Exercises for the Seriously Deconditioned Body

Deconditioning happens to people of all ages for many different reasons. It can happen with extreme obesity, age or illnesses from cancer to arthritis to lung disease. Even young people can be caught in this trap after a serious accident, broken bones or a serious illness.

The point of conditioning exercises is to start where you are and gradually work your way toward a fit body. It may take years and the person may never get to full fitness. The alternative is further deconditioning, even to the point of becoming bedridden. For the elderly that can mean a sentence of pneumonia and death.

Deconditioning is a serious problem in many exercise routines because a very deconditioned person will sweat profusely and become dangerously shaky when participating in only a few minutes of regular exercise, even tai chi or walking. A person in this condition needs to start slow, with as much support at hand as possible.

Begin with a physical therapist. They can evaluate the person and work to strengthen and stretch exactly the muscles and tendons that are most in need. The purpose is to strengthen the weakest muscles without overworking the opposing muscles. When the body is in balance, the patient will be much better able to progress in exercising.

Sitting Exercises

Even while in physical therapy, a person can nearly always begin chair exercises. The therapist would be a good person to ask for specific recommendations of programs just right for the patient.

By sitting, the person will have good support and there will be no danger of falling that will create an even worse conditioning problem. There are many good DVDs and video tapes for chair exercises, usually marketed for seniors but everyone who is beginning their fitness journey from square one can use them.

Look for products that have a variety of types of exercise to appeal to the person’s interests, abilities and to prevent boredom. Be sure that the chair used is wide and strong enough to hold the person securely even when they shift around while exercising. A fall is the last thing the person needs.

Try the following categories and look for other no-impact exercises and products. Many can be found at your local library to check out to use at home for free. It will let the person try an exercise for free to see it they like it.

  • Chair yoga
  • Chair tai chi
  • Stretching exercises, using stretch bands
  • Core fitness programs
  • Seated chair dancing
  • Strength training

Moving Up


Once a person can do 30 minutes or so of chair exercises and they end up nicely winded but not gasping for air or sweating profusely, you can move up. Keep up the chair exercises; don’t stop.

If the person has good balance, they can add walking with someone walking alongside them in case of balance issues. If necessary, a walker can be used to provide safety and security.

A trip to the end of the driveway or about 25 feet can be the first goal, for example. Then, three trips half that distance, then progress to four or five trips without stopping. Move up a half-distance at a time. At first, it may be smart to put a chair on both ends of the course.

Move up the distance gradually. This stage may take quite a while and a person may never reach a very significant goal. Even if a very sick or elderly person can eventually walk 50 feet without stopping that is enough mobility to keep them active enough to ward off further illness such as pneumonia and death.

Pool Exercises Are Next

Team pool exercises in Chennai at the "Sheraton Park" Hotel, April 16th, 2011

Those who can move on can take advantage of pool exercises. These are still no-impact but they do take a certain level of conditioning to participate. The water provides not only joint protection but lessens the body weight of the exerciser. The water also provides resistance to increase muscle strength while exercising.

Finally, once the chair exercises and pool exercise programs can be easily completed, ask for an evaluation by a physical therapist or a physician to get approval to move on to a health club to complete the fitness journey.

The Final Push


The trainers at a 24-hour gym can continue working with the specific areas and toward general body health. They will stay with the patient, making sure that he or she can catch the client in an off-balance moment. The trainer will also make sure that each exercise is completed correctly without further injury. (If you are from Brisbane area, I’d recommend joining this 24 hr Brisbane gym for all the equipment and trainers they provide, it’s where I currently work out and have been a member for the past two years.)

By continuing an active lifestyle, working out regularly at the health club, walking and participating in movement exercises like stair climbing through the day, a person who was deconditioned can become healthy and fit again.

Andre Smith

Written by Andre Smith, a fitness and nutrition enthusiast from Brisbane, Australia. Andre has been engaged in bodybuilding and learning about nutrition for the past six years.

One thought on “Exercises for the Seriously Deconditioned Body

  • August 2, 2013 at 7:28 am

    This is why I got into paddleboarding, it was really easy to get started, yet it was a total body work out for sure. I felt it the next day! Now I try to get out on the water as much as I can for at least a half an hour of working out.



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