Staying fit is now more important than ever before. Keeping the body moving while contained at home may be a challenge because of limited space and a lack of equipment. This article provides a complete fitness program that requires no equipment, can be done in a very small space, and best of all in 30 minutes a week!

Being still and not using the body against resistance causes blood vessels to disappear, the heart becomes smaller, weaker and less efficient.


Body structures and functions adjust to the load placed upon them. When the load is diminished, muscles waste away and strength is lost. The body is less able to meet physical demands. When we do need to act, maybe in an emergency, the body may fail. We are more susceptible to heart attack, stroke and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.


With structured exercise the heart is richer in oxygen, bigger, more powerful and far more efficient. The reconditioned heart beats slower at rest and during workouts, it pumps better and with greater capacity.   

The heart works against the resistance of the blood within the heart. The greater the supply of blood within the heart the more it must work. Try this simple exercise to demonstrate the wringing effect of the heart muscle squeezing out blood.

  • Place the first two fingers of the left hand into the palm of the right.
  • Squeeze those fingers with the right hand
  • The muscles of the heart, represented by the fingers of right hand push the blood supply, represented by the fingers of the fingers of left hand, to force the blood out into arteries.
  • The more blood there, the more the heart must push and the better the workout for the heart

The difference between a heart that is strengthened, and one that hasn’t can be demonstrated by this exercise. Place the fingers as above and squeeze the fingers gently, and then squeeze harder. The first squeeze represents an unconditioned heart, and the second example a recondition heart. The heart that has been strengthened through exercise will pump out much more fresh oxygenated blood, with less strain.


Another bonus is an exercised body provides the heart with an amazing support structure. Every muscle is an auxiliary heart, helping to pump blood to the heart. When muscles contract they squeeze blood towards the heart. When the muscle relaxes it fills with blood, the same as the heart.

A person with good muscle tone is not straining the heart. A person who has fat is overworking the heart, as the fat will have millions of parasitic blood capillaries needing to be serviced with blood from the heart. Fat will not aid the flow of blood back to the heart.


Effective conditioning exercise is a continuous rhythmic one in which the muscles pump repetitively. Blood pumping from muscle is towards the heart (venous return) Muscle involvement increases the action. A fast heartbeat without muscle involvement will not suffice. An example is that the heart will speed up with emotional stress, but the muscles are not pumping, so there will not be the same amount of blood being pumped.   


Step 1. Exchange useless fat for vital muscle, blood and bone and begin to develop circulo-respiratory endurance.

Step 2. Keep losing fat and expand muscle and circulo-respiratory endurance.

Step 3. Lose more fat if needed and increase muscular strength and circulo-respiratory endurance.

Step 4. Stabilise the new physical condition. New levels of fat, lean tissue, muscular strength and circulo-respiratory endurance.


Routine exercise where a constant level is maintained or includes a set level of repetitions does not work. The body becomes accustomed to that level, and so no extra load is required to reach any predetermined goal.


Measuring the heart against resistance means there is a reliable method of managing and monitoring personal performance. As the body becomes fitter and stronger it becomes easier to reach the same point. If the heart and muscles are not put under a measured load, they will stay the same, and the body stagnates.


The pulse is a wave initiated by the heart which travels through the arteries with every beat. The pulse can be felt wherever there is a large artery near the surface of the skin. For instance, the temple, the wrist and the throat.

The pulse informs us of change within the body. It lets us know when our temperature rises or goes down. How fast we burn energy and oxygen usage.


Four things can be felt from sensing the pulse.

  1. Force of the pulse against a finger (as fitness improves the pulse gets stronger)
  2. The volume or expansion of the arteries. As fitness improves, volume increases and the artery feels thicker, while soft and elastic.  
  3. The regularity of the force and the rhythm. With improved fitness the pulse is stronger and more regular 
  4. The frequency of the pulse diminishes with improved fitness

A slower pulse indicates the heart is taking a longer rest between beats, meaning it fills more slowly and completely.

There is twice the filling time at a heart rate of 60 bpm as there is at 90 bpm. The result is improved oxygen supply to the heart, and improved coronary blood flow.


