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Cardio in PE: 10 Great Ideas for Implementing Cardiovascular Endurance Exercises and Activities in Physical Education Classes

Incorporating Cardiovascular Endurance Activities into your physical education curriculum is an important step in keeping your students healthy and active. Whether included in warm-ups or used to facilitate circuits, stations, relays and games, cardiovascular endurance activities can be a fun and challenging experience for the entire class to intentionally move their bodies and get their heart rates up. Engaging in cardiovascular activities is not only beneficial for physical health, but can also promote building teamwork and communication skills when students collaborate with one another during their movement experiences.

Maximum Fitness with Minimal Effort: An Overview of Cardiovascular Endurance in Physical Education

In this blog post, I will dive into the subject of cardiovascular endurance, outline why it is so critical for health and success in physical education classes. Additionally, I'm excited to share with you the best strategies for adding cardio fitness into your lessons, and give you practical tips on how to include instant activities, warm-ups, circuits, task cards, relays and assessment in your PE curriculum.


What is Cardiovascular Endurance?

Cardiovascular endurance (sometimes referred to as cardiorespiratory endurance) is the ability of your heart and lungs to work together to supply oxygen during a sustained period of exercise. It is a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen during strenuous physical activity. Sometimes referred to as aerobic or cardio fitness, this type of activity is characterized by moderate-to-high intensity physical activity over an extended period of time. Some examples of cardio fitness activities include running, jogging, swimming, cycling, dancing, and brisk walking. Engaging in these types of movements is a fantastic way to boost one's heart rate, promote blood flow, and improve cardiovascular endurance. Sustained cardio movement over a period of time can also help promote better breathing, decrease the chance of heart disease. and improve mental wellbeing.

Cardiovascular Endurance Exercises and Activities


Why Incorporate Cardio Into Your PE Curriculum?

Cardiovascular endurance is an important part of any physical education curriculum. It provides students with the opportunity to improve their cardiovascular health, increase their stamina and strength, and learn how to perform regular exercise in a safe and effective manner. Cardio activities also help keep students motivated and engaged in the physical education program. Cardiovascular endurance is a critical component of overall fitness and health and can help set the foundation for other physical activities.

To ensure a healthy generation of students, it is essential for physical education teachers to include cardiorespiratory fitness activities in their lessons. Here are 6 powerful reasons why:

  • Cardiovascular endurance activities are a great way to get students to move their bodies and improve their physical and mental health.

  • Cardiovascular endurance activities can help to improve students' heart health and reduce their risk of developing obesity or other chronic health conditions.

Cardiovascular Endurance helps students stay healthy
  • Cardiovascular endurance activities can help students to better focus and concentrate in class, as well as improve their academic performance.

  • Cardiovascular endurance activities can help students to develop teamwork skills and build relationships with their classmates.

  • Cardiovascular endurance activities can be a fun and enjoyable way for students to get some exercise, relieve stress, and stay healthy.

Does Implementing Cardiovascular Endurance Exercises and Activities meet Required Standards?

In order to meet SHAPE America Standard 3, where individuals must demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve a healthy level of physical activity and fitness, adding cardiovascular endurance in PE is essential. By doing so, you will help students obtain the necessary tools they need for their overall well-being.

Cardiovascular Endurance- SHAPE Americas Standards


Tips for Incorporating Cardiovascular Endurance Activities Into Your PE Class:

1. Get the students moving right away

One of the best ways to get students engaged in a cardiovascular exercise is to start the class with a quick burst of activity. To get everyone in the class energized and ready, a few minutes of simple jogging or walking around the gym is one way to do this. Alternatively, an instant activity that requires more complex challenges can also be used to stimulate engagement and enthusiasm among students.

2. Make it fun

Make it fun!

Another way to get kids engaged in cardiovascular endurance activities is to make it fun. This can be done by incorporating small or large group games into your lesson plans. For example, you can play Pacman tag or devise an exhilarating chasing and fleeing game using flags or belts such as Capture the flag. You can also use music to keep kids energized and motivated!

3. Change it up...use a variety of activities

Keep your cardio exercises and activities fresh and exciting by varying the intensity levels and types of activities you incorporate into each class. This will help to prevent boredom and will also allow you to target different muscle groups. You can include locomotor movements, scooter boarding, jumping rope, twirling hula hoops as well as skill-based physical education moments like dribbling a soccer or basketball ball, cradling a lacrosse stick and stick-handling hockey sticks.

4. Create and implement fitness circuits and/or stations

Creating circuit training style circuit and stations is another great way to get students engaged and to increase cardiovascular endurance. This energizing teaching method includes quick, dynamic bursts of activity combined with shorter periods of rest. Teachers can set up multiple zones or learning sections that can be utilized to move students around while they participate in different exercises and movements.

