For healthcare professionals only

Research Article

How long does it take to become fit?

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 06 December 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:1522
  1. J Pearn


    To become fit an individual must generate optimal muscle strength and must develop cardiopulmonary reserve, or stamina. Physical fitness programmes require motivation, a graded series of appropriately designed exercises, and scientific surveillance. Motivation and efficiency in fitness programmes depends on early positive feedback to participants, confirming that stamina and strength are developing. A practical field experiment was performed to determine the minimum time that healthy young adults require to reach an initial plateau in objective measures of fitness. Fifty male university undergraduates were studied during an annual volunteer military training camp. Thirty had volunteered to take part in the fitness programme; the remaining 20 had initially rejected the offer but underwent the programme as part of their military training and acted as unmotivated controls. All the subjects became fit within 14 days of starting training, with objective improvement in both absolute strength and pulse recovery times. Non-motivated individuals, training with motivated individuals for 20 minutes each day, can therefore achieve levels of fitness indistinguishable from those of healthy highly motivated subjects. Fitness programmes must be carefully supervised, however, with medical examinations for those about to undergo vigorous exercise.