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The F.I.T.T.E Factors - General Guidelines for Cardiorespiratory Training

    Hey everybody, I wanted to take this opportunity to address a question which I get quite often at the gym.  "How much cardio should I do, Mike?"  While there is not one answer that fits all, I will say that the length and intensity depend largely on the health and fitness goals of the individual.  Most of you know by now that I received my Certified Personal Training credential by graduating from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and it is there that I learned about using the acronym F.I.T.T.E to help me remember the general guidelines for cardiorespiratory training.  I hope these tips prove helpful to everyone who reads this.

Frequency refers to the number of training sessions or activity sessions for a given time frame.  The time frame usually consists of a week.  But, depending on the client and his or her goals, it may be one workout a day, a month, or a year.  For general health requirements the recommended frequency of activity is preferably every day of the week, for small quantities of time.  For improved fitness levels, the frequency is three to five days a week.

Intensity refers to the level of demand the activity places on the body.  This is usually measured by heart rate or maximal oxygen consumption.  For general health requirements moderate intensity is preferred.  This would be perceived as enough demand to increase heart and respiratory rates, but not cause exhaustion or breathlessness.  For improved fitness levels, the intensity recommended is 40 to 85% of heart rate reserve (HRR) or 60 to 90% of maximal heart rate (HR max). Please refer to the blog I wrote 2/12/12 to better understand where your maximum heart rate zones are.

Time refers to the length of time engaged in the activity.  This is usually measured in minutes.  For general health requirements, approximately 30 total minutes a day is recommended.  This could be six 5-minute bouts, three 10-minute bouts, or two 15-minute bouts (or any other combination equaling 30 minutes).  For improved fitness levels, the time recommended is approximately 20 to 60 minutes.  This will vary, depending on the goal.

Type refers to the mode or activity used.  This can be virtually any activity.  For general health requirements, this may consist of:

  • Using stairs (versus elevators)
  • Parking farther from the desired location and walking a longer distance
  • Mowing the yard with a push mower
  • Raking leaves by hand
  • Gardening

For improved fitness levels, this may consist of:

  • Treadmill, stationary bike, stepper, ARC trainer
  • Aerobics class
  • Sports
  • Weight training

Enjoyment refers to the amount of pleasure derived from the activity by the client.  This is sadly an often overlooked component of program design by many trainers and health and fitness professionals.  Fortunately for all of you, I try to take into account the methods you enjoy (or at least hate the least).  One of the most important aspects of creating a program is that it fits with a client's personality and interests; however, this does not mean that the client dictates what it is that we ultimately do.  

One of the most important components of a properly designed training program is that it must be enjoyable.  This means that the program and its activities must coincide with the personality, likes, and dislikes of the client.  This ultimately translates into compliance, and that will equal results.  I know that when I design a program for a client I try to ensure it will be both fun and challenging, because I know they will be much more apt to continue it.  By complying with a structured program, the client will achieve the desired results. When this happens, it means I have the ability to have a drastic impact on the life of my client and nothing could make me happier!

    So there ya have it.  These are the F.I.T.T.E factors.  So get out there and get healthy doing something you enjoy!

Yours in health and wellness,



  • NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, 3rd Edition, 2008

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