5. Incorporate team activities

Incorporate team activities

Incorporating team-based or relay races into your cardiovascular endurance lesson plans is a great way to get your students engaged and involved. This type of activity can help to build teamwork skills, foster relationships between classmates and encourage students to work together towards a common goal.

6. Give Feedback

Make sure to give feedback throughout the class period so that students know how they’re doing and what they can improve on. This will help to keep them motivated and engaged in the activity. It will also help them know that you care about their success in the class. Provide both positive and corrective feedback. Furthermore, encourage students to stay focused and on task when necessary.

7. Utilize Assessment

Lastly, it is important to assess the progress of each student in order to track their individual performance. Whether it is Formative assessment (observational assessments and/or peer assessments) or Summative assessment (performance tests and cognitive exit slips), it is important to keep track of each students’ progress.


Cardiovascular Endurance- Fitness Lesson Activities

A- Instant Activities

From the moment students enter class, they can jump right into these specially designed activities. They may involve only one action that requires minimal instructions or numerous instructions and movement tasks throughout the gym.

  • 4 Corner Fitness: Students enter the learning area and immediately move from corner to corner using a specified locomotor movement, while stopping to perform a component of fitness exercise in each of the 4 corners. To guide students in their movements, signage should be posted in each corner to remind them which exercise and locomotor movement is coming next.

4 Corner Fitness
  • AMRAP (As Many Reps as Possible): Students enter the learning area and quickly begin a predetermined set of exercises for as many rounds as possible within an allotted time frame. To ensure that the exercises are easily accessible and visible, write them on a whiteboard or hang posters with visuals around the gym or classroom. The aerobic exercise should be structured to elevate the students' heart rates and allow them to work at their own pace.

AMRAP (As Many Reps as Possible)
  • Boot Camp Fitness Blasts: In order to encourage collaborative learning, students are tasked with working together in groups and performing the health and skill-related fitness movements listed on a provided task card. After completing each challenge successfully, they trade or receive another card to continue their physical activity journey....great for endurance training!

Boot Camp Fitness Blasts

B- Engaging Warm-ups

These activities or games require a little bit of guidance initially, but they have the potential to make cardio endurance fitness enjoyable and engaging.

  • TABATA (High Intensity Interval Training) : Students perform a series of high-intensity exercises for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated for a set number of times to create an interval training activity that helps build a person's cardiovascular endurance. Whether in small groups with station visuals or as a whole class presentation on a projector or whiteboard, this activity is sure to engage your students.

TABATA (High Intensity Interval Training)
  • Paper Plate Activate: Students perform various exercises around a designated playing area, each marked with a laminated paper plate. As the music plays, students move for about 30 seconds before transitioning to the next movement with a few moments of rest in between. The exercises are geared towards cardiovascular fitness and can be done in partners, small groups, or individually.

Paper Plate Activate- Halloween Style
  • A Fitness Adventure: Much like a scavenger hunt, students can use adventure cards to guide their paths while they perform fitness and locomotor movements. This fun activity encourages them to move around and stay active in an enjoyable way! Each card can have a specific exercise and then a locomotor movement that leads them to the next card.

A Fitness Adventure

C- Fitness Circuits

Fitness Circuits are timed fitness “mini stations”. Students perform a variety of fitness exercises or movements in specified areas around the gym, field or classroom.

The duration of each circuit usually varies from a minimum of 30 seconds to a maximum of 2 minutes, considering the age and stamina level of participants in the class. Incorporating cardiovascular endurance exercises into your circuit routine can maximize efficiency and boost performance.

Fitness Circuits

Some examples of these may include: jumping jacks, jump and twist, hoop twirls, jump rope, run in place, bench steps, skier jumps, boxer jog, scissor steps, superball bounce, swim strokes, marching steps, and dancing

D- Fitness Challenge Task Cards

Fitness Challenge Task Cards are visual aids that direct students as they work on individual exercises to improve their cardiovascular endurance. The cards can be a versatile resource that can help you engage with students, whether they're working solo or in pairs, small groups or even an entire class.

To facilitate student learning, fitness task cards offer a simple and effective means of instruction. Whether text-based or featuring visuals with step-by-step directions, these handy cards can be employed in three innovative ways:

Fitness Challenge Task Cards
  • Individual Student Movement: Students take a movement card and perform it in their own personal space. When they are finished, they can trade with another student or get another one from the pile.

  • Partner or Small Group Circuit/Stations: Place the cards around the classroom and rotate the students (in partners or small groups) to a different card every 30 seconds to a minute.

  • Power Point Projected Images for whole Group: Project each movement up on the screen or wall for the entire class to perform (look inside the zip folder for the PowerPoint show file)

Fitness challenge task cards for cardio can be found here

E- Small Group Relays

For relays, small groups of students can complete different locomotor movements (with or without equipment) to and from a designated spot in the classroom or gym. When they get to the spot, they can perform a task such as jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, catching a beanbag, twirling a hoop, stacking cups, etc.

