FIGURE 12.4 The FITT Principle Applied to Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Muscular Strength and Endurance, and Flexibility

Set SMART Goals

To set successful goals, try using the SMART system. SMART goals are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-oriented.

A vague goal would be “I will improve my fitness by exercising more.” A SMART goal would be as follows:

· Specific.  “I will participate in a resistance-training program that targets all of the major muscle groups 3 to 5 days per week.”

· Measurable.  “I will improve my fitness classification from the average classification to the above average classification.”

· Action-oriented.  “I will meet with a personal trainer to learn how to safely do resistance exercises and to plan a workout for the gym and home.”

· Realistic.  “I will increase the weight I can lift by 20 percent.”

· Time-oriented.  “I will try my new weight program for 8 weeks, then reassess.”


Are you going to hit the gym or the couch after class?

A photograph shows an empty running race yard.

Go to Mastering Health to play Which Path Would You Take? and see where decisions like these lead you!

Use the FITT Principle

To improve your health-related physical fitness (or performance-related physical fitness), use the  FITT  (frequency, intensity, time, and type) 42  principle to define your exercise program. The FITT prescription ( FIGURE 12.4 ) uses the following criteria:

FIGURE 12.4 The FITT Principle Applied to Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Muscular Strength and Endurance, and Flexibility

A chart shows examples of how the F I T T principle can be used towards cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular fitness, and flexibility.

Figure 12.4 Full Alternative Text

· Frequency  refers to the number of times per week you need to engage in particular exercises to achieve the desired level of physical fitness in a particular component.

· Intensity  refers to how hard your workout must be to achieve the desired level of physical fitness.

· Time , or duration, refers to how many minutes or repetitions of an exercise are required at a specified intensity during any one session to attain the desired level of physical fitness for each component.

· Type  refers to what kind of exercises should be performed to improve the specific component of physical fitness.

150 MINUTES of moderate physical activity a week—along with strength exercises 2 days a week—provides substantial HEALTH BENEFITS. More is even better!

The FITT Principle for Cardiorespiratory Fitness

The most effective aerobic exercises for building cardiorespiratory fitness are whole-body activities involving all the large muscle groups. The FITT prescription for cardiorespiratory fitness includes 3 to 5 days per week of vigorous, rhythmic, continuous activity at 64 to 96 percent of your estimated maximal heart rate for 20 to 60 minutes. 43


The frequency of your program is related to your intensity. If you choose to do moderate-intensity exercises, you should aim for a frequency of at least 5 days (frequency drops to at least 3 days per week with vigorous-intensity activities). Newcomers to exercise can still improve by doing less-intense exercise (light to moderate level) but doing it more days each week. In this case, follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for moderate physical activity (refer to  Table 12.1 ).


The most commonly used methods to determine the intensity of cardiorespiratory endurance exercises are target heart rate, rating of perceived exertion, and the talk test. The exercise intensity required to improve cardiorespiratory endurance is a heart rate between 64 and 96 percent of your maximum heart rate (moderate to vigorous intensity). Before calculating your  target heart rate , you must first estimate your maximal heart rate with the formula [207−0.7(age)].[207−0.7(age)]. The following example is based on a 20-year-old. Substitute your age to determine your own maximal heart rate, then multiply by 0.64 and 0.94 to determine the lower and upper limits of your target range.

1. 207−0.7(20)=maximal207−0.7(20)=maximal heart rate for a 20-year old

2. 207−14=193207−14=193 (maximal heart rate)

3. 193(0.64)=123.52193(0.64)=123.52 (lower target limit)

4. 193.5(0.94)=185.28193.5(0.94)=185.28 (upper target limit)

5. Target range=124range=124 to 186 beats per minute

To determine how close you are to your target heart rate, determine your heart rate. As technology has advanced, it has become much easier to monitor heart rate with your cell phone or activity tracker. If you do not have your phone while exercising, see  FIGURE 12.5  for the procedures for taking your carotid or radial pulse. Take your heart rate while exercising, if possible, or immediately after you stop exercising, as your heart rate decreases rapidly when you stop.

FIGURE 12.5 Taking a Pulse

Palpation of the carotid (neck) or radial (wrist) artery is a simple way of determining heart rate. Take a 10-second pulse, and multiply the number by 6 to get beats per minute. Start your count with 1 if using a running watch and with 0 if using a stopwatch.

