Pulse Count

Do you have students fighting the calming breaths?

Sometimes, allowing yourself to be calm can be kind of scary. I have found that resistant students respond best to Pulse Count. Find the cuing language on the Pulse Count card from our Move Mindfully® Card Deck

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “count to ten” when you are upset or angry. This breathing tool takes that to the next level. Not only are you counting (probably past ten), but you are also getting in tune with your body. You are literally feeling your body. High heart rate in gym? Good. High heart rate during a test? Bad. But here’s the good news is YOU are in control of your heart beat!

I began teaching pulse count with an overview heart and circulatory system. Then hooked them with the following activity.

Pulse Count

Take a 30 second pulse count. Record data.

pulse count

Do 30 seconds of jumping jacks. Take a 30 second pulse count. Record Data.

jumping jacks

Do 10 belly breaths. Take a 30 second pulse count. Record data.

belly breathing

Just looking at the raw numbers- the kids were blown away at the results. The real power here is in the recovery. With ten belly breaths, the body is able to totally self-regulate from a point of maximum exertion.

Here is a data sample:

  • Starting- 40 beats
  • After Jumping Jacks- 86 beats
  • After Belly Breathing- 36 beats

To bring this activity into your math lesson, double the counts to find beats per minute. See the math lesson plan on our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Doubling numbers to find bpm

Later in the week I had a boy in tears on the verge of a panic attack. I told him, “Remember pulse count? You can recover. You have the power to control your body. Let’s do a pulse count together”. Getting him out of his head, counting, breathing and feeling in control, he was able to self-regulate within a minute. Almost seems magical.

Please leave a comment with ideas of how to connect Pulse Count to other science or math standards!

Be Well,
Stephanie Kennelly

14 replies
  1. Bri
    Bri says:

    It’s been wonderful to see students recognize that THEY have power to control their bodies with the implementation of Pulse Count! Connecting this self-regulation strategy with math illustrates that we value these strategies just as highly as our core subjects. I can’t wait to hear more from you Stephanie!

  2. Linda Yankovec
    Linda Yankovec says:

    I think this is a great idea for all ages of students. I work with adult learners and plan to use this with some modifications during one of my classroom sessions. Thank you!

  3. Maureen
    Maureen says:

    I will use this lesson. This is a great strategy for those kids who aren’t totally convinced how breathing helps them. It’s also a good way to “reintroduce” the concept of breathing calming the body. Thanks!

  4. Nancy Nash
    Nancy Nash says:

    Learning to control yourself is essential. Most people need a Pause or time out to just be themselves and breathe. It helps to reset your mind and body. Forget your troubles and your thoughts for a few minutes.

  5. Rondi
    Rondi says:

    Thanks Stephanie! I love this idea of the kids collecting “data” & seeing for themselves the power they have. Seeing is believing!

  6. Michael Carlson
    Michael Carlson says:

    I have had students simply put their hand on their chest to feel their increased heart rate and get in touch with their body but I love combining that with the counting (and doing it on the neck works better)! I’m going to give this a go and share it with my teaching colleagues!

  7. Julie Ann Porath
    Julie Ann Porath says:

    Its a great way to get into the topic of the brain too. Mindfulness…needing to focus on the present. Pulse count requires concentration and “listening to our bodies”. You can also educate about the brain and how our physiology reacts. When you “pop your top” , your heart rate goes up. Strategies to bring it down are deep belly breathing, relaxation techniques, volcano breath, etc.

  8. Rachelle branum
    Rachelle branum says:

    Great! A simple story problem for young ones. If you have a 40 beats in 30 second pulse count, how many beats in 2 minutes?

  9. Kris Goldade
    Kris Goldade says:

    I appreciated the story about the boy in tears and how you helped him work through it by connecting it with something he had learned earlier – – “You can recover. You have the power to control your body. Let’s do a pulse count together”.
    What a powerful way to help him work through it!


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