What is the FITT Principle? - Definition, Components & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Does FITT Stand For?
  • 1:12 How Do These Pieces…
  • 2:10 Using the FITT Principle
  • 2:18 Frequency and Intensity
  • 4:06 Time and Type
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Everyone struggles with figuring out an exercise plan that works for them. One principle used in the fitness world is the FITT Principle. This lesson explains what FITT means and how to apply it to your exercise regimen.

What Does FITT Stand For?

It can be so confusing to filter out the differences between fad diets and legitimate exercise advice. Late-night infomercials count on this confusion to sell all sorts of gadgets and supplements promising a quick fix that doesn't exist. Unfortunately, there's no secret to losing weight in a healthy way; it requires eating well and incorporating physical activity into your schedule.

One tried-and-true method to forming a fitness plan that works for you is to apply the FITT Principle. FITT stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type. Let's break each of these down and look at them one at a time:

  • Frequency is how often you exercise. Usually we measure this by number of days each week.
  • Intensity is how hard your exercise. We might categorize this as low, moderate, or high intensity.
  • Time refers to the time of day you exercise and how long each session lasts.
  • Type refers to what kind of exercise you are doing. For example, you might do cardiovascular activity (also known simply as 'cardio'), strength training, or a combination of the two.

How Do These Pieces Fit Together?

Each component of the FITT Principle is interconnected. For example, if you work out at a high intensity, you usually work out for less time and fewer days per week. In contrast, if you work out at a low intensity, you will work out more days per week, and each session may last a bit longer.

However, when deciding on an exercise plan, you have to keep in mind your personal goals. Are you exercising to lose weight? Are you exercising to gain endurance? Are you exercising to increase your strength? Your goal will heavily influence how you use the FITT Principle to develop your plan.

When identifying your goals, it's also important to be realistic. How much time can you really spend exercising each day or week? What is your current physical state? It's unrealistic to think you can transition from a couch potato to a marathon runner in the first week. One of the greatest things about the FITT Principle is that it's flexible; you can adjust your plan as your physical condition changes over time.

Using the FITT Principle

Let's look at some examples of how the FITT Principle might work. Everyone's starting point is different, but here are some very general examples.


When considering frequency, you might also factor in other components. If you're focusing on cardio exercise like running or walking at a moderate intensity, you might exercise five times each week. If you're doing cardio activity at a high intensity, you might only exercise three times each week. In contrast, if you're focusing on strength training, you might do that two to three times each week on non-consecutive days to avoid overworking the muscles.


How do we measure intensity? This is a fairly subjective measure. You could measure your intensity on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest exertion and 10 being the most strenuous activity. Using this metric, moderate intensity might be a 5 or 6, while high intensity is a 7 or 8.

Another option is to use your heart rate as a proxy for intensity. In general, subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate in beats per minute (bpm). For example, if you are 30 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 220 - 30 = 190 bpm.

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