The carotid pulse is taken on the neck, under the jawline and near the bottom of the ear. The radial pulse is taken on the inner forearm, on the surface of the arm below the base of the thumb. The index and middle fingers are used to take each pulse.

Another way to determine the intensity of cardiorespiratory exercise intensity is to use Borg’s rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale.  Perceived exertion refers to how hard you feel you are working, which you might base on your heart rate, breathing rate, sweating, and level of fatigue. This scale uses a rating from 6 (no exertion at all) to 20 (maximal exertion). An RPE of 12 to 16 is generally recommended for training the cardiorespiratory system.

The easiest method of measuring cardiorespiratory exercise intensity is the talk test. A moderate level of exercise (heart rate at 64 to 76 percent of maximum) means that you can hold an intermittent conversation. At this level, you are able to talk with a partner while exercising. If you can talk, but only in short fragments and not sentences, you may be at a vigorous level of exercise (heart rate at 76 to 96 percent of maximum). If you are breathing so hard that speaking at all is difficult, the intensity of your exercise may be too high. Conversely, if you can sing or laugh heartily while exercising, the intensity of your exercise is light and may be insufficient for maintaining or improving cardiorespiratory fitness.


For cardiorespiratory fitness benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that vigorous activities be performed for at least 20 minutes at a time, and moderate activities for at least 30 minutes. 44  Free time for exercise can vary from day to day, so you can set a time goal for the entire week as long as you keep your sessions to at least 10 minutes (150 minutes per week for moderate intensity and 75 minutes per week for vigorous intensity). You can also combine moderate and vigorous activity. For example, you can do 3 days of moderate intensity exercise and 1 or two days of vigorous intensity exercise. See the  Student Health Today  box for information on a few exercise programs that can really give you a lot of bang for your buck.


CrossFit and high- intensity interval training (HIIT) are two methods of training that are increasing in popularity. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that utilizes a broad range of high-intensity functional movements and activities. CrossFit is typically performed in a CrossFit gym or “Box” in a group or class. It is an intense, specialized training program, so there are special requirements and certifications to become a CrossFit trainer or coach.

HIIT is a type of training that combines alternating high-intensity bouts and active rest bouts in your exercise session. For example, after the warm-up phase, you might do 2 minutes of a near-maximal-paced run, and then jog for 2 minutes to rest. This type of training can provide a very efficient workout. The volume of exercise is generally less than a continuous bout at a constant pace, but similar fitness gains can be seen with the lower volume of exercise as with the tradition exercise bout. The intervals can be varied to suit your fitness level and goals.

How do you know whether either type of training is right for you? If you are a beginner, have risk factors for cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal disorders, are obese, or have been sedentary, make sure you get clearance from your health care provider. After getting checked out, find a fitness professional who can help you get started. Both types of training can be modified to accommodate varying levels of fitness.

If you like a challenge, a variety of exercises, and the motivation of the gym, CrossFit might be right for you. HIIT might be a good option if time is a barrier or you are trying to improve your performance. Because both are high-intensity activities, it is important to allow your body time to rest and recover to reduce the risk of injury. Using different activities on consecutive days and not doing more than three consecutive days of exercise are recommendations for CrossFit. HIIT should be alternated with other activities throughout the week. If you are up for the challenge, give one of these nontraditional training programs a try.

Sources: CrossFit, “What Is Crossfit?” Accessed April 2016,; L. Kravitz, “High-Intensity Interval Training,” ACSM, 2014,

CrossFit and high-intensity interval training are two methods of training that are increasing in popularity. If you’re healthy enough—and up for the challenge—they might be right for you.

A photograph of a group of three people involved in box jumps.


Any sort of rhythmic, continuous, and physical activity that can be done for 20 or more minutes will improve cardiorespiratory fitness. Examples include walking briskly, cycling, jogging, fitness classes, and swimming.

The FITT Principle for Muscular Strength and Endurance

The FITT prescription for muscular strength and endurance includes 2 to 3 days per week when you perform exercises that train the major muscle groups, using enough sets, repetitions, and resistance to maintain or improve muscular strength and endurance. 45

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