What Is the FITT Principle and How Can You Benefit from It?

    Updated 19 January 2021 |
    Published 24 April 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Rodion Salimgaraev, MD, Therapist
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    Are you ready to take your workouts to the next level? Or do you simply want to begin incorporating exercise into your daily routine? Then consider using the FITT principle.

    What does FITT stand for? 

    The acronym FITT stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type. It describes the various factors that determine what kind of impact physical activity will have on your body. These four factors do not stand alone but are closely connected and interdependent. Let’s delve a little deeper into each component and how it relates to your fitness regimen.

    The FITT formula

    Regardless of your experience level, FITT helps ensure that your body reaps the full benefits of regular workouts. By the same token, it protects you from eventual exercise burnout. But what exactly is the FITT formula?


    If you think of a calendar week as your workout period, then your frequency would be the number of times you exercise per week. Frequency should always be determined by the type of activity you’re engaging in. In the case of strength and resistance training, for example, it’s recommended that you allow at least one day for recovery between sessions. Therefore, your frequency of exercise per week will be lower.


    The degree of intensity is based on the amount of work you have to put in. When you’re doing cardio, such as jogging, intensity is determined by the speed and distance of your running. When you’re strength training, it’s the number of weight lifting reps you end up completing. 

    The intensity with which you approach your workout also depends on your current level of fitness and on how often you hit the gym. It’s wise to do high-intensity training fewer times a week, allowing longer rest periods than you would with low-intensity training.


    The length of time you spend exercising is directly impacted by the other three components of the FITT model. Cardio routines, for instance, are almost always longer than weight lifting routines. Similarly, high-intensity workouts should be shorter than low-intensity workouts. And lastly, you can exercise more frequently by doing shorter sessions, or vice versa.


    The type of physical activity you choose lies at the heart of the FITT principle. All other aspects of the model revolve around it. Generally speaking, cardio and resistance training are the two most common types of exercise.

    The former includes running, swimming, bike riding, and hiking. Meanwhile, the latter includes weight lifting, pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups. Depending on your desired goals and outcome, you can mix and match the above, as needed.

    How to use the FITT formula 

    FITT can be applied to any workout routine you have in mind. To demonstrate, let’s pretend that you’ve been overdoing it on sugary foods lately, and you’re trying to shed a few pounds. Instead of skipping meals, however, you’d rather exercise the weight off, according to the FITT model.

    • Frequency: To burn up all those extra calories, you’ll want to train as often as possible, but without over-exhausting yourself. On average, your frequency should be three to four times a week. Note that it’s unhealthy to lose more than one to two pounds in a seven-day period.
    • Intensity: A moderate- to high-intensity workout is good for eliminating excess fat. Your selected activity should be one that drives up your heart rate to a point where it’s more than half of your maximum heart rate. Stay hydrated both during and after to replace any fluids lost from sweating.
    • Time: The time you spend exercising will, of course, depend on your individual fitness level. The longer you work out, the more calories and fat you’ll burn off. But be sure to pay close attention to your body since it’ll always let you know when it’s ready to throw in the towel.
    • Type: The most effective weight loss techniques tend to be cardio-based. Opt for activities such as running, swimming, or bike riding. If you’re also looking to tone and sculpt your muscles, you can add in a few resistance exercises to your cardio routine.

    Your trainer will likely recommend that you follow certain dietary restrictions to guarantee the best results. It’s also a good idea to stay away from sodas and fizzy drinks to quench your post-workout thirst. 

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    The benefits of using FITT 

    There’s a dizzying array of exercise tips available online, but chances are that most won’t even apply to you. With the FITT model, however, you can lose weight, maintain fitness, and increase endurance as well as tone your muscles.

    When properly applied, FITT actually enables you to push your limits just enough to make progress without harming your body. It also decreases your likelihood of developing conditions like hypertension, obesity, or diabetes.

    Furthermore, exercise encourages your body to release endorphins, which offer pain relief. During your period, it can alleviate cramps, bloating, and other symptoms you might be experiencing. Cardio workouts are particularly effective in these situations. 

    Overall, the FITT model allows you to meet your goals by adapting to your body’s unique needs, producing short- and long-term benefits in the process.


    Billinger, Sandra A, et al. “Does Aerobic Exercise and the FITT Principle Fit into Stroke Recovery?” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4560458/. “Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Oct. 2020, www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition. 2nd ed., 2018, https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.

    History of updates

    Current version (19 January 2021)

    Reviewed by Rodion Salimgaraev, MD, Therapist

    Published (24 April 2019)

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