Prepper Fitness: Are you Physically Fit Enough to Survive a Crisis?

When was the last time that you walked over a mile? When was the last time you walked for more than a mile with a backpack filled with 50lbs of gear?

If you’re preparing for a crisis, but can barely walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded then you are nowhere near where you need to be, and you really shouldn’t be thinking of yourself as a prepared person.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across who prepare in almost every area of survival, except physical fitness. These are the people who have almost every piece of gear known to man,  have multiple bugout bags each weighing more than 50lb+ pounds, but have never once strapped that pack to their back and walked a couple of miles to see how it feels to carry that much weight.

Can you do it?

If I asked you to simulate a disaster scenario right now by grabbing your bugout bags and walking 5-10 miles, could you do it?

If your pride says yes, but your daily reality consists of moving from one seat to another, to go from staring at one screen to the next, then you may want to rethink what I’m asking you to do.

You can have all of the survival gear in the world, but if you haven’t prepared your body to physically deal with the realities of surviving a long-term crisis or bugout situation you’re not going to survive for very long.

Survival is downright brutal; It’s going to take a toll on your body!

fitness guy with huge muscles
Image from TABERCIL PHOTOGRAPHY and licensed under Wiki Commons

If you want to get a good picture of real-world survival, look no further than the U.S. military. While a lot their training deals with tactics, weapons, and gear; two of the primary focuses of basic training are breaking down the human body and then building it up to survive the rigors of war. They know from thousands of years of warfare that the gear they have is only as good as the soldier who carries it.

Why is physical fitness so important to a prepper? Here are some things to consider:

  • When it comes down to it, the will to survive and the physical ability to deal with stress will always beat technology.
  • When things go bad, you are going to be forced to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. You can’t just go from couch to real-world survival and expect things to go well.
  • Your preparations for survival are no different than the boxer preparing for a fight, the climber preparing to climb Everest, or the soldier preparing to go to war; do you really think any of those people were sitting on the couch in the lead up to those events?
  • Your life, and the lives of those you love depend on your physical fitness and your ability to perform under harsh crisis conditions.

How to get in Shape to Survive a Long-term Crisis or Bugout Scenario

I want to start this section with a warning; SKINNY DOES NOT MEAN PREPARED

This article isn’t about losing weight or looking good in the mirror, it’s about physical fitness; and yes, there is a huge difference. I’ve met a good number of hefty people who could cover more miles in a day while out hunting, than the average so-called in shape person probably walks in a month.

Start taking your physical fitness seriously.

You don’t need to sign up for a gym, but you do need to do something. If your day consists of sitting in front of a screen for 8 hours at work, followed by sitting in a vehicle on the way home so you can then plop yourself on the couch, you might want to take it slow at first.

It’s far better to do a little something every day than to throw yourself headfirst into some crazy P90X style fitness program that could do more harm than good. If you’re not already regularly exercising, take the next six weeks and follow the program below: add 10-15% a week, and then you’ll be ready to step things up.

Every little thing you can do to add steps to your day will help.

  • Start parking in the farthest spot from your work, the grocery store, etc.
  • Skip the elevator and start taking the stairs.
  • Make sure you start your day with a low impact stretching routine.
  • Make walking part of your daily routine. Start out with an early morning or late night walk, 30 minutes a day for at least 3-5 days a week. As you build your endurance, add a backpack with some weight to your routine and increase the speed of your walk.

Some data showing how adding a simple walking or stair climbing routine to your life can make a difference:

  • A 2015 study, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, showed that even small amounts of walking could make a huge difference. In fact, the study found that 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add up to seven years to your life – how is that for increasing your odds of survival?
  • Screw the Gym; take the stairs. Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada have found that a single minute of very intense exercise produces health benefits similar to longer, traditional endurance training. Their studies concluded that simply taking the stairs for 30 minutes a week could lead to an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness.
  • According to Harvard Medical School, even when taking it slow, you’ll burn calories two to three times faster climbing stairs than walking briskly on the street. But since I’m more concerned with fitness, how about this stat: The Harvard Alumni Study found that men who average at least eight flights a day enjoy a 33% lower mortality rate than men who are sedentary — and that’s even better than the 22% lower death rate men earned by walking 1.3 miles a day.

Step it up; here is where the real fitness payoff begins.

Now that we have you moving, let’s start bumping things up a notch and really start to increase our fitness related preparedness.

It all starts with your core!

Almost every physical thing you do starts at the core, which includes all the muscles of the hips, upper legs, stomach, lower back, and waist. A strong core promotes good posture, improves breathing, and reduces the risk of upper back, bone and muscle injuries. It also helps develop your back strength to carry those heavy bugout bags.

There are literally hundreds of different core training techniques, gadgets, and workout routines to choose from so I’m not going to go through everything here, but here is a good 10-minute at home routine to get you started.

Strength training for power, fitness and to prevent injury

You’re not looking to become some freakish steroid monster, but you do need to build up your overall strength because it is an important part of the preparedness fitness equation.

Again, there are thousands upon thousands of options, so I obviously can’t share every one of them in an article, but I do want to give you a place to start and a sample fitness schedule. Feel free to take it as is, or tweak it; the point is to make it fun and make sure you can stick to it.

Sample weekly training program:

  • Day 1: Strength Training – Arms, Shoulders & Legs
  • Day 2: Core Training & Cardio: Core (See the Video Above) Cardio: (Bike ride, jog, swim, or kayaking)
  • Day 3: Strength Training – Chest and Back
  • Day 4: Strength Training – Arms, Shoulders & Legs
  • Day 5: Core Training & Cardio: Core (See the Video Above) Cardio: (Bike ride, jog, swim, or kayaking)
  • Day 6: Strength Training – Chest and Back
  • Day 7: Rest- Easier hike/walk

Sample Strength Training Program:

Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of stretching and getting your heart rate up.

Strength Training – Arms, Shoulders, & Legs

Strength Training – Chest and Back

Now I know I told you not to start off with p90x style workouts, but if you’ve been at this for a couple of weeks those types of programs aren’t a bad option. They are cheaper than the gym, they are fun and engaging, and they produce real results.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a workout plan, or sticking to a workout schedule, check out Tony Horton’s newest P90X DVD Workout Plan. He’s taken the best of P90X and condensed it into an easy to follow 30-minute a day routine that anyone can follow.

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  1. I agree. The world would be more beautiful if everyone was under fifty years old and in top shape. The problem is that most people are so removed from the ideal, just looking at some of these types of musclemen makes them feel even more apathetic.

    Fitness is very personal. A personal trainer can help a lot to motivate you. A personal trainer worth his salt is going to evaluate your condition and give you goals that are reasonable and achievable. If you don’t have a personal trainer, do for yourself.

    Evaluate, weigh, measure, and decