Designing a Lifestyle Change: Better Nutrition and Exercise

By Michael Flores, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Ten 90-Minute Classes and Two Testing Weeks


Student groups will work to prepare a nutrition and exercise plan for a specific individual. This lesson will evaluate the student's ability to apply his or her knowledge of the digestive system, nutrition absorption, energy access, and exercise physiology. Because this lesson is written for a senior level Anatomy and Physiology course, it serves as a project based lesson that will provide students the opportunity to use not only their science training, but skills from other disciplines as well.

As for engaging students in the design process, this lesson will allows students to build empathy for an individual through interviews and conversations with the person they are crafting the nutrition and exercise program. Students will need to conduct research that will help them meet the needs of their particular user. Students will work together to brainstorm various ideas for their nutrition and exercise plan. Students will submit their best prototype to the user, then use feedback to further tailor the nutrition and exercise plan to their user's needs.

National Standards

Health Standard 1 (Level 4) Benchmark 1: Knows factors that influence personal selection of health-care resources, products, and services (e.g., cost, benefits).

Health Standard 2, Level 4, Benchmark 3

  • Understands how the environment influences the health of the community (e.g., environmental issues that affect the food supply and the nutritional quality of food)

Health Standard 6: Understands essential concepts about nutrition and diet.

  English Language Arts, Speaking and Listening

(SL.9-10.4 -5):

  • Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

  • Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

English Language Arts, Writing (W.9-10.1):

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

English Language Arts, Writing (W.9-10.3):
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

English Language Arts, Speaking and Listening (SL.9-10.1):

  • Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Science Standard 12, Level IV, Benchmark 2

  • Designs and conducts scientific investigations (e.g., formulates testable hypotheses; identifies and clarifies the method, controls, and variables; analyzes, organizes, and displays data; revises methods and explanations; presents results; receives critical response from others

Science Standard 6, Level IV, Benchmark 3
  • Knows that as matter and energy flow through different levels of organization in living systems and between living systems and the physical environment, chemical elements (e.g., carbon, nitrogen) are recombined in different ways


1. Students will interview a user in order to understand and define that user’s health and fitness needs.

2. Students will construct a diet for at least one week for an individual with specific dietary needs or restrictions.

3. Students will construct a fitness plan for at least one week for an individual who has specific fitness goals.

4. Students will be able to select foods for a diet based on their caloric and nutrient contents for a specific user.

5. Students will use evidence-based research to select exercises for a user based on the user’s particular fitness goals.


1. Computers with internet connection 2. Calorimetry Lab - Attachment (Modify to your needs) 3. “How Does Exercise Make Your Muscles Stronger” Article Link: 4. Questions for exercise article - Attached PDF (Modify to your needs) 5. Mediterranean Diet Article - Attached PDF 6. Diet Assignment - Attached PDF 7. Empathy Map: 8. A good resource for how to brainstorm is: 9. Fitness and Nutrition Plan Documentation Record -Google Online Survey 10. Post-Project Survey - Google Online Survey 11. Comments on grading - attached PDF 12. Rubric for Experimental Methods and Inquiry - attached PDF  


1. Calorimetry Lab Materials - see attached lab 2. Computers


Calorie: the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius

Nutrient: a nutritive substance or ingredient Digestion: the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth Absorption: the passage of the products of digestion from the lumen of the small intestine into the blood and lymphatic vessels in the wall of the gut. Nutrition: the selection of foods and preparation of foods, and their ingestion to be assimilated by the body. Fitness: the condition of being physically fit and healthy. Carbohydrate: a large biological molecule, or macromolecule, consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms; found in plants as starch. Protein: large biological molecules, or macromolecules, consisting of one or more chains of amino acid residues. Fat: a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides: triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Metabolism: the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Design: a roadmap or a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation. It defines the specifications, plans, parameters, costs, activities, processes and how and what to do within legal, political, social, environmental, safety and economic constraints in achieving that objective. Empathy: the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about world, and what is meaningful to them. Define: making sense of the widespread information you have gathered through empathy. The goal of the Define mode is to craft a meaningful and actionable problem statement that focuses on insights and needs of a particular user, or composite character. Prototype:  is the iterative generation of artifacts intended to answer questions that  get you closer to your final solution. A prototype can be anything that a user can interact with – be it a wall of post-it notes, a gadget you put together, a role-playing activity, or even a storyboard.

