dinosaur or march through the classroom as if searching for a bear.

If your students need to read a long textbook section or online educational article, consider reading it out loud while moving. Ask your students to spin around, hop in place, stomp their feet, wiggle, wave their arms around or dance anytime the text mentions a specific historical name, date, event or concept.

You can use this activity to emphasize important details and help your students focus on the reading material. This is also an excellent activity to use while students listen to educational audio or video clips.

dancing to music


Find educational songs related to your lesson plans. Whether it’s an educational hip-hop song about counting or an upbeat song about historical events, you can engage kids by asking them to sing and dance along. Memorize the songs with your students so they retain the information, and have fun with the dances.

Students can freestyle dance to songs, or you can choreograph simple motions that reinforce the lessons. If you can’t find songs related to your lesson plans, you can write your own songs to the tune of well-known children’s songs. As long as your students are moving and learning, dancing is an excellent way to incorporate physical activity in lesson plans.

Freeze Dancing

Freeze dance is another fun way to incorporate dancing into a lesson. Play some upbeat music and encourage students to dance. Periodically pause the music, and instruct your students to freeze each time the music stops.

Ask students to spell a word, or hold up a sight word and ask students to read it while the music is paused. When they read or spell a word correctly, turn the music back on and resume dancing until the next pause.

memorization clapping

Memorization Clapping

Clapping is a fun and simple physical activity for various age groups, and you can use it to help students memorize long lists of material. Students can clap at a rhythmic or metronome pace while they chant the ABCs, multiplication tables, state capitals, prime numbers or past presidents’ names.

Clapping is also an excellent activity for learning categories. Set a timer, and ask each student to clap while they name as many words or items in a category as possible. Categories could be verbs, nouns, adverbs, similes, prime numbers, odd numbers, even numbers, states, state capitals or historical figure names.

Scavenger Hunt Measuring

Allow students to explore the classroom and test their measuring skills. Provide rulers and yardsticks, and give each student a list of objects to measure around the room. You can list objects such as desks, chairs, windowsills, door frames, textbooks, computer screens, whiteboards and shelves.

Ask students to travel around the room, measure each listed object and write the dimensions on their lists. To prevent students from crowding around the same object, place each list in a different order so students have different starting points.

Math Pushups

Pushups help support muscular development and are easy to do in the classroom. Write math problems on the board or say them out loud, and ask students to respond with pushups. For example, you could ask students what 2+4 is, and they can respond by completing six pushups.

If students are uncomfortable doing pushups, you can offer a fun alternative such as jumping jacks. Students can perform this activity as a group if your classroom offers adequate space. Call on students individually if classroom space is limited.

You can also use this activity as a game. Create two giant dice out of foam blocks, writing a number on each side. Ask students to stand in a circle. One student can roll the dice and multiply the two numbers together. As a group, the class can do the number of jumping jacks matching the multiplication problem’s answer. This game encourages plenty of movement that is sure to boost concentration and focus for the rest of the day.

beach ball spelling

Pass-the-Letter Spelling

Grab a beach ball and make spelling more fun for your students. Ask your class to stand in a large circle, and pass the ball to a student. Give the student a spelling word, and ask them to say the first letter. They can then pass the ball to another student for the next letter and continue until the class spells the word.

Repeat the game for each spelling word or until each student completes a turn. You can increase student engagement and excitement by setting a timer and asking students to pass the ball and say the letters as fast as possible.

Spelling or Math Relay

A relay activity is a fantastic way to encourage movement and teamwork. Separate the class into several teams and ask each team to line up at the board with a dry-erase marker.

Write a list of math problems, questions or spelling words with missing letters on the board for each team. The first student in each line can answer a question and pass the marker to the next student as they walk to the back of the line.

Students can repeat this process until a team answers all of their questions. Give each team different problems or questions to prevent teams from copying answers. You can also ask teams to switch positions for each round so they can answer all of the listed questions.

Learning Around the Room

Allowing students to leave their desks and move around the room while they learn can help them remain focused and engaged. Write math problems or short-answer questions on the board, and place a sheet of paper on each desk.

Ask students to write the first question’s answer on their sheet and move to the next desk. You can then read the answer out loud and ask each student to check the previous student’s answer before completing the following problem. Continue these steps until the students answer and check each question.

writing around the room

Writing Around the Room

Moving around the room can also make creative writing activities more exciting. Give each student a blank sheet of paper and ask them to write a few sentences of a story. Set a timer for one or two minutes and ask students to move to the next desk, adding a few sentences to the previous student’s story.

Allow students to read their collaborative stories out loud after they move around to each desk. Collaborative writing can produce some amusing results, allowing students to laugh and enjoy the narratives they create together.

