How to apply the F.I.T.T principal to exercise

The definition of exercise is a planned and structured activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve physical fitness. Applying Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type (FITT) Principal, can help you achieve a balanced approach, and improve your health and wellbeing.

Some adults may have physically demanding jobs, and some may have very active lifestyles, but they might not include all of the five components of physical fitness on a regular basis. However, all five are necessary to achieve the best results.

Exercise has to be right for the individual, and any type of physical activity can count towards planned exercise, including seated. A balanced approach to all five components can help to maintain, and improve, the ability to carry out everyday tasks.

People who have been inactive, or have underlying health problems, should always consult their GP before starting an exercise programme.

Never exercise if you feel unwell.

How often should we exercise

Adults should try to do some form of physical activity every day – walking is excellent as it is also a weight-bearing exercise, and stretching is essential to maintain flexibility. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, plus two strengthening sessions every week.

The five components to physical fitness:

  • Cardio-vascular – The ability of the heart and lungs to take in, transport, and utilise oxygen.
  • Muscular Strength – The ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to exert maximum force in one contraction.
  • Muscular Endurance – The ability of a muscle, or a group of muscles, to exert moderate force over an extended period of time.
  • Flexibility – The range of movement about a joint.
  • Motor Skills – The ability of the nervous system to send messages from the brain to other parts of the body.

The FITT Principal helps to provide a balanced approach to exercise.


Cardiovascular Exercise Jogging

  • Frequency – Aim for a minimum of 3 times per week.
  • Intensity – 60-85% maximum heart rate (‘you could talk, but you couldn’t sing’).
  • Time – Minimum 10/20 minutes.
  • Type – Anything aerobic, brisk walking, swimming, jogging, cycling.

Muscular Strength

Resistance Band Exercises

  • Frequency – Minimum of twice per week, every 48 hours is better.
  • Intensity – High resistance.
  • Time – Few repetitions.
  • Type – Weights, resistance bands, body weight.

Muscular Endurance

Light weights

  • Frequency – Minimum of twice per week, every 48 hours is better.
  • Intensity – Low to moderate resistance.
  • Time – Lots of repetition.
  • Type – Light weights, body weight.


Flexibility Yoga

  • Frequency – Every day, and throughout the day.
  • Intensity – To the end of the range of movement, without straining or bouncing.
  • Time – 20/30 seconds for each stretch.
  • Type – Full body and specific.

Motor Fitness

Functional Training Battle Rope

Battle Rope Exercise – good for back

  • Frequency – Every day, and throughout the day.
  • Intensity – To the best of your ability.
  • Time – Increasing.
  • Type – Practice, speed, coordination.

Start with a Warm Up

Planned exercise should always include a warm up. It raises oxygen levels, mobilises the joints, increases muscle temperature and prepares the body and mind for the activity to follow.

It should start with low intensity, building up to large controlled rhythmic whole body movements to the full range. Increasing mobility activates the synovial fluid to lubricate joints, nourishing cartilage to absorb shock, and increasing deep muscle temperature makes them more pliable to minimise injury. Nerve to muscle pathways rehearse movements and improve coordination, balance and speed.

Depending on ability, time and type of exercise, stretching is not always necessary as part of a warm-up. Muscles need to be very warm to stretch properly, so short (around 10 seconds each) and static to avoid fatigue and tension.

Finish with a Cool Down

A cool down keeps a tidy body by putting everything make in its place. In effect, this is working back down through the gears, gradually returning the heart rate to pre-exercise state and preventing blood pooling. Use rhythmic full body movements at medium intensity before stretching while the muscles are still very warm.

Stretching realigns muscle fibres and increases flexibility. Take the muscle to the end of its full range, but never strain or bounce, and relax into each for around 20/30 seconds. The type of exercise may govern the choice of stretches, but aim for a whole body approach.

Then continue to cool down by using simple low intensity movements, marching on the spot, and walking through the feet. Slowly tense and then release the muscles to promote a feeling of relaxation.

During warm up and cool down, depending on the ambient temperature, you may need to wear an extra layer of clothing – something that can be easily tied around your waist when exercising outside.

The template of the FITT Principal may help you to start adding the five components of physical fitness into a regular routine – the A for Adherence.

FITT Principal Template

F.I.T.T Principal Template (Credit: Kathleen Turnbull)

Do not overdo it, always build-up gradually. Any type of physical activity will have a beneficial effect on health & wellbeing.

Blog by Kathleen Turnbull BA Hons MAR FHT CNHC REPs