You may want to partner with—or consult—your school’s health teacher for this activity.
1. Divide students into groups and have each group choreograph a short dance that includes a warm-up, a sustained stretch, a movement that counts as a cardiovascular activity, a movement that might be used in strength training, and a cool-down. These will be short (3-5 minute) dances and would not be considered sufficient daily exercise, but they would demonstrate the various types of exercise. Emphasize that groups should develop dances with movements that are comfortable for all members of the group, not just those who are the most physically active. The goal is to create a dance that can be a shared, comfortable, stress-free exercise, not a competition. And not every student has to do the same movement. It is fine, for example, if the dance includes a stretch and some students stretch all the way to touch the floor while others touch their knees.
Provide time for students to refine and rehearse their “exercise dances.” Give groups time to perform for one another and to provide supportive feedback.
Extension: Each day have one group lead the other students in doing their “exercise dance.” This provides the opportunity for daily movement and allows students to experience the roles of choreographers, dance instructors, and dancers.
Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard 2: Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard 3: Refine and complete artistic work.
Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic technique and work for presentation.
Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
2. Like any form of physical activity, dance does pose a risk of injury or trauma. Have students research the most common types of dance-related injuries and traumas and advice from professionals on how to minimize the possibility of such injuries and traumas. Students may work individually or with partners to identify one possible injury, its causes, and ways to prevent the injury. Their presentation should include visuals as well as spoken or written information.
No doubt dance is a wonderful form of exercise, but there are many other things that dancers need to do to be healthy. There used to be a belief that all dancers need to be extremely thin. Now dance instructors, especially those in the more progressive forms of dance, recommend keeping a healthy weight, neither overweight nor underweight. They recommend eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and paying attention to your body. They don’t want their dancers to “dance through” pain. Instead they tell dancers to stop dancing immediately if they experience pain or have an accident. And even though dance is great exercise, they encourage dancers to get other forms of exercise.
There are three types of exercise: cardiovascular, strength training, and stretching. Cardiovascular exercise is exercise that increases your heart rate. Examples are walking, running, swimming, dancing, gardening, biking, etc. It is recommended that you get about 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. Strength training targets specific muscles and includes things like weight lifting and push-ups or working with flexible resistance bands. You should do strength training for each major muscle group 2-3 times a week, but do not work the same body part two days in a row. Stretching or flexibility training involves doing slow, sustained static stretches (10-30 seconds per stretch). Stretching should be done 3-7 days a week.
Whatever form of exercise you are doing, be sure to warm up and cool down. Walking slowly followed by some light stretching is a good way to warm up and cool down. If you are not in the habit of exercising, start out slowly and gradually increase your workout time and intensity. The major mistake most people make when beginning an exercise program is beginning too aggressively. It is easy to overdo and become tired, sore, or even injured. Your goal is to develop healthy habits that you can continue over your lifetime.