How Many Laps Can Your Students Run?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Several years ago, one of my colleagues purchased a few hand-held counters.


At first, I set them aside as a useless tool for our large PE classes of 75+ students. Soon after, I asked myself, “How can I use these counters within a large PE class?” Answering this question led me to create a running and walking lesson that our students love!

In our gym, we designate the area between the outside basketball boundary (solid black line) and the volleyball boundary (broken black line) as our track.

Original Floor

One day, I posed the following question to my students:

How many laps around the track can you run or walk within 10 or 15 minutes?

Each student has the choice to run or walk. They can move around the track by themselves or get with a partner so they can talk as they participate. If they run the entire time, then great. If they need to walk and run in intervals, then that is okay. Walkers are encouraged to move at a fast pace.

Our overall objective is for the students to increase their heart rate over an extended period of time while experiencing the benefits of walking/jogging with a partner/friend.

The activity begins by having all of the students walk around the track for a warm-up. After a few minutes, I stop the students and briefly explain the activity.

Option A: Single Class in the Gym (One Adult)

  • The teacher will stand on one side of the gym holding half of a pool noodle in one hand and a handheld counter in the other.
  • When the music starts, the students walk and jog around the track. As they pass the teacher, they gently tap the noodle.
  • The teacher will use the handheld counter to keep a running tally of how many times the noodle is tapped. Do your best to count every lap; however, if you accidentally miss one, then you will not be audited by the IRS!
  • We allow the K-2nd graders to participate for 10 minutes and the 3rd-5th graders to go for 15 minutes.

Option B: Multiple Classes in the Gym (2+ Adults)

  • Each teacher will stand at opposite ends of the gym with a noodle and a counter.
  • Each class/group will be assigned to a PE teacher to tap their noodle.
  • This option allows you to have a competition within your larger PE class (e.g., Mr. Roboto’s Class versus Mrs. Jackson’s Class or boys versus girls).

If you want to go even bigger, you could have a competition between other PE classes or grade levels.

At the end of the activity, the students are exhausted. I love to emphasize how it probably did not feel like 10 or 15 minutes of exercise since they had people to walk and talk with along the way.

How to Calculate the Distance or Average Number of Laps

Our gym is 60’ x 96’ in size. This equates to approximately 21 laps around our track to equal one mile.

If calculating total distance, I take the total number of laps then divide those total laps by 21. For example, if the total number of laps were 378 then 378/21 = 18 miles. We then have the cumulative number of miles that were jogged or walked by the entire PE class during 10-15 minutes.

If you compare two or more classes/groups who may have an unequal number of participants, I have found it to be fairer to compare the average laps per participant rather than the total number of laps completed.

I take the total number of laps completed by one group and divide it by the number of students in that class/group. This figure shows me the average for each person in that class/group. For instance, the girls completed 452 laps and had 24 participants (452/24 = 18.83 laps per participant) whereas the boys completed 465 laps and had 26 participants (465/25 = 18.6 laps per participant). In this example, the girls had a higher average.

Tracking Laps Across an Extended Time

If you wanted to, you could have the students participate in this activity more than once and track how many laps their class completed as they work toward walking/running across your city, county, or state.


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5 thoughts on “How Many Laps Can Your Students Run?

  1. I do 8 weeks of “Clicker Run” each year in every class at the start of class. The entire class walks/jogs/or runs for 8/6/or 4 minutes based on grade level and I click the clicker each time a student goes around. St the end of the timed run I divide their total number of laps by the number of students in the class to get a class average and post it on their grade level display. At the end of the 8 weeks I give the class w/the highest average, most improvement, and highest single day a special reward day. Kids love this activity!!


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