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The Maffetone Method: The Holistic Low-Stress, No Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness

by Dr. Philip Maffetone

* Modified by Tammra Green – RHN / RNCP – Nutritional Practitioner 

The first Step: You are doing it by making a commitment to improving your health. Maffetone emphasizes simplicity and common sense. It’s possible to be fit and yet still unhealthy, so fitness does not guarantee health. Getting to your goal should be fun and interesting, not something you dread. Maffetone is something you can stick with for life and will actually want to. It’s personal; it’s not a “canned” exercise program (one size fits all). Dr. Maffetone teaches rather than preaches. 

  • The best way to burn fat is aerobically (walking, swimming, cycling, running, dancing, rowing, skating, x-country skiing, or some other activity you can do for an extended period of time)
  • If it’s not fun, something’s not right
  • Excess stress (training too hard or for the wrong reason) is unhealthy and is in fact one of the top causes of body fat due to over production of cortisol. Symptoms are: low energy, insomnia, low sex drive…
  • Lower or avoid simple carbohydrates, keep complex carbohydrates to a minimum (sprouting your grains will give more nutrients as well as will digest much better)
  • Certain dietary fats are necessary (EFA’s) – coconut oil is ideal for cooking, eating as a spread or in tea (or alone), use also to lubricate skin. 

Common sense, low intensity, self-directed: The Maffetone Method will work for anyone interested in improved fitness, both mental and physical. Begin your journey now; start with a journal, log or diary and begin to outline and answer the following:   

The Method:







Note: Measuring Body Fat: 

1. Measure waist circumference  @ belly button level.

2. Measure hip circumference @ it’s widest part.

3. Divide the waist by hip. 

A ratio above 0.9 in Men and 0.8 in Women may indicate that a significant proportion of body fat is coming from excess carbohydrates. 



·         Where are you? (Do the questionnaire) below

·         Where are you going? Set main focus (i.e. get in shape/ lose body fat while maintaining Lean Mass). Make realistic goals. Set secondary focus (i.e. reduce blood pressure etc).


Main Goal (s): ______________________________________________________ 

Secondary Goal (s): _________________________________________________


(Idea: Use the Contrast / Clarity List – My Ideal Fitness Plan)

The Maffetone Questionnaire                                  Y/N  

1. Do you often find yourself tired, especially in the afternoon? __

2. Do you get dizzy when you stand too quickly? __

3. Are your eyes sensitive to light, or do you have difficulty driving at night? __

4. Do you have asthma or allergies? __

5. Do you experience muscle or joint discomfort in your lower back, knees, or ankles? __

6. Have you experienced a mood shift after the season has changed? __

7. Do you have trouble sleeping? __

8. Do you sometimes feel depressed? __

9. Has your sex drive decreased? __

10. Do you tire quickly? __

11. Do you get sleep after eating? __

12. Have you frequently experienced intestinal bloating after meals? __

13. Do you find yourself often craving sweets? __

14. Does your family have a history of diabetes, heart disease, or stroke? __

15. Have you noticed a recent weight gain? __

16. Has it become harder for you to lose weight? __

17. Do you smoke, drink coffee daily, or both? __

18. Do you have borderline high blood pressure? __

19. Are your cholesterol or triglyceride levels high? __

20. Do you experience a shortness of breath? __

21. Do you frequently experience unexplained aches and pains? __

22. Do you have shortness of breath after walking up stairs? __

23. Have you had more than one cold in the last six months? __

24. Have you moved your belt out a notch? __

25. Do you sometimes have numbness or cold hands and feet? __

26. Given the chance do you drive instead of walk? __

27. Are you frequently thirsty? __


The Questionnaire Key 

Questions 1-9 deal with symptoms of excess stress. 

Questions 10 - 19 deal with carbohydrate intolerance. 

Questions 20 – 27 deal with aerobic deficiency. 

If you answered yes to any of the questions a closer look at the above key may be necessary. Plan your main goal around the areas that are most out of balance, and deal with the rest as symptoms improve. 

Go back to this questionnaire in 6 months, re – do it, and see your improvements.


2.   SELECT:

·         Choose to identify the source of your stress (remember one could actually be too much exercise). Eliminate the ones you can and reduce the ones you can’t.

Make a Contrast / Clarity List… as suggested above but this time it can be (example) “My Ideal Tranquil and Content Life”   

1.     Say NO when asked to do something you really don’t want to do. I.e. running longer or faster just bc everyone else is doing it.

2.     Don’t waste time thinking about the past or future. That’s not to say ignore past events or plan for the future. Set goals and work on getting there at your own pace. If you’ve not been consistent with your exercise then so be it. It’s never too late to make a new beginning.

