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This is the third module of the Healthy Eating and Active LifeStyles toolkit. During this module students will learn about exercise and physical activity. This module, based on the Health Belief Model (Glanz, Lewis & Rimmer, 2002), is designed to:
  1. Help students evaluate the influence of the environment (built and social) on weight
  2. Increase awareness of the benefits of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  3. Decrease the barriers to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  4. Increase students' confidence that they are capable of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  5. Encourage a healthy body image

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  1. Identify their body mass index (BMI) and BMI classification
  2. Describe contradictory trends in weight in Americans and the media
  3. Set and review exercise and/or physical activity goals
  4. Identify triggers for unhealthy behavior
  5. Articulate strategies to lose, gain, or maintain weight


Computer with projector, chalk or dry erase board, internet access for students

Getting Ready

Before educating your students about exercise and physical activity, you will need to:
  1. Read the instructor background information
  2. Review all components to the lesson. You may want to print out the PowerPoint presentations and review the information in the notes section
  3. Decide if you will use some or all discussion topics, classroom lessons, computer lab activities, worksheets and projects. Although it will be most effective if you teach all components, you may eliminate some if you face time constraints
  4. Go into the lesson ready to have interesting discussions and make this topic fun

Instructor Background Information

Overweight and obesity in all age ranges, including adolescents and young adults, has increased over the last 30 years. During a 1976-1980 survey, only 5 percent of adolescents were overweight. By the 2003-2006 survey, nearly 18 percent of adolescents were overweight (CDC, 2009, Oct 20). Overweight and obesity can lead to numerous health ailments including heart disease (CDC, 2008, Sept 11), some types of cancer (CDC, 2009, June 29), and diabetes (CDC, 2008).

In this module, students will have the opportunity to learn about weight, energy balance, and body image. Discussion topics and worksheets are provided to assist students in setting goals and identifying reasons they engage in unhealthy behaviors. Studies show that behavior-oriented goal setting helps adolescents to adopt healthy behaviors (Nothwehr & Yang, 2007). Additionally, adolescents who have a positive body image are less likely to gain weight than those who do not feel good about themselves (Nothwehr & Yang, 2007; van den Berg & Neumark-Sztainer, 2007).

Individual behaviors are not the only influences on overweight and obesity. The environment in which we live also plays a role. Some factors in our environment include friends, family, and other people to motivate us; access to recreation facilities; safe places to walk or run; and availability of healthy and affordable food (Papas, Alberg, Ewing, Helzlsouer, Gary & Klassen, 2007).

Discussion Topics/Classroom Lessons

Topics​ ​Time Required ​Description
Body Mass Index ​
15 minutes
Have students complete the computer lab activity listed below or project the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute body mass index (BMI) calculator onto a screen in your classroom. Give students some sample BMIs and ask them to put them into the categories provided on the website. Follow up:
  • Ask if anyone was surprised by their BMI or the sample BMIs.
  • Explain to the class that BMI was developed to assess body fat. It is reliable for most people, but there are exceptions. For example, if someone, like a bodybuilder, has a lot of muscle mass and little fat, their BMI might put them in the overweight or obese range even though their body fat is low (NHLBI, 2009).
Contradictory Trends​ ​20 minutes
Americans are gaining weight while our image of beauty is getting thinner. The Contradictory Trends PowerPoint presentation explores obesity trends and causes, and body image. When you are delivering this presentation, try to build a discrepancy about how Americans are gaining weight while models are getting thinner.
Split the class into groups. Give each group a magazine that appeals to adolescents and young adults. Have them complete Worksheet: Weight and Advertising. Discuss the answers afterward. Questions for additional discussion may include:
  • Why do you think that advertisements primarily show thin people?
  • What do you think would happen if companies used normal weight or overweight models?
  • Do you think models really look like that?
Video recommendation to be incorporated into the discussion: Dove Campaign for Real Beauty® "Evolution" video.​

Setting Goals​ ​20 minutes ​Goal setting is an important step to change behavior. Frequent goal setting that focuses on diet or physical activity is more effective than setting weight loss goals for adolescents (Nothwehr & Yang, 2007). Goal setting is not a one-time process. In order for it to be effective, people must set their goals, evaluate their performance, and either revise the goals or set new goals (Lock & Latham, 2002).
In order for goal setting to be effective, the student must set attainable goals. Setting unrealistic goals has been shown to decrease satisfaction with weight loss in adolescents (Alm, Soroudi, Wylie-Rosett, Isasi, Suchday, Rieder & Khan, 2008).
Have students complete Worksheet: Goal Setting Part A, then have the following discussion:
  • Ask for volunteers to share their goals. Write them on the board. As a class, evaluate whether they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-orientated. Have the student help each other evaluate their goals.
  • Ask students how they think their lives will change if they reach their goals.
Relaxation Techniques​ ​10-20 minutes ​Many people eat unhealthy foods when they are stressed or nervous. Stress management techniques can help combat stress eating.

Have students close their eyes. Ask them to clear their mind and focus on their breathing. If a thought comes to their mind, tell them to acknowledge the thought and then go back to focusing on breathing.

After a few minutes, walk students through a progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation can help relieve tension in muscles. Starting with their feet and ending with their face, have students gradually tense muscle groups on an inhale, then exhale to release the tension. A tutorial can be found on Web MD or you can search "progressive muscle relaxation" online to find video tutorials.

This activity can be used to introduce Worksheet: Emotional Eating.

Computer Lab Activities

Activity​ ​Time Required ​Description
Calculate Your Body Mass Index​ ​10 minutes ​Have students visit the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute body mass index website at to calculate their BMIs and determine their BMI categories.

Worksheets and Projects

​Worksheet ​Description
Worksheet: Calorie Balance To maintain weight, students should eat as many calories as they burn. To lose weight, they need to eat less than they burn; to gain weight they need to eat more than they burn. This worksheet will help students understand the calorie equation.
Worksheet: Emotional Eating ​A lot of people gain weight because they eat when they are tired, bored, annoyed, angry or stressed. This worksheet will help students identify their emotional triggers and develop a plan to replace emotional eating with a healthier way to feel better. See the Relaxation Techniques classroom lesson for complementary activities.

Worksheet: Setting Goals (Parts A and B)

​This two part worksheet helps students write and revise specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-orientated (SMART) goals for nutrition and physical activity. Students should complete the two worksheets three to four weeks apart. Students should complete a separate part A of the worksheet for each goal they would like to achieve. The process can be repeated as needed. See Setting Goals discussion topic to build on these worksheets. Discussion should occur in between the worksheets.
Worksheet: Body Image ​Adolescents who have a positive body image are less likely to gain weight than those who do not feel good about themselves (Nothwehr & Yang, 2007; van den Berg & Neumark-Sztainer, 2007). This worksheet is designed to help young people feel good about their body, whatever the shape or size. See the Contradictory Trends discussion for additional information.
Worksheet: Weight and Advertising ​This worksheet is designed to engage students in conversation about how weight is portrayed in the media. Students should be assigned groups. Each group should receive a magazine. See the Contradictory Trends discussion for additional information.
Worksheet: The Environment ​Our environment, including access to healthy foods, safe places to exercise, and the people who surround us, play a large role in our health. This worksheet is designed to help students understand the relationship between their surroundings and their health. Additionally, students will begin to learn how to advocate for healthier environments.

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