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What is the FITT Principle?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The FITT principle is a simple set of rules for getting the most out of an exercise program. FITT is an acronym that stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type, each in relation to exercise. Each of these aspects of any workout program can be manipulated to increase physical fitness, get past plateaus in weight loss or strength, and prevent boredom. The four parts work together for a comprehensive workout plan.

The first part of the principle is "frequency," which is the amount of times per week the exercise is performed. For example, one might begin by exercising three days per week. As strength and physical fitness increases, this can be increased to five times per week or more. Frequency of exercise might also vary based on the type of exercise performed; for instance, the body needs time to recover between sessions of strength training, whereas aerobic exercise can be performed with much greater frequency.

The second part of FITT is "intensity." This refers to the amount of effort expended in a particular workout. It is important to find a good balance of intensity during the workout in order to burn energy but prevent injury. One way for individuals to do this is to determine their target heart rate, and then try and stay inside that zone.

A person can find his target heart rate by first finding his maximum heart rate. This can be measured in a few different ways, but one of the most commonly used ones is with the formula 208 - (0.7 x age). Then, he can take 50% to 85% of that number, and that is the range in which it is most beneficial to exercise. For example, a 20-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 194, meaning the heart rate while exercising should fall between 97 and 164 beats per minute.

The third aspect of the FITT principle is "time." This is the simplest of the four rules and is simply a measure of the amount of time spent exercising. Time is often manipulated by the other aspects of the principle. For example, with a lower intensity workout such as walking, one might exercise for a longer time, possibly 45 to 60 minutes. With a higher intensity workout, such as running, it may only be necessary to exercise for 20 or 30 minutes to burn the same amount of calories.

"Type is the fourth part of the principle, and it refers to the type of exercise being performed, such as walking, swimming, jogging, or weight lifting, just to name a few. It is important for individuals to vary the type of workouts performed, not only to prevent boredom, but to use varying muscle groups, which will help burn calories and increase strength. Using the FITT principle is an easy and effective way to plan workouts at home.

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Discussion Comments

By Spinner — On Apr 27, 2011

A tip I learned from my trainer is to do cardio before weights in your session if your primary goal is to lose weight. The cardio revs up your metabolism, which helps you burn more fat during your weight training session.

By moonTiger — On Jan 25, 2011

With regards to intensity, there are a few different ways to figure out how hard you're working out. You can monitor how many pulse beats you get in a certain amount of time (10 seconds or 30 seconds) and then multiply that number by another number (6 if you only monitored for 10 seconds, 2 if you monitored for 30 seconds) to figure out how many beats per minute. Then you would compare that number to your target heart rate range to figure out if you're over, under, or within your target heart rate.

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