3.     Learn some relaxation techniques. A simple walk, yoga or even just sitting quietly in front of a candle can be a great time for meditation.

4.     When you are concerned about something talk it over with someone you trust. Make sure your exercise partner isn’t adding to your stress. A guidance counselor might be worth looking into.

5.     Simplify your life. Start by eliminating trivia, ask yourself: Is this really important? And finally:

6.      Prioritize your schedule: do the most important things first but do not neglect the fun stuff which can include exercise. Before getting out of bed decide what fun things you’ll do today.  

·         Choose aerobic fat-burning method. Reject the philosophy “no pain no gain”. The activity should remain constant, unchanging so as to monitor progress more easily. (i.e. do walking one/ two month (s), running the next, swimming, power yoga etc.)

·         Choose an eating / lifestyle plan (also make goals here simple; see Nutritional / fitness practitioner for program)

·         Choose better shoes (the least complicated one’s work best) and equipment 


Are you aerobically deficient? 

Fatigue, blood sugar stress, increased body fat, structural injuries, menstrual and menopausal symptoms, reduced endurance, mental & emotional stress, poor circulation and sexual dysfunction are all indicators that you may be aerobically deficient.


Choosing an anaerobic component (lifting etc.) however this should even be considered until a solid aerobic base is built.   


3. BUILD  

·         Develop your aerobic base: set target heart rate (THR): Subtract your age from 180 (180-age = THR).

·         Are you hitting the fat burning zone? Which is 10 beats Below THR This is your aerobic training zone

How to calculate Target Heart Rate (THR)

180 – your age = THR

If are recovering from illness, trauma, surgery etc. then subtract 10 from THR formula.

If you have not exercised before, exercise irregularly, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or cases of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, subtract 5.

If you already workout at least four times a week without ANY symptoms then use formula above

If you are a competitive athlete & have been training for more two years w/o ANY of the above mentioned problems and have made progress in competition w/o injury, add 5



To figure out your what your heart rate is:

Place the tips of your index, second, and third fingers on the palm side of your other wrist, below the base of the thumb. Or, place the tips of your index and second fingers on your lower neck, on either side of your windpipe.

2. Press lightly with your fingers until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. You might need to move your fingers around slightly up or down until you feel the pulsing.

3. Use a watch with a second hand, or look at a clock with a second hand.

4. Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate (pulse) per minute.

Check your pulse: _______________ x 6 = ________________ (or pruchase a THR rate montior)
                          (beats in 10 seconds)          (your pulse)



A.    Measure Progress: This is where you can prepare a special journal/ log/ diary.

Use the Maximum Aerobic Function Test (MAF). Which is: measuring the time of a particular activity along with a given heart rate and distance (or other factors such as watts). Example: jogging at 1 mile at a heart rate of 140 bpm, initially took 12 minutes, a month later at the same heart rate, it took 11.5 minutes and two months later, 10.5, and then three months later it took 10 minutes. This indicates good progress, while never going into the anaerobic stage thus burning fat. The MAF Test can reveal any excess stress, dietary/ nutritional (chemical) imbalances or even physical (structural) problems; a sudden change for the worse (i.e. depression [mental imbalance], fatigue, knee pain) is not normal. Discovering what the problem is (with a professional) and dealing with it can bring back your original results. 

Doing the MAF Test once every 1-3 months is enough, as to not foster an obsession (also weekly fluctuations is difficult to measure objectively)


B.    Is your program really giving you what you want? ___

       Have you been able to measure your workout? ___

       Is your energy good from wake to bedtime? ___

       Free from injuries, minor aches and pains___

       Is your body fat at a controllable level? ___

       Do you forward to working out? ___

       Do you feel good after your workout? ___

You may need to modify your program if you have answered even one of these questions with a NO. 



·         When you reach your goals, return to step 1. Reassess and Start Again. 

*Once you have built a steady aerobic base you will be able to start incorporating anaerobic exercises such as lifting weights, sprinting and so on without compromising your body. 

*Remember to perform aerobic exercise more then anaerobic (i.e. walk/ run 3 times per week and lift weights twice or once a week.)  

*Always warm up aerobically before and after (cool down) performing the anaerobic exercises ( then stretch - Yoga is also good).  

 *If you are performing your anaerobic exercises properly then you should not have any soreness or injuries. The best way to insure this is to maintain nutrient density via food and supplements and continuing on with your log (put your desire statement into your exercise log book). 


The information provided by this website is general in nature and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute the evaluation, judgment, diagnosis, and medical or preventative care of a physician, pediatrician, therapist and/or health care provider. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.

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