The best way to lower the resting heart rate is to make the heartbeat faster during short periods of exercise. This exertion strengthens the heart so that it performs more efficiently at lower rates. This lowered heartrate is called Bradycardia of training???

The heart is strengthened in two ways during exercise.

  1. By improving the quality of the heart muscle called Myocardium
  2. By increasing the co-ordination of the fibres as they wring blood out of the heart during each beat

This can be demonstrated by once again taking the fingers of the left hand into the palm of the right.

  • Squeeze the fingers of the left hand using all fingers of the right hand, just as the muscles of the heart squeezes against the blood. If all the fingers of the right hand squeeze together with equal pressure, the finger so of the left hand will be tightly pressed.
  • If the fingers press lightly and out of sequence, there is much less compression, and much less force.
  • The squeezing fingers represent a group of heart fibres. If all fibres work in a rhythmic continuous way the fibres have less work to do, if not some fibres work more and some less.

During exercise there is increased venous return (blood returning to the heart via veins) which give the heart resistance to beat against. Its resistance that causes the heart to develop.


WARNING – Before you begin raising heart rates its important to determine its safe. If you are in any doubt about your ability to try these exercises consult a doctor. If you or your family have a history of heart problems, then consult a doctor. If you breath so hard it causes distress, get pains in the chest or dizziness stop and ask your doctor. This article is intended as a guide and providing information, not a supervised training program.        


Be active for a minute or so with a brisk walk or jogging on the spot. Now choose where you want to feel your pulse, for example.

  • Wrist
  • Neck (only one side, don’t close both arteries)
  • Forehead

Choose the one that suits you best.


There are several methods to take the pulse. The system we use is counting for six seconds and adding a zero. Use a watch/clock/phone with a sweep hand for best results.

We determine our pulses in six seconds and adding a zero to get the per-min pulse rate. Have a go at connecting with the rhythm of your pulse for a while. Wait for the pulse to coincide with a number 5 on your watch and start with zero and count the pulses for six seconds. Let’s say you count 7 pulses in six seconds, now multiply 7 x 10 and you have a 70 beats per minute pulse rate.


To move above a baseline of a reservoir of fitness, planning and a regular program is required. This program includes a range of exercises that will be performed with an intensity and frequency enough to stimulate further conditioning. This program exceeds the minimum and builds a reserve of fitness.    

This can be achieved three 10 minute bouts of vigorous exercise a week! The objectives of these bouts are twofold.

  1. Create good skeletal muscle
  2. Develop circulo-respiratory endurance


We will work in three stages of 8 weeks each.

  1. Develop tissue
  2. Develop endurance
  3. Develop strength

The priority is to build muscle bulk. We need the tissue to work with. Enlarging the muscle working unit is called hypertrophying. Once there is mass it needs to be infused with blood capillaries and make chemical changes in the muscle that will provide endurance. You will then be able to contract the muscle many times when running or any other sporting or exercise regimes. The third step is to train the nervous system and make further modifications in the chemistry of the muscle, in order to develop strength.


The training program for each 8 week period is calculated by multiplying the difference between 220 and your age by 60% in the first period, 70% in the second and 80% in the third.


If you are 40 years old, the remainder from 220 is 180, multiplied by 0.6 (60%) that’s 108 which is rounded up to 110.

To make it easier use the graph below.    

Under 30 120 140 150 150-160
30-44 110 130 140 140-160
45-60 100 120 130 130-140
Over 60 100 110 120 120-130



10 minutes is divided into

  1. One minute limbering exercises
  2. Four minutes of muscle building
  3. Five minutes of any continuous activity that raises the heart rate to your needed level

Stage 1. One minute

One minute of any stretches that combine movement in all directions

Stage 2. Four minutes

Two minutes to develop muscle fibres by pumping actions of muscle against resistance.

  • Push aways – stand a little beyond arm’s reach from a wall with the hands on the wall at shoulder height. If its too easy move further away, if too hard move closer. You may also need to use a kitchen work top depending on your current strength.
  • Now do 20 push aways so the exercise feels moderate. You should not be able to achieve it without feeling it, nor should it feel so hard you can hardly manage it      

 Two minutes of expansion sit backs.

