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Is the FITT principle right for you?

Last Modified: June 18, 2022

Family Medicine, Diseases & Disorders

FITT principle

This post was written by Kate Creager, MCHES, lifestyle change specialist, Diabetes Care Services, Parkview Health.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You decided to begin working out again. You establish a solid routine, exercising regularly while staying consistent with your efforts. Unfortunately, you’ve noticed that you’re not seeing the same results or improvements as you did the last time around. You don’t feel challenged, you’re plateauing in your weight loss, and you’re not gaining as much muscle as you’d hoped. As you acknowledge these pitfalls, it raises a few questions: What does this mean, and what should I do next?

The F.I.T.T. Principle

In the health and fitness industry, there is a guideline that can help revise and improve stagnant workout plans. It is called the F.I.T.T. principle and consists of four components: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. By changing at least one of these elements, you can tailor your workout to fit your goals and fitness level, further challenging your body, so you continue to see results. For example, if you do not see the desired results, your body could be accustomed to your routine, thus shifting into autopilot. Utilizing this concept and altering at least one of the four components will help keep your body in a state of confusion and forced to do the work instead of kicking back.

How it works

To better illustrate the F.I.T.T. principle and how it applies to those living with diabetes, let’s look at Becky and her routine. She is working diligently to improve her Hemoglobin A1C and hopes to lose some weight. She is consistently walking briskly three days a week for 30 minutes but has noticed she is no longer seeing or feeling those initial benefits. She’s frustrated and feels like she has hit a wall. When using this principle, these are the changes that may be beneficial and help her reach her goals:

  • Frequency (how often): Becky’s current frequency is three days per week. We often have an all-or-nothing approach, and she may say she will increase to 7 days a week, but a more realistic and beneficial step may be to increase to 4 days a week for 30 minutes.
  • Intensity (how hard): We generally refer to physical activity as mild, moderate or vigorous. A simple way to estimate the intensity of your exercise is through the “talk test.” If you can sing a familiar song while walking, your physical activity is mild. Your physical activity is most likely moderate if you can speak but not sing. If you are winded when speaking and must take breaths between words, your physical activity is most likely vigorous. Depending on her current level, there are various ways Becky can up the intensity of her walks, including increasing her pace, walking at an incline, carrying small hand weights, a backpack or wrist weights, etc.
  • Time (how long): Becky can increase the length of her walks to anything that feels comfortable. Anywhere from 5-15 minutes is a realistic and sustainable starting point. It will allow her to reap the benefits while avoiding burnout, which often comes with significant interval increases.
  • Type (what kind): Adding a completely different form of exercise to her physical activity could help Becky capitalize on her body’s muscle confusion. For example, in addition to walking, she could also try yoga, strength training, swimming, bike riding, etc.
Final thoughts

Remember, before starting any exercise routine, please speak with and consult your primary care provider. For additional questions or concerns about managing diabetes, please call Parkview Diabetes Care Services at 260-373-4280 to speak with a diabetes educator, registered dietitian or lifestyle change specialist.

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