Overload Exercise Prescription Principles

If correct exercise prescription is carried out, improvements can be made not only to cardio-respiratory fitness but also to general health, disease prevention and psychosocial well being (Buckley, et al, 1999; SIGN, 2002).To achieve these improvements any exercise programme must work the body systems harder than they are normally accustomed to work. This process is known as overload and can be applied to any aspect of exercise, including cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility training (ACSM, 2001). The body responds to the exercise stimulus by adapting to the increased exercise load. For example, individuals who are sedentary can overload their systems by walking at a faster pace than normal. Individuals who have been more active for a period of time will require their activity overload to be set at a higher intensity and/or to work for longer periods.

Gradually, as the individual adjusts to the exercise, subsequent exercise will need to be increased in order to continue to achieve overload. This process is known as progressive overload, and it should continue until the individual's training goals are achieved. In order to achieve this overload, the exercise pre-scriber must consider the FITT (E) or FITT (A) principle. This principle describes the relationship between frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise, and it is an essential tool when prescribing effective exercise. Exercise prescription must be individualised to increase the likelihood of enjoyment (E) and/or adherence (A).

FITT (E) and (A) stand for the following:

F = FREQUENCY = number of days per week

I = INTENSITY = exertion required

T = TYPE = specific activity

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