  • Sit up with the feet hooked under a piece of furniture and the knees into the chest
  • Cross the hands over the chest and lean back with knees still bent. Get back to a position that you can hold for 15- 20 seconds without the belly muscles quiver too much.
  • This is an isometric exercise, which is working muscles without movement

Stage 3 Five minutes

Five minutes of circulo-respiratory endurance lope

  • Jog on the spot to bring your heart rate up to your level for TPR 1.

It may take a few times to achieve the correct levels for all the above exercises. Remember to keep to your pules rate for TPR 1. As you progress through the first eight weeks, your levels of strength and fitness will improve. This means you will have to work harder to achieve your heart rate of TPR 1.   


Things get a bit harder and we now create endurance.

10 minutes is divided into

  1. Four minutes of muscle endurance training
  2. Six minutes of circulo-respiratory training

No need to build to build tissue, and there is now an improved heart and circulation system and we now start pushing capillaries into skeletal muscles. This will induce the chemical and structural changes needed to give muscle cells the endurance they need for prolonged activity. We take up interval training which allows the heart to reach higher levels without fatigue.       

Stage 1. four minutes

Divided between

  • Endurance push aways
  • Endurance sit backs

Endurance push aways. It will be necessary to lower the resistance from stage 1. as we now do forty push aways, fast! The exercise should feel moderate, note easy or very hard.

  • Forty push aways

Endurance sit backs. Take up the same position as step 1.

  • Sit back about a third of way to the floor and hold for 10-15 seconds
  • Continue to sit back halfway and hold for 10-15 seconds
  • Finally go back to three quarters way to floor and hold again as above
  • Hands over chest

The belly should not quiver too much during sit backs.

Now alternate two sets of each exercise which will take about four minutes   

Stage 2. Six minutes

Circulo-respiratory interval training. The next six minutes are divided between bouts of fast and resting jogging on the spot. Bursts of activity allow for the reconciliation of lactic acid and other metabolics, so they don’t limit performance.

  • Alternate between 30 seconds of fast and slow running on the spot for six minutes. Take the pulse every two minutes

Remember to keep to your pulse rate for TPR 2. As you progress through the second eight weeks, your levels of strength and fitness will improve. This means you will have to work harder to achieve your heart rate of TPR 2.  


Now the program is fast and energetic, and you will be working at 80% of your max training rate. It’s important to keep your movements and workouts relaxed, as it wont work if you become tense. Make sure only the muscles needed for the exercise are working, relax the others.    

At this stage you have muscle mass and endurance, now you build strength.

Stage 1. Two minutes

Divided between

  • Strength push aways
  • Strength sit backs

Strength push aways. Now things change a lot. Building strength will take less time than the previous exercises. Now we will make things much harder, with a few repetitions. Instead of pushing away from a wall or counter, we move to the floor, or raise the feet away from the floor.

  • Now your exercise is just five push ups. The exercise should be so hard you can manage only five     

Strength sit backs. Again, take the same starting position as before.

  • Now sit back to a position you can hold for just five seconds. If needed raise the arms over head or hold a weight against the belly. After five seconds relax onto the floor.   

Stage 2. Eight minutes

Cardio-respiratory sprint intervals

Now working up to 80% of max workout. A person in their 20’s will raise their heart rate up to a max of 150 beats per minute. This is achieved in short bursts of fifteen seconds.

  • Begin the first 15 secs with your training rate from level 2. Now move quick enough to raise your heart rate up to max for fifteen secs.
  • Now alternate between slow and fast every fifteen seconds for eight minutes    


Now you’re fit you continue with a maintenance program which includes a combination of strength, endurance and cardio training.   


This article represents an overview of the full program. It is important to remember this is a guide and cannot replace a supervised program. If you are in any doubt about your ability to train at home, or experience breathlessness, chest pains, or have a family history of heart problems consult your doctor.    

Martin Thompson.