The Fitness and Exercise Lesson


Nowadays in the western world we struggle to incorporate physical exercise into our lives. It’s partly understandable as life has become increasingly more demanding and as a result stressful. There are many comforts we can seek out to alleviate the stress but few turn to exercise and it’s enormous benefits. This lesson idea is meant to raise language awareness on the topic of course, but to also highlight all the different ways we can potentially incorporate physical activity in our lives regardless of age. This lesson is for intermediate level students or above but I tend to create materials that suit Upper-Intermediate and mostly advanced students. With that said, ideas here can be easily adapted.


Introduce the topic with a quote like this one:

Strive for progress not perfection

or this one:

Practice puts brains in your muscles

Ask students to discuss it in the context of physical exercise. Do they have experience with this? Ask them to provide personal examples of experiences they have had with this. Ask them if they agree/disagree with either quote you choose to use and why.

Alternatively you can write the word on the board and ask them to brainstorm as many activities associated with physical exercise they can. Afterwards list them on the board if time permits. You can follow it up afterwards with a brief pair work discussion on what their personal experience is with the words they came up with. Keep it brief as there is a lot more to discuss later.


This section is important in introducing potentially less familiar language to this topic. Mix up the words below anyway you like and give the students the categories. Ask them to categorise the words. You can leave out some as you see fit.

  • Equipment: free weights, kettle bells, fitness tracker, fitness matt, resistance bans,
  • Exercise type: plank, squats, push ups, pull ups, lunge,  cardio, deadlift, bicep curl, shoulder press
  • Muscle group: quads, hamstring, calves, core, abs, biceps, 
  • Activity: HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes, crossfit, circuit, aerobic classes, calisthenics, spin class, resistance training
  • Stage of workout: stretching, warm up, cool down, soreness, recovery
  • Aims: intensity, strength, endurance, agility, balance, core strength, flexibility, stability, routine, overall fitness, strength training, movement,
  • Other: heart rate (zones), frequency, intensity, difficulty, discomfort,  gains,  sets, VO2 Max

Once the words have been sorted. Ask students to make 5 sentences, with each using at least three categories of words. The sentences should be about the students physical exercise aspirations. Alternatively you can put all these words on pieces of paper and write the categories on the board with students racing to the board to put them in the right place.

Reading and Listening

Ask students to discuss in pairs what benefits they have experienced if any from exercising or playing sport. Do they think there are any psychological benefits?

Introduce this TEDed talk on the topic:

Comprehension questions:

  1. What are the benefits of exercising for young people?
  2. What hormone helps sharpen your focus and memory when released?
  3. What are the psychological benefits?
  4. What can participating in school sports help reduce? help boost?
  5. What can you learn from participating in competitive sport?

This is a short and sweet video with all the necessary details for the topic and leads nicely into the speaking. Check answers and answer any questions related to the video. You can ask students to work in pairs and discuss if they have experienced any of the benefits the video mentions? Get some feedback by asking students to tell you what they learned from their partner.


This article from PsychologyToday has some challenging vocabulary and is broken into tips on how to convince yourself or someone else to exercise. You can copy and paste the text into a word document and then cut out the paragraphs depending on the number of students you have and groups you want. I usually advise the jigsaw reading style because it forces students to comprehend what they are reading so that they can then paraphrase that information to tell the others in the group, which is an extremely valuable skill and gives additional speaking practice. Here are the questions to provide students so that they can remember what information they need to tell the others.

Article link if you prefer it to the above:

  1. What’s your tip/advise for getting someone to exercise?
  2. What are the reasons/examples given for why it works?
  3. Have you tried this before? Do you agree/disagree with it and why?

That’s all you need to get you started. If you find it too basic you can pair them up so each student has more than one tip/recommendation.

You can also include a vocabulary check exercise for this text, here are a list of some I flagged(use them to check understanding by writing them on the board and asking students to identify which they have in their texts, if they have the word ask them to discuss what it means in context.):

Intro section(in order of appearance): consistently, perceived barriers, crucial step, modify, long-term adherence, intrinsic motivation,

tips section(in order of appearance): commitment, antecedents(pre-teach this!), stimulus, sync, reinforce, consequences, arrangements, self-talk, self-efficacy, autonomy, reacquainting, sedentary, 

collocations: unreasonably ambitious, verbally congratulate,  effectively engage, gradually working, behavioral change

These words can be pre-taught depending on strength of students OR prepared as a short exercise afterwards.

Ideas- You can prepare a matching exercise for the collocations or with definitions for the words in general. For higher levels you can ask them to give you alternative forms of the words.


Use the following questions as a debate/discussion or conversation in pairs/groups. They are based on the vocabulary taught earlier as a way of reinforcing and practicing it. You can scatter these questions into the lesson by having some for the warm up, then adding some others into the vocabulary section or leaving them for the end here. Up to you

How frequently do you exercise? Do you enjoy it? Why(not)?

Look at these different reasons people exercise, which do you prefer? Why?

  • fun,
  • strength gains,
  • endurance and stamina,
  • balance and stability,
  • overall fitness,
  • flexibility,
  • to feel part of a team, 
  • psychological benefits
  • participating in competition

Additional questions

These questions can be incorporated into the vocabulary section as you see fit.

  1. Look at the list of activities we covered earlier in the lesson. Talk to a partner about which ones appeal to you as a way of getting physical exercise and which don’t, justify your choices with reasons.
  2. With regards to exercise types mentioned earlier in the lesson..What are the most/least challenging exercises for you? explain your choices.
  3. Physical exercise is meant to be part of a healthy daily routine. What time and place would allow you to incorporate such a habit in your daily life?
  4.  Do you prefer to use equipment or taking a calisthenics approach to your exercise? Which equipment have you used in the past or would consider trying in the future? Why?
  5. Do you prefer exercising with others you know or on your own? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each for you? Discuss with a partner the pros and cons in general.
  6. Depending on the exercise people may have to spend money to do it(equipment, trainer, facility etc.) Do you think “we get what we pay for”, when we think of the quality of the physical exercise we want to get?
  7. What muscle groups/areas will you focus on when you exercise? Which do you tend to avoid? why?
  8. Have you ever used a fitness tracker? Discuss these questions with regards to fitness trackers:
  • What features of the fitness tracker are the best/most interesting/valuable?
  • What was your experience with it?
  • Did it help you set goals/aims?
  • Did it keep you accountable and consistent?
  • How user friendly was it?
  • How accurate did you feel it was?
  • Would you recommend it to others?

Was this lesson idea useful? You can find more by checking out the whole collection here? Need more tips? Check out the YouTube channel with over 200 episodes on teaching and learning English.

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