It is essential to form smaller teams of 3-4 students in order to maximize cardiovascular endurance. Arranging the students into a long line can quickly slow down heart rate levels, diminishing any desired effects. To keep their heart rates raised while they wait for their teammates to complete the relay task, the students can be guided in performing flexibility or balance activities. The relays can be performed for a set amount of time to increase motivation and foster friendly competition between teams, as they race to see who can finish the tasks the fastest.

Small Group Relays- 3 in a Line- Wands

F- Games

Games that require good cardiovascular endurance keep students constantly active, with only short breaks for rest. Incorporating interesting team games into physical education classes can be a great way to improve your students' cardiovascular endurance.

When the children are thoroughly engaged in an activity, they become too captivated by it that they don't realize their hearts rates have shot up and how much effort they're exerting. PE is no longer just about running around; it's also fun! Examples of these types of games include, tag variants such as stuck-in-the-mud, freeze tag, Pac-Man tag, capture the flag, storm the castle, ultimate frisbee, and modified versions of soccer, basketball, team handball or floor hockey.

Ensure that all activities are organized in such a way that each student has the opportunity to be actively involved and no one is excluded from participating. Maximize the number of touches each student has with multiple balls or other equipment, keeping them engaged throughout their court time even when the action is elsewhere. Ensuring that your students are engaged during cardio-based games is as simple as providing diverse and stimulating games tailored to their age-group. Keeping things moving ensures that the fun never stops!

Large Group Game- "Storm the Castle"


A PE teacher should assess cardiovascular endurance regularly in order for students to understand their own fitness levels and where they need to improve. It can also help teachers identify individual needs and design activities that are specifically tailored to each student’s level of fitness.


One of the most popular methods to measure cardiovascular endurance (aerobic capacity) is the PACER Test, which stands for Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run. This Cooper Institute Fitnessgram assessment requires students to run a specific distance back and forth on a flat surface in time with an audio beep test, covering 20 meters per shuttle. The goal for each student is to complete as many shuttles as possible in the allotted time.

Fitnessgram Logo

The student’s score is based on how many shuttles they were able to complete before they could no longer keep up with the audio pace beep. This test can be done every few weeks in order to track fitness progress and monitor any improvements or setbacks.

The Fitnessgram also suggests and provides healthy fitness zone scores for the aerobic capacity assessments of the 1 mile run and the 1 mile walk. All Healthy Fitness Zone scores for aerobic capacity are reported as estimations of VO² max - the higher your score, the bigger your potential to excel in endurance exercises. This is due to an increased ability to inhale and make use of oxygen more efficiently!


Final Thoughts

Cardiovascular endurance should be a key component of any physical education curriculum. Incorporating fun and engaging activities such as circuits, stations, games and relays into your classes will help keep your students motivated to stay active while developing their cardio fitness levels. By providing a variety of activities that focus on cardiovascular endurance, teachers can promote healthy habits and encourage physical activity among their students. Assessing the children’s progress regularly with methods like the PACER Test can also provide valuable insight for both them and you about their individual fitness goals. Utilizing these ideas, it is entirely achievable to craft a PE class that educates kids on the advantages of cardiovascular health while still delivering an enjoyable experience. Now go forth and make those cardio lessons count!

Do you have any other cardiovascular endurance activities you use regularly in your PE program. Be sure to share it with all of us in the comments below!

*SHAPE America. (2013). National Standards for K-12 Physical Education. Reston, VA: Author


Need resources?

Do you need some PE Component of Fitness Task Cards for your physical education program that includes detailed instructions and state-of-the-art graphics and visuals? If you do, Cap'n Pete's Power PE has you covered!

20 FREE Component of Fitness Task Cards

Fill in the form below to download 20 FREE Component of Fitness Task Cards. The set is a PDF digital download that includes two visuals (cards/signs) from the following sport stations sets: 1. Cardiovascular Endurance, 2. Flexibility, 3. Muscular Endurance, 4. Muscular Strength, 5. Agility, 6. Balance, 7. Coordination, 8. Power, 9. Reaction Time and 10. Speed.

They are simple to use and effective for learning PE fitness movements. Just print laminate, cut out and then place them in sections of your learning area for your students to use during physical education lessons.


If you're searching for a way to take your PE program to the next level, Cap'n Pete's PE Components of Fitness Task Card Series- 10 Set SUPER BUNDLE is the perfect resource for you! It is a combination of 10 of Cap’n Pete’s DYNAMIC, health-related and skill-related fitness-based task card sets for students to use in a variety of educational or community settings. You'll find over 240 engaging, self-guided fitness-based movement station signs/cards (24 stations per component) in this super bundle.

PE Components of Fitness 10-Set Super Bundle

You can download them from either of the following platforms: Cap'n Pete's Power PE Website or Teachers Pay Teachers- Cap'n Pete's TPT Store



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