• How to Get FITT!


    All three types of exercise — cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching, — are important for physical fitness. Interval training, an advanced cardiovascular training technique, offers additional benefits.

    Start where you are most comfortable. Then use the acronym FITT for an easy way to remember how to continually adjust your exercise to improve your fitness.

    FITT stands for —




    Type of exercise

    By slightly altering the Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type of exercise you do, as you are able, you will be on your way to getting fit! You can print this chart here. (PDF) 

    How to Get FITT chart 

    What Types of Exercise Are Best?

    If your doctor agrees, you should do whatever types of exercise you are able to do. However, a variety of the three main types—cardiovascular (or aerobic) exercise, strength training, and stretching — is best because different types of exercise serve different functions for your body. 

    Each time you exercise, it’s important to start slowly by warming up with an activity like walking or biking for 5 to 10 minutes, then increasing the pace. A cooling down period of slower activity lasting 5 to 10 minutes afterward is equally important. With any new exercise plan, check with your doctor if you are at risk and follow the advice of qualified health professionals.





    Cardiovascular Aerobic Exercise

    Repetitive, rhythmic exercise that increases your heart rate and requires you to use more oxygen is called aerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise, or “cardio” for short.

    Cardio exercise is imperative to your heart health for many reasons.

    • Cardio provides aerobic conditioning—this is when the heart muscle becomes stronger and enlarged due to exercise, which makes it pump more efficiently. Therefore, your resting heart rate is reduced and the heart doesn’t need to work as hard.
    • Cardio strengthens the muscles used during breathing and throughout the body.
    • Cardio burns extra calories, which helps reduce body fat and manage weight.
    • Cardio improves circulation.
    • Cardio increases red blood cells in the body, which helps transport oxygen to all tissues of the body that need it.
    • Cardio improves mental health, reduces stress, and lowers the incidence of depression.
    • Cardio reduces the risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

    The FITT principle can help you incorporate cardio exercise into your physical activity plan.

    • Frequency (how often you are physically active in a week)

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, your long-term goal is to do cardio exercise at least five times per week. Of course, the more the better, if you are able.

    If you need to set up small, more achievable temporary goals, aim to get cardio in at least three times per week. If this seems difficult, remember you can adjust the intensity and the time so that you can achieve this frequency goal first. Research shows the frequency of physical activity is very important for reducing many heart-related risk factors, including blood pressure, stress, and blood sugar for people who have diabetes. So, even if you have to start slowly—for example with 5 to 10 minutes of walking 3 times a week—you will begin to build another heart-healthy habit when you regularly set aside time in your week for physical activity.

    • Intensity (how hard you work each time you are physically active)

    Moderate-intensity aerobic activity noticeably accelerates the heart rate. Examples of this type of activity include brisk walking, cycling at moderate speeds, mopping, or walking with a purpose.  Moderate-intensity activity also generally “breaks a sweat.” As a general rule of thumb according to the Talk Test if you're doing moderate-intensity activity, you can usually talk, but not sing, during the activity. Whereas, if you're doing vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Vigorous activities include running, cycling at fast speeds, and swimming laps.

    • Time (the duration or how long your physical activity lasts)

    Your cardio sessions should last at least 10 minutes at a time. But the longer you are able to exercise, the more calories you will burn and the more endurance you will build. Aim to slowly increase the duration of your physical activity over time to reach at least 30 minutes of continuous cardio. If you can eventually go even longer -- for example, 60 minutes --  that’s even better.

    • Type (the kind of physical activity you are doing) 

    It doesn’t matter what type of physical activity you do—as long as you work up to doing it about 5 times per week, you get your heart rate up, and you make it last at least 10 minutes at a time. Begin slowly and listen to your body to make sure you are tolerating it well.

    Keep in mind, you may never be able to reach vigorous intensity, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Your level of moderate intensity may be different from another person’s level. Do whatever activity you can to get started and aim to make improvements slowly as you are able.

