Health Vocabulary


Health: a state of complete physical, mental and social well- being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Wellness: the process of adopting patterns of behavior that can lead to improved health and heightened life satisfaction.

Wellbeing: a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity.

Body Mass Index (BMI): a number calculated from one's weight and height.  BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness.

Obesity: a label given when a person is well over one's normal healthy weight, a BMI of 30.

Overweight: a label given when a person's weight is greater than what is generally considered healthy for that given height, a BMI of 25-29.9.



Nutrition: the taking in and use of food and other nourishing materials by the body.

Calorie: A unit used to measure food energy. It is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C.

MyPyramid:  the symbol and interactive food guidance system developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that encourages consumers to make healthier food choices and to be active every day. It recommends the proportion of foods from each food group and focuses on the importance of making smart food choices from every food group each day.  Recognizing that “one size does not fit all,” MyPyramid uses a personalized approach to nutrition. An individual’s age, gender and activity level influence the amounts of food needed from each of the five food groups every day. MyPyramid incorporates recommendations from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.   ( (Currently, there are new guidelines in place, and the government have decided to drop the pyramid shaped illustration to replace it with a plate model called MyPlate.)

MyPlate: USDA icon that shows individuals what a healthy meal should consist of (i.e. the four main food groups- fruits and vegetables, meat, protein and dairy)  and how much of each food group should be consumed.  (



Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.

Moderate-intensity physical activity: On an absolute scale, physical activity that is done at 3.0 to 5.9 times the intensity of rest. On a scale relative to an individual's personal capacity, moderate-intensity physical activity is usually a 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10.

Vigorous-intensity physical activity: On an absolute scale, physical activity that is done at 6.0 or more times the intensity of rest. On a scale relative to an individual's personal capacity, vigorous-intensity physical activity is usually a 7 or 8 on a scale of 0 to 10. 

Physical Education: a planned, sequential program of curricula and instruction that helps students develop the knowledge, attitudes, motor skills, self-management skills and confidence needed to adopt and maintain physically active lifestyles (teacher directed). 

Recess: unstructured playtime where children have choices; develop rules for play and release energy and stress. It is an opportunity for children to practice or use skills developed in physical education (teacher facilitated).7

Play: how young children physically explore their environment to facilitate language, creativity, and social skills.  Play may or may not include moderate to vigorous physical activity (child directed).



skills that children need to master in order to successfully engage in various physical activities and recreational sports; there are three kinds of skills: locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative

Locomotor skills: a skill using the feet to move from one place to another or project the body upward

  • Walking - the process of alternately losing balance and recovering while moving forward or backward in an upright position
  • Running - same as walking but at a faster rate with brief moments of flight when both feet are off the ground
  • Jumping - a springing action leaving the ground with one or two feet and landing on two feet
  • Galloping - a combination of a step and a run in which there is a lead leg and a trail leg (same leg stays in front) - forward direction
  • Sliding - a combination of a step and a run in a sideways direction
  • Hopping - a springing action leaving the ground with one foot and landing on the same foot
  • Leaping - an extension of a run using greater force; leaving the ground with one foot and landing on the opposite foot
  • Skipping - a combination of a step and a hop, alternating feet

Non-locomotor skills:

  • Twisting - the rotation of a selected body part around its long axis
  • Bending - moving a joint
  • Swaying - fluidly and gradually shifting the center of gravity from one body part to another
  • Stretching - moving body parts away from the center of gravity 
  • Turning - rotating the body along the long axis
  • Swinging - rhythmical, smooth motion of a body part resembling a pendulum

Manipulative skills

  • Throwing - propelling an object away from the body using your hands
  • Catching - receiving and controlling an object using the body or its parts
  • Striking - making contact with an objecting using another object
  • Kicking - making contact with an object using your feet
  • Dribbling -  the skill of striking an object multiple times in a row (using hands or feet)
  • Volleying - making contact with an object using body parts
  • Punting - the skill of kicking an object that has been released from the hands, while it is still in the air



Body awareness: what the body can do (transfering weight, balancing, flight, etc)
Space awareness: where the body moves (personal, general, directions, levels, pathways, etc)
Effort awareness: how the body moves (time, speed, effort, force, etc)
Relationships awareness: how the body relates to objects and others (matching movements, mirroring movements, etc)



a set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range.  Although each milestone has an age level, the actual age when a normally developing child reaches that milestone can vary quite a bit.  REMEMBER, every child is unique!  To learn more about developmental milestones please check out a wonderful age-specific table from PBS.



Cardiovascular endurance:  the body's ability to undergo vigorous exercise for an extended period of time (aerobic/anaerobic).

Muscular strength:  the amount of force a muscle can produce (one time).

Muscular endurance:  the muscle's ability to produce force over a period of time (repetition).

Flexibility:  the capacity of a joint to undergo vigorous exercise for an extended period of time (improved range of motion).

Body composition:  the amount of fat cells compared to lean body mass (BMI).



World Health Organization -
Teague, S., Mackenzie, S., and Rosenthal, D. (2007).  Your Health Today.  McGraw-Hill: New York, NY. - 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - 
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD) -
Virgilio, S. (2006).  Active Start for Healthy Kids.  Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL.


  • Preservice Teachers Learn to Use Be Active Kids in Limited Spaces

    I really enjoyed our class meeting. It was interesting to discover that you can do just about anything with children in the classroom where there may not be much space to encourage them to be active.  A change that I will make in my own life is to be more active, as well as my daughter. I will share this information with my friends that have children such as yoga animals, or Simon Says.

    Cathy Sesta, Parent & Child Care Provider
  • Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute

    Thank you for inviting me to be part of this year’s Institute. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the experience. You’re doing amazing work and I hope I’ll be able to continue contributing to it a bunch in the future.

    Rae Pica,
  • Plenty of Resources That I Can Use and Share

    This class was informative, and I look forward to being physically active with young children. On Friday, I volunteered at a Parents Night Out through my daughter's school. When I got there the kids were watching a movie. I got them up to play Simon Says and Red Light Green Light, however, after that I was stuck on what to do. I wish I had the knowledge I gained from this class, to have made it more exciting.

    I enjoyed your Land and Lake Activity.

    Venessa Wright, Parent & Child Care Provider
  • Be Active Kids Trainers Rock!

    I loved the training.  I would have loved it more if I had the other teachers from my center there also.  I am really looking forward to taking my kit to work and sharing it with my staff.  I liked Brittney, she reminded me of myself as far as being very active and motivated.  When I am at work with my little ones we stay busy all day.  I feel like singing my instructions and dancing my actions helps them to focus better on what I need for them to do.  Britney was great and I learned a lot from her. I am always trying to find new little ways to get the kids moving.

    Tiffany Daniel, Sandhill Community College

    The Early Childhood Physical Activity Institute was just wonderful!  Thank you again for including me in such an important effort to create and sustain leaders in EC physical activity. I would love to return to NC anytime that you think I can help. I enjoyed meeting the folks who work with you and hearing about all of the great things that are planned. 

    Linda Carson, Choosy Kids
  • Be Active Kids has Much to Offer

    Congratulations to you and everyone who has been promoting PA for young
    children in NC. You have much to be proud of here. Be Active Kids is an excellent source of ideas for promoting active play in unstructured settings. The Be Active Kids website also has resources on promoting unstructured active play. I encourage folks to review these resources. 

    Diane Craft, SUNY Cortland & Active Play Books