CTE Task: Heart Rate & Respiration Lab

Click here to download the teacher material for this task. 


Health Science Education


45 minutes


Heart Rate and Respirations Lab

Task Description


Using the Heart Rate and Respiration Lab handout, students will record their resting heart rate and respiratory rate, evaluate the effects of various levels of exercise on both rates, and then make a claim about their findings.

18) Understand principles of and successfully perform skills related to Medical Assisting and Nursing Assisting incorporating rubrics from textbooks or clinical standards of practice for the following: a. Temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure assessment

 Content Understandings

Extending Understandings

Upon successful completion of these tasks students will demonstrate the ability to:

  • describe the effects of exercise on pulse and respiratory rates.


To move students towards deeper understanding, they should be given opportunities to:

  • discover the body’s response to exercise based on age and physical status, and
  • relate cardiac output to pulse and respiratory rates.

Support Strategies

If students are struggling to access this task, additional supports and strategies could be employed as students are engaging with the task.

Key Terms

Sentence Frames

Scaffolded Questions

pulse rate

respiratory rate



  1. The runner’s heart rate, or _______ rate increased as he sprinted up the bleacher steps.
  2. When the runner stopped at the top of the steps to rest, his breathing, or ________ rate slowed down.
  3. The runner recognized there was a ____________ between his activity level and his vital signs.
  4. The runner’s ________ system was made stronger by his exercise.
  1. What organs make up the circulatory system?
  2. How do the heart and lungs work together?
  3. How are pulse and respiration related?


Student Resource

Click here to download the student material for this task.

Heart Rate and Respirations Lab


Each time the human heart beats, blood is pumped through the arteries to the lungs and rest of the body. As blood is forced through the arteries during a heartbeat, the artery stretches and bulges slightly. This brief bulging of the artery is called a pulse, and can be felt in arteries on your wrist, neck, and other locations. You can measure your heart rate by counting the number of pulses in a minute (or by counting for 30 seconds and multiplying by two). Your heart rate can change depending on physical condition, diet, and current activity. It can also change with external stimuli, such as being frightened or being placed in a calming room with soothing, relaxing music.


What are two activities in which you participate that might increase heart rate?




What are two activities in which you participate might decrease heart rate?




 To palpate (feel) your pulse, find your radial artery in your wrist. Place the tips of the first two fingers of one hand on the palm side of your other wrist, just below the thumb and to the side of the tendons that run down the center of your wrist. You may need to press firmly in order to feel the pulse. Do NOT use your thumb to find your pulse, because your thumb has a pulse of its own!


RESTING HEART RATE. Find your pulse, and then count the number of pulses for 30 seconds. Write this in the space provided, and then multiply by two to get the number of heartbeats per minute while at rest.

# of pulses for 30 seconds: _________ x 2 = ________ beats per minute, resting



Respiration is also closely linked with your heart. As you inhale and bring air into your lungs, your pulmonary artery brings blood in need of oxygen to the lungs. Through tiny blood vessels called capillaries, blood is brought into contact with the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs. Oxygen diffuses out of the alveoli and into the blood, while carbon dioxide diffuses out of the blood and into the alveoli. As you exhale, you get rid of this carbon dioxide. Oxygenated blood is carried back to the heart through the pulmonary vein, and is then pumped by the heart to the rest of the body.



You can calculate your breathing rate by counting the number of breaths you take each minute. Your respiration rate will also change depending on external stimuli, current activity and your level of physical fitness.


What are two activities that might increase your rate of respiration?




What are two activities that might decrease your rate of respiration?




To calculate your respiration rate, breathe normally and count the number of breaths you take in 30 seconds, then multiply by two. *Remember, breathing is both voluntary and involuntary, so you have some control over your respiratory rate. To gain more accurate results, you can teach someone else to assess your respirations and have them assess your respiratory rate while you are unaware.

# of breaths for 30 seconds: __________ x 2 =_________ breaths per minute, resting



In the following procedure, you will measure your heart rate and respirations before and after exerting effort with a mild exercise. You will also measure the length of time it takes for your heart rate and breathing to return back to your original resting rates. Read through all the steps of the procedure and form a hypothesis prior to performing the lab.



  1. Record your resting heart rate and respiration rate in the table below.
  2. Perform squats continuously for 1 minute.  After 1 minute elapses, measure your heart rate and breathing. Record your results in the table provided.
  3. Now do squats for 2 minutes. Then, measure your heart rate and respiratory rate and record your results.
  4. For each minute afterward, measure and record your heart and breathing rates until you have returned to your resting rates.



Hypothesis: Describe what you think will happen when you perform the above procedure. Include both breathing and pulse rates in your discussion. How many minutes do you think it will take for your rates to return to resting rates?






Heart Rate (Pulse)

Breathing Rate (Respirations)







After 1 minute of squats






After 2 minutes of squats



1 minute after squats



2 minutes after squats



3 minutes after squats



4 minutes after squats



5 minutes after squats



6 minutes after squats



7 minutes after squats



(continue table as needed until rates return to resting OR delete unused tables)






1. Describe what your heart rate did when squats were done for 1 minute compared to 2 minutes. Was this a significant difference? Explain why you think so.




2. How long (in minutes) did it take for you to return to your resting heart rate? Research how long it takes, on average, for this to occur.




3. Based on your response to question 3, what can you conclude about your own circulatory system (heart and blood vessels)?



4. Is there a correlation between your breathing and pulse rates? If so, why do you think this relationship exists?




5. Compare your results and your hypothesis. Create a statement that describes whether or not your hypothesis was proved or if it was incorrect. Explain why you think this happened.




Can you make a claim about something you think is true based on the evidence in your lab work? If so, MAKE IT!


Claims can take a form like these:

  • Exercise affects my heart rate by ____. Exercise also affects my breathing rate by ____.
  • There is a correlation between ____. I think this relationship exists because ____.


Type your claim in the box below.

Type your claim in the box below.







J. Bell, B. Everett. (2019). Heart Rate and Respiration Lab. [Google doc}. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-c45vvX1sfmOQx-yHXuzccM9gBPiKAX8Ns3CCdjt3q4/edit?ts=5f400e1c