 Ideate: process in which you concentrate on idea generation.

Empathy map: A User Empathy Map can help tee up a discussion about the needs a user has. The discussion will be centered around what was observed, and what can be inferred about these user groups’ beliefs and emotions. Composite character:  a synthesis method whereby a team creates a (semi)-fictional character who embodies the human observations the team has made in the field. These might include "typical" characteristics, trends, and other patterns that the team has identified in their user group over the course of their field work. User-Need Statement:  a meaningful and actionable problem statement that focuses on insights and needs of a particular user, or composite character.



Students should be familiar with Design thinking before attempting this lesson. The project is meant to allow students an opportunity to apply their knowledge of Design thinking to create an actual product.

Before entering this lesson, students will have investigated the anatomy of the digestive system and should be able to explain the digestion and absorption process.

Students will have investigated how various foods contain different quantities of energy based on their nutrient content via a calorimetry laboratory investigation.
  • The goal of the lab is show students that different nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) have different amounts of energy per gram of nutrient.

  • The lab can then be used to open a discussion about how to choose foods based on their caloric and nutrient content.

  • See Attached - PDF

Students should be able to explain the function of the muscular system and recognize the nutrients the human body needs to allow normal muscular function. Students should be able to describe how an individual can gain muscle mass through exercise.
  • The instructor could use an article from scientific american to help introduce this concept.

  • See Exercise Article Link

  • See Questions for Exercise Article (Modify to your needs)

    • This conversation should be an initial investigation for students. The project should lead them to investigate this relationship more.  
Students should recognize that different types of diets, based on an individual’s region, personal choice, and access to foods, affect that individual’s health.
  • The instructor could use the following NY Times article on the Mediterranean diet to start a conversation about diet and health.

  • This conversation should be an initial investigation for students. The project should lead them to investigate this relationship more.

  • Mediterranean Article Link - See Attached PDF

  • Article Assignment: See Attached PDF


Students will work in groups of 3-4 to produce a fitness plan and a meal plan for a specific user.

EMPATHY and DEFINE 1. Obtain possible Users:
  • The instructor should ask for some volunteers or find a small group of people who would be able to interact with students on a consistent, weekly basis.

  • Volunteers could also be students within the class.

  • Because some information may be sensitive, the instructor may need to consider a system that keeps the identity of the users anonymous.

2. Empathy
  • Once students are paired with a user, the students will need to interview the user in order to understand the fitness and health goals for that user.

    • These interview questions should be concocted by the student groups as they brainstorm the questions they think most important to ask their user.

    • Students should be reminded that the overall goal is to provide their user with a week’s worth of nutritious meals and a week’s worth of a fitness plan tailored to their needs. So, questions should focus getting at their user’s needs.

    • Students should be advised to consider asking about:

    •       Food preferences

    •       Food budget

    •       Types of food in their user’s environment.

    •       Current exercise regime

    •       Current exercise equipment

  • Students will then use their knowledge of nutrition and exercise physiology to guide them into a more in-depth research period in which students will use the information from the interview to determine the types of exercises and foods that will help their user meet his or her goals.

  • This research period may produce more questions that the students did not initially ask.

  • Students should record these questions to re-interview their user.

3. Define
  • Students will work together to funnel their research into a specific user statement that will help guide them as they design a fitness and a nutrition plan. For instance, students may craft a user-need statement such as:

  •                 “How might we design a fitness and nutrition plan for a slightly overweight 19 year old college student with dietary                       restrictions who wants to reduce his body-fat percentage, tone down, but not bulk up?”

  • Reinforce that the user’s needs should be represented in the user-need statement.



  • Once students have a user-need statement, the brainstorming can begin.

    • The brainstorming session should focus on finding solutions to the user’s needs, but these solutions should be rooted in evidence-based research on nutrition and exercise physiology.

