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Fitness First For Everybody.

How to get the best out of exercise

Over the last few weeks we have examined a number of different areas of health and fitness and how it can affect and improve our bodies, minds and spirits. This week we will examine the principles that define what progress you can make from exercise. A simple way of doing this is to embrace the philosophies of FITTA. This stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type and Adherence.


This relates to how often we exercise. Common guidelines suggest adults should exercise 3- 5 times per week to see improvements in their health and fitness levels. It is possible to lower this frequency to 1-2 sessions per week either for those starting out on a programme or individuals simply looking to maintain their fitness levels. Most fitness professionals advocate at least two sessions per week on any exercise programme in order to see results working towards 4-5 maximum.

Remember that any exercise is better than no exercise. Even if you miss a workout you have not failed and even one session per week will improve your health when compared to doing nothing. On the flip side, many people tend towards over-training by working out seven days per week. Excessive workout levels increase the chance of overuse injuries and undesirable results.


This relates to how hard you work and is closely linked to the frequency heading. By training at a lower intensity you will be able to manage more workouts. A number of ways to monitor intensity exist. One of the most common and most accurate is by Heart Rate Monitor, by using a chest strap and watch we can examine how the heart responds to exercise and work within a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate intensity. In most cases the ideal level is around 60-80% of maximum heart rate. Working at higher intensities can result in excess pressure on the heart and will increase the risk of injury. Where it's not possible to directly monitor the heart consider the rate of perceived exhaustion (RPE Scale). Aim to work out at a level of 6-8 on scale of 1-10 where 1 is extremely easy and 10 unimaginably tough. The 'Talk Test' is ideal. Work at a level where you can still hold a conversation and you will be at a comfortable level with minimal injury risk.


This relates to how long we spend on a session and again links to the first two headings. In order to improve cardiovascular health and fitness we are advised to exercise 3-5 times per week at a moderate intensity (60-80% of maximum heart rate) for a minimum of 20 minutes. The three principles have now combined to give us a standard exercise model. As fitness improves it becomes possible to maintain a higher intensity for longer however, once workout time moves above 60 minutes the injury risk begins to heighten and it may be advisable to reduce workout time and focus on improving intensity or frequency.


This is the type of activity undertaken. Most of the advice in the FITTA model is geared towards cardiovascular type exercise such as cycling, walking, running, stepping etc. The key to maintaining any exercise regime is to do what you enjoy and you will be more inclined to stick to it. This may take the form of a sport, a gym machine or class.


Maintenance of an exercise programme is key. The saying: 'If you don't use it, you'll lose it' sums up the importance of establishing exercise as part of your life.

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 27, 2006
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