    Examples of Moderate Intensity

    • Walking briskly
    • Water aerobics
    • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
    • Tennis (doubles)
    • Ballroom dancing
    • General gardening
    • Mopping or vacuuming floors

    Examples of Vigorous Intensity

    • Race walking, jogging or running
    • Stair climbing
    • Swimming laps
    • Tennis (singles)
    • Aerobic dancing
    • Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
    • Jumping rope
    • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
    • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

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    Strength (or Resistance) Training

    Strength training is the process of building and maintaining muscles in the body by using progressively heavier weights (or resistance). It is also called resistance training, weight lifting, toning, and body building. 

    Strength training is very important for maintaining muscle mass throughout your lifetime. Muscle is metabolically active, which means it does the work of creating energy for your body by burning the calories you eat from food. When you maintain and build muscle, you’re letting your body do some of the hard work of maintaining your weight.

    • Strength training increases the size and strength of muscles. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. So, strength training is an important part of weight maintenance and weight loss.
    • Strength training helps strengthen tendons, ligaments, and bones. This helps prevent injury during activities of daily living or physical activities.
    • As we get older, muscle size and strength decline with age. But strength training exercises can rebuild and preserve muscles.
    • Strength training also helps improves balance.
    • Strength training can have a positive impact on your appearance.

    The FITT principle can help you incorporate strength training exercise into your physical activity plan.

    • Frequency (how often you are physically active in a week)

    It is recommended that you strength train your muscles at least two times per week. Rest at least one to two days in between working the same muscle groups again. For example, if you work your arm muscles on Monday, wait until Wednesday or Thursday to work them again. Small tears in the muscles occur during strength training. Rest is needed to allow the muscles to repair themselves, which is how they become bigger and stronger.

    • Intensity (how hard you work each time you are physically active)

    If you’re new to exercise, figuring out how much weight to lift for each muscle group can be difficult.  It is a matter of trying different amounts and adjusting as needed. Start slowly, but keep in mind the weight should be high enough so that as you approach your last repetition, you feel muscle “exhaustion.”  This is when it is not possible to do even one more repetition with good form because the muscle is too tired. If you make sure you reach muscle exhaustion, your exercise will be more productive. 

    • Time (the duration or how long your physical activity lasts)

    Aim to lift each weight for 8 to 15 repetitions (or “reps”), which equals one set. In general, more reps (about 10 to 15), and therefore lighter weights, are needed for general fitness and endurance. To build strength and muscle mass, aim for fewer reps (about 8 to 10) and use heavier weights.

    If you are just beginning, try doing one set for each exercise. Most people work up to two sets at a time, with a 30- to 90-minute rest in between. While resting, catch your breath, stretch the muscle you are working, or get a drink of water.

    No matter how many reps or sets, it is most important to lift to muscle exhaustion, which is when your muscles can’t possibly do one more rep. This helps build your muscles more efficiently during your work out.

    • Type (the kind of physical activity you are doing) 

    Many types of exercises count as strength training. For example:

    • Calisthenics use your own body as resistance to build strength. This is a great way for beginners to begin to build strength. Sit-ups, push-ups, arm dips, leg lunges, leg squats are examples of how to use your body weight as its own resistance.
    • Resistance bands, which are large rubber bands that are used in various positions to work muscle groups, are another easy way to begin strength training exercises.
    • Weight machines are also great for beginners. They usually have instructions and pictures, which show the muscle groups they are working. They are grouped together in a weight room and using each one ensures you work all muscle groups. They also provide structure for your body to be in good form while performing the exercise.
    • Free weights are more advanced, but with guidance can sometimes be used for beginners if weight machines are not available.
    • Whatever type of strength training you choose to do, don’t hold your breath. This is dangerous and may cause an increase in blood pressure. Exhale fully when you are lifting the weight. Inhale deeply when returning to the starting position, which is the easier phase.

    It is most important to target all major muscles of the body, including the following:

    • your arms (biceps and triceps)
    • shoulders,
    • chest and back,
    • core (abs, obliques and lower back)
    • legs (quads and hamstrings, glutes and calves)
    • abductors and adductors (outer and inner thigh).

    It is also especially important to work opposing muscle groups. For example, if you only work quads in the front of the thighs, and not the hamstrings in the back, then this may create imbalance and lead to injury or pain.

