Need a Get Back in Shape Workout Plan? Think FIT!

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Need a get back in shape workout plan? Think FIT! These strategies can help you successfully start an exercise program or return to exercise after a long layoff!

Need a Get Back in Shape Workout Plan? Think FIT!

Your Get Back in Shape Workout Plan doesn't have to be hard!

Congratulations if you have just decided to start an exercise program, or if you are getting back into working out after a long layoff! To help you ease into improved fitness with a low risk of injury, think "FIT" for a get back in shape workout plan.


FIT is an acronym for Frequency, Intensity, and Time. The idea for getting back into working out after a long layoff is to gradually increase only one component at a time so that your heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and supporting tissues are given a chance to adequately support the increased activity. Our brains lead the way but we need to give our body a chance to catch up otherwise we can get injured.

As a general rule, increase frequency or time first as you progress through your get back in shape workout plan, and then work on increasing intensity.

Step 1. Start by increasing your daily activity levels.

That means using the stairs more frequently, parking further away from your destination, walking or bicycling instead of driving, less TV or computer viewing during leisure time, and simply moving more during the day. Work towards increasing your activities of daily living for about a month or so to help you prepare for getting back into working out after a long layoff.

The next step is to start your get back in shape workout plan with a frequency of about 3 days per week. Try to space out exercise days throughout the week instead of just exercising during the weekend. Be sure to keep up your activities of daily living too. Consider tracking your steps (wear a pedometer, allow your smartphone to track steps, or wear a fitness watch) to ensure that you meet some minimum number of steps. Many people aim for 10,000 steps a day. I am maintaining a 20 lb weight loss and I find that getting at least 12,000 steps a day or more works well for me. This includes both activities of daily living as well as exercise.

Work up to 6 days per week of activity over the course of 6 months.

Step 2. Next, increase the intensity of your activity.

Window shopping, cooking, and strolling are lower intensity activities that can be performed while singing or talking without effort. Aim to work up to a moderate intensity level to gain more health benefits from exercise. At this level, it should be a little hard to carry on a conversation and singing is difficult.

You can also use your heart rate as a measure of exercise intensity. If you have taken a stress test or exercise test, then use your measured maximal heart rate for determining a moderate intensity range (about 50 - 70% of maximal heart rate). If you cannot measure your true maximal heart rate, then you can use an old rule of thumb to estimate it: 220 - your age in years. For instance, a 50 year old would use 170 beats per minute (BPM) as their estimated maximal heart rate, with a goal of exercising at 85 - 120 BPM for moderate intensity.

If you take medication that affects your heart rate or if you are over 40 and have health conditions, then please ask your healthcare provider for an appropriate exercise prescription.

Step 3. Last, make sure you increase the duration of your activity.

Start with a duration that works for you - do not try to keep up with someone much more fit than you if you are just getting started. Even 10 minute chunks of time can provide health benefits. For instance, if you are very out of shape, you might start with 10 minutes of walking, 3 days a week.

Over the course of a few weeks, you can increase your frequency to 5 days a week. Perhaps you find that over time, you can manage to get two, 10-minute walks completed in a day. Hopefully, over the course of six months, you can work up to three, 10-minute walks, at least 5 days a week. Moderate intensity exercise performed for 150 minutes per week (30 minutes/day x 5 days/week) is the goal for reduced risk and improved management of diabetes and heart disease.

As a general rule, increase time by about 5 minute increments to help reduce risk of injury.

If you are able to tolerate a longer duration and are using exercise for weight control, then eventually work up to about 60 minutes of activity, most days of the week. If you track calories, then you can more precisely fine tune calories burned from exercise to meet your weight control goals.

An online resource you might find helpful is Physical Activity Basics: How much physical activity do you need?

Dec 4, 2019
Katherine Isacks
Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

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