How the FITT Principle Can Make Your Workouts More Effective

Disclaimer: Before starting an exercise plan, first consult with a healthcare provider. 

One of the biggest challenges with setting a fitness goal is knowing where to start and how to improve. To meet your fitness and exercise goals, it’s helpful to treat self-monitoring as a tool that will help you make progress. One of the best self-monitoring tools you can use in your workout plan is the application of the FITT Principle.

What is the FITT Principle?

The FITT Principle is a basic formula for planning and monitoring your exercise program. FITT is an acronym and the initials F, I, T, and T stand for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.

  • Frequency refers to how often you exercise or the frequency of a specific exercise.
  • Intensity refers to how hard you exercise (similar to difficulty level)
  • Time refers to how long you exercise for, or the duration of the exercise.
  • Type refers to what kind of exercise you do, or the activity you undertake.

Frequency (How Often Should You Exercise?)

You should adjust your exercise frequency to reflect your current fitness level, the time you realistically have available to exercise, your commitments such as work, school,  family and extracurricular activities, and your unique exercise goals.

Since regular physical activity is vital to your wellbeing, the goal is usually to increase your exercise frequency over time or to sustain your current frequency if you are satisfied.

Intensity (How Hard Should You Exercise?

One of the best ways to track your exercise intensity is to monitor your heart rate. You can do this by wearing a fitness tracker, heart rate monitor, or smartwatch. You can also feel for your heartbeat by touching your heart, neck or wrist and counting it over a 15-second period.

Here is the general rule of thumb for measuring your exercise intensity:

  • Low-Intensity: You can do this activity for a long time (ex: moderate walking) without feeling like you need to stop or slow down.
  • Moderate-Intensity: At this level of difficulty, your heart rate has increased and it requires effort to maintain (ex: biking).
  • High-Intensity: At this level of difficulty, the activity feels like an all-out effort. Your heart rate is high and you can’t speak complete sentences between breaths.

Time (How Long Should You Exercise?)

The time you spend exercising will usually depend on the activity you are doing. For example, if you are hiking, you might spend upwards of an hour exercising. If you are jumping rope, you might not spend more than 20 minutes exercising. However, if you are doing a strength-based exercise, time is often measured by your number of sets and reps. In general, it is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

Type (What Should You Do for Exercise?)

Should you use an elliptical or treadmill? Should you do a circuit of bodyweight exercises? Go on a hike? The type of exercise you do should depend on what interests do, what you find enjoyable, how much time you have, and what you want to achieve by exercising.

For example, if you want to increase your step count and unwind after a long day, you might go for a brisk half-hour walk. If you want to build upper-body strength and you enjoy the comfort of working out at home, you might try a circuit of resistance-based workouts using free weights or your bodyweight. If it’s hot outside and you want to do a total body workout, you might do some refreshing laps around the pool in the backyard.

The FITT Principle in Conclusion

You can use the FITT Principle for planning and tracking cardio exercise, strength-based exercise, stretching, and more. However, before you start any exercise plan, you should first consult with a healthcare provider. They can help you develop a plan that is safe and effective. By using the FITT Principle, you can not only improve your fitness level with time, but you can also prevent yourself from getting injured or burned out.

For more information on this topic, CLICK HERE to view the Obesity Action Coalition’s (OAC) Living Well Guide. The OAC is the Producer of the Your Weight Matters Campaign.

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