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Empowering Elementary School Children to Live Healthier Lives

About the Program: Program Elements

Fitness Loops FAQ


What would I see if I looked into the gym during a Fitness Loop?

If you looked into the gym during a Fitness Loop you would see groups of older and younger buddies jumping, hopping, skipping, leaping, and running at their respective stations. After 90 secs the music would stop, the teachers might ask a few students to demonstrate their movement, then the groups would quickly switch and begin the next station. In general it would be noisy and the students would be vigorously active.

Can you briefly describe the overall structure of the Fitness Loops?

During a Fitness Loop the students move through a series of stations, placed around the gym. Students perform a variety of vigorous movements at each station. The activity is accompanied by aerobic music and each station lasts approximately 90 secs. The loop begins with a quick warm-up, followed by 20 minutes of vigorous movement, and then concludes with a brief cool-down and stretch.

How long do the loops take?

The students meet in the gym, twice weekly, for 30 minutes each time. The loop itself is made up of three sections; sometimes referred to as "5/20/5" meaning that you spend 5 minutes on the warm-up, 20 minutes moving through the vigorous stations, then 5 minutes cooling down and stretching. The classes participate for two, 30-minute sessions each week. In schools where scheduling is an issue we recommend one Fitness Loop per week.

Can you explain what students are doing when they come to a station?

When students arrive at a station they are looking at 5 posters. On the theme poster is a creature or person that helps inspire imaginative movement. The Heart Strengthening Movement poster shows the movement and lists descriptors to help the older students perform the skill correctly. There is a flip card that helps teach the "knowledge component" of physical education. The arrow shows the rotation direction to the next numbered station.

What is the large, Heart Strengthening Movement Poster?

This poster shows, at-a-glance, the 15 Heart Strengthening activities used at the stations, along with the movement criteria. Also shown are general "Go Move" movement reminders. These assist older students in teaching their younger buddies about being safe and keeping a positive attitude, while being active.

How do you empower the students to take ownership?

The first two weeks are different than the remaining 19 weeks. It is important to directly teach the new routines and expectations. This is a graduated approach in which the intermediate students are taught to assume responsibility for managing the activities at each station, and learning to engage in positive buddy relationships.

What are the benefits of students working together in the gym?

The older students play a key role in motivating and helping the younger students. This allows the teachers to circulate, to encourage students and to assess the skills based on the criteria listed on each poster.

How do the students know if they are being active enough?

We teach the students that if they meet the following 4 criteria then they are doing a great job at exercising their heart and lungs:

  • Is my skin red? (usually noticeable in their faces)
  • Do I feel hot and sweaty?
  • Am I breathing deeper and faster than normal?
  • Is my heart beating fast?

What do you say to those students who find vigorous exercise uncomfortable?

Some students will find vigorous movement uncomfortable at first. The themes help engage kids who aren't comfortable with being physically active. For some students it is less intimidating to leap like a deer than do a lay-up in a basketball drill. The main message in all of the three program themes is that we begin from our own starting point and take small steps towards leading a healthier life.

What were the underlying principles or foundations of the fitness component?

One of the underlying principles to the activity component of Healthy Buddies is that there are three elements to overall fitness: strength, flexibility and endurance. The stretch following the cool down helps develop flexibility and the vigorous activities develop strength and endurance.

How do the loops relate to elementary PE learning outcomes?


As in the classroom lessons the resource was designed with a close curriculum match in mind. The movement skills included in the loops are found in most elementary PE curricula and are the basis for success in most sports and physical activities. The flip cards also reinforce the knowledge component of physical fitness.

Can teachers change the loops?

Once the loop routine has been well established, we encourage teachers to modify the loops and introduce other elements. Some schools used soccer as a theme while others incorporated the Jump Rope for Heart program. On a warm day have the students go outside for a running warm-up and set the stations to a track and field theme.

What was the feedback you received in the pilot phase?

  1. Most importantly, teachers consistently commented on a noticeable improvement in students' endurance, nutritional awareness, and positive connections to their own lives.
  2. The Fitness Loops worked extremely well at keeping the students vigorous during the time they were participating.
  3. The students responded well to the consistent routines and expectations. It was evident that, after a time, they needed more variety within the Fitness Loops. Use gym equipment to introduce new movements. Also, taking a break in the routine by doing gymnastics or dance keeps the students from getting bored during the Fitness Loops.
  4. Teachers commented how essential it was that students be given ownership. Students are quite capable of leading the warm up and cool down, and will be eager to demonstrate their station activities. Ask students to bring in suitable music to add further variety, once routines are established.