  • Students will need to brainstorm ideas for a fitness plan that should include:

    • types of exercises, frequency of exercise, best times for exercising, and other ideas that will help the user fulfill his or her fitness goals.

  • Students will then need to brainstorm ideas for a nutrition plan for the user.

    • Students will need to generate ideas about types of foods, types of nutrients, caloric intake, frequency of meals, food accessibility, food costs, and other needs specific to the user.


  • It seems that the prototype will be a plan that offers the user a workout schedule with pre-selected exercises and a meal plan with pre-selected foods.

  • The instructor should show students examples of workout plans and meal plans that are currently on the market, such as P90X’s workout and nutrition plan, so that students can get an idea of what they could produce. However, students should be encouraged to experiment with different types of media.



  • Students will offer their prototypes to their user so that the user can read over the plan.

    • The user should be informed to  offer some initial feedback regarding their initial reactions to the workout plan and exercises selected, then to the food items and meals selected.

    • The user should then try the plans out for 2 or 3 days before offering more feedback.

  • After students get the user’s comments and feedback from the trial period, students should use the feedback to brainstorm some new interview questions.

    • Students can then re-interview their user to get a better understanding of any new problems or needs that emerged.



  • Students can then go back to their prototypes to revise them according to the feedback and the data from their re-interviews.

    • However, students should remain committed to offering plans based on evidence and scientific rationality.

  • Students should also prepare to offer justifications to their user for the choices they are making to help the user understand why certain choices should not change.

    • For instance, a user may suggest that the meal plan should include a hunger suppressant (this is of course only a scenario), but students rooted in scientific rationality should counter with an argument that shows the need for calories as exercise is introduced into the user’s daily life. Students could also argue that a lack of calories can slow metabolism and make physical activity more laborious.



  • Students should submit the refined product to the user so the user can try the plan for a longer period of time, maybe a week or two depending on the user’s availability.

  • The user should document any changes to body mass, any difficulties to maintaining the diet and workout plan, and any other information that would help the students see how their plans worked.

  • Students may want to supply the user with a document that can be used to easily record their changes, comments, concerns, etc.

    • See Link for Online Google Survey 

  • To further help students refine their product, or learn how their product helped, the user complete a survey that asks how the plans met his or her needs.

    • The survey to focus more on needs than on personal likes or dislikes.

    • This way, students can judge, based on the survey’s comments, how their plans addressed the needs of their user. The survey could also show students how well they identified a user’s needs.

    • See link for \\\"Post-Project Survey: edit this survey example to meet your needs.


The surveys filled out by the user will be one way to assess the students for this design project. Since the overall objective is to produce a fitness and health plan that is rooted in nutrition and exercise physiology for a user, the user’s comments on how the plan fits their needs will be a major evaluative tool.

However, to judge the students’ knowledge of physiology, the plan itself, and the science researched and used to put it together, will need to be evaluated. This can be done by using a rubric that focuses on the plan’s rationale.

  • A document that is give to students to help them as they prepare to submit a product that requires creativity and rationality is provided below. This document is not a rubric, but is a set of expectations that can help to produce a rubric if one is necessary:

    • Comments on grading - See attached PDF

    • Rubric for Experimental Methods and Inquiry -  See attached PDF

Enrichment Extension Activities

This project is an extension of the content in Anatomy & Physiology regarding digestion and exercise physiology.

However, this unit might complement  an English Language Arts units that focuses on Literature and food.

  • Students designing the nutrition plan may benefit from writing food reviews of their own menu items before submitting them to the user.

This unit may also complement a Social Studies lesson that analyzes the effects of obesity on our community’s local health, economy, culture. Finally, this project could be extended to include the student.
  • A student may decide that they might personally benefit from a nutrition and exercise plan designed to meet their own needs.

  • Students could design a plan, with or without the aid of their peers, then keep their own records in a personal journal that could be submitted for review as an extra credit project, or as a project for a different grading cycle.

Teacher Reflection

1. Students may need to review interviewing skills before conducting the first set of interviews.

2. After evaluating how the volunteer users feel about sharing personal information, the instructor may need to find a way to keep a user’s identify anonymous, especially if sharing medical history becomes an issue.

  • Students may benefit from a lesson on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule.

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