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    Stretching or lengthening your muscles helps you become more limber, which makes certain activities of daily living easier. Plus, the improved flexibility gained from stretching regularly helps you prevent injuries when you are performing everyday body movements and especially during exercise. Stretching also reduces muscle tension, increases circulation, improves posture, and it just naturally feels good! 

    The FITT principle can help you incorporate stretching exercise into your physical activity plan.

    • Frequency (how often you are physically active in a week)

    Aim to do stretching exercises as many times as you do cardio—working toward five times per week.  Stretch all the major muscle groups. The more frequently you stretch, the more quickly you will improve your flexibility.

    The best time to stretch is usually after you cool down at the end of a cardio exercise session. At the very least, warm up by walking for 5 minutes before stretching. Stretching after you’ve increased blood flow to your muscles and after your tendons and ligaments have been in use will minimize possible injury during stretching.

    • Intensity (how hard you work each time you are physically active)

    Each stretch should be performed with a slow, steady movement without bouncing or locking your joints, which can cause injury. Stretch just to the point of mild discomfort, stopping before the stretch becomes painful.

    • Time (the duration or how long your physical activity lasts)

    Aim to stretch for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Hold each stretch for about 15 seconds. Repeat as necessary, according to what feels good.

    • Type (the kind of physical activity you are doing)

          There are many different stretches you can do to help increase the range of motion of all your joints.

    Common Stretches 

    Calf Stretch [Lunging Calf Stretch]

    Calf Stretch

    Hamstring Stretch [Seated Forward Bend]

    Hamstring Stretch

    Quadriceps Stretch [Standing Quad Stretch]

    Quad Stretch

    Inner Thigh and Hip Stretch [Seated Butterfly Stretch]

    Inner Thigh and Hip - Seated Butterfly

    Abdominals Stretch [Lying Abs Stretch]

    ABdominals Stretch

    Lower Back Stretch [Lying Double Knee Stretch]

    Lower Back Stretch

    Upper Back Stretch [Cat Stretch]

    Upper Back Stretch

    Chest Stretch [Standing Chest Stretch]

    Chest Stretch

    Shoulders Stretch [Standing Shoulder Stretch]

    Shoulders Stretch

    Triceps Stretch [Standing Triceps Stretch]

    Triceps Stretch

    Biceps Stretch [Standing Wrist-Biceps Stretch]

    Biceps Stretch

    Neck Stretch

    Neck Stretch

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    Interval Training

    Interval training involves simply alternating a low-intensity activity (such as walking) with short bursts (for example, 30 to 90 seconds) of a higher-intensity activity (such as running) throughout your workout session.

    The Benefits of Interval Training:

    • Interval training boosts the calories you burn. So, you can burn more calories in less time, which we all are short on!
    • Interval training improves your cardiovascular endurance, or aerobic capacity. This helps your heart and lungs function more efficiently.
    • Interval training keeps your body challenged.
    • Interval training helps pass the time you are exercising by keeping your mind busy during the activity.

    How to Begin Interval Training:

    • First check with your doctor, because interval training is not for everyone. If you have a chronic health condition or have not been exercising regularly, you may not be able to tolerate interval training.
    • Once you have clearance from your doctor, it is a good idea to begin interval training slowly.Try adding only one or two bursts of a higher–intensity activity in your exercise session.  Then increase the number of bursts in future sessions as tolerated.
      • If you’re a novice, try walking and then adding 30 to 60 seconds of walking faster. Then return to a slower walking pace. Repeat if tolerated. 
      • If you’re in good shape, try walking more briskly and then adding 30 to 90 seconds of light jogging, as tolerated. Then return to a brisk walk. Repeat if tolerated.
    • Get guidance. Consider meeting with a physical therapist, exercise physiologist or certified personal trainer, who can recommend and oversea an interval training schedule so you get the most out of your workouts.
    • There are also downloadable programs for the iPod or iPhone, such as Couch-to-5K, that will allow you to follow a planned program of increasing interval training to work up to jogging 5 kilometers (or 3.1 miles) at your own pace.

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