Spelling Hopscotch

Jumping supports bone health and is a fun way to move while memorizing spelling words. Separate students into teams, and give each team some tape and a set of index cards with letters. Ask each team to spell a different word by taping letters on the floor in the correct order. The students can then hop on each letter to spell the word out loud.

Musical Math Equations

Add a twist to the classic musical chairs game by placing an index card on each chair or desk. Write a math equation or question on each card and start playing music. Ask students to walk around the room and sit at a desk as soon as the music stops.

Call on each student to solve the equation or answer the question on their card. If they answer correctly, they remain in the game but eliminate their card. If they answer incorrectly, they sit out during the next round but leave their card in the game.

During the next round, students may only sit at desks with index cards. The available cards decrease as students answer questions and solve problems, eliminating students from the game who don’t reach the remaining cards when the music stops. End or repeat the game after a student answers each question correctly. You can add multiple cards to each desk to extend each round if necessary.

Stretching and Learning

A relaxing yoga or stretching routine is another excellent movement activity for the classroom. Lead your students through various stretches or yoga poses while you ask questions related to the day’s lesson.

Call on each student individually to answer a question after each stretch, or allow students to call out the answers during the stretches. This is a fantastic way to end a class because you can help students decompress while reviewing the information you cover that day.

Incorporating Movement Into Student Workspaces

Help students remain active while they work independently. Allowing students to remain active in their individual workstations can help them focus. You can create movement stations throughout the classroom with the following materials:

  • Steppers or pedals under desks
  • Height-adjustable standing desks
  • Wobble cushions or balance balls students can sit on

If your number of classroom movement materials is limited, you can give students different opportunities to use them. Ensure each student can sit at a movement workspace at least once daily. You can use the movement stations as rewards or create a rotational schedule for the stations, allowing students to use special desks and chairs for certain lessons, times or tasks.

outdoor classroom

Moving the Classroom Outdoors

A playground can add extra fun and thrills to a lesson plan. Consider moving your classroom outside for a lesson or two. Students can search for bugs around the playground if you complete a lesson on insects, or they can create wolf dens using playground areas and materials after learning about wildlife.

You can teach a math lesson on the playground by asking students to count the steps they take or count in multiples while they skip around. Students may also enjoy counting things they see outside such as flowers, clouds or playground equipment.

Playground equipment is also fantastic for an educational scavenger hunt or adventure. You can place index cards with written questions or math problems around the playground and encourage your students to explore the playground as they gather the cards. After students find all the cards, they can gather to read and answer their questions out loud.

Tips and Considerations for Physical Activity in the Classroom

Consider the following tips for implementing physical activities in the classroom successfully:

  • Create an appropriate space for classroom physical activities.
  • Never withhold physical activity from students as a form of discipline.
  • Never force physical activity as a form of discipline.
  • Ensure classroom physical activity is an addition to PE classes and recess.
  • Use physical activities in lesson plans and as breaks outside of lesson plans.
  • Continuously learn about classroom physical activity.
  • Periodically introduce new physical activities to students.
  • Respect cultural differences.
  • Avoid physical activities that students find too challenging or uncomfortable.

The most important consideration when implementing physical activity in a classroom is to create adequate space and choose the right activities. Keep classrooms clean and organized, and always ensure the floor is dry before kids engage in exercise activities.

Kids can grow tired of doing the same daily activities, so continue learning about physical exercises and implement as many new activities as possible. Avoid intense activities such as running to help prevent falls.

Implementing physical activities in lesson plans is an excellent way to guarantee kids exercise daily, but you can also implement physical activities outside lesson plans. You can give kids a quick movement break any time they seem tired or unfocused. A few minutes of jumping jacks or stretches between lessons can significantly improve the day.

enhance your school's physical activities

Enhance Your School’s Physical Activities With Thrilling Playground Equipment

Kids spend a significant amount of time at school, so providing plenty of movement activities throughout the day is essential. Physical activity helps kids maintain good health and improve their academic performance. Teachers can incorporate fun physical activities into their lesson plans, ensuring kids engage in daily movements and exercises.

School playgrounds are also important for physical activity. A quality playground provides an exciting environment for kids to move, climb and explore. Miracle® Recreation Equipment Company provides quality, durable equipment to enhance school playgrounds.

Our innovative playground structures, custom playground solutions and inclusive options allow you to create a thrilling play area for students. You can browse our wide variety of playground structures or work with our talented designers to create a unique playground. Contact Miracle Recreation to learn more about our high-quality playground equipment and how we can help you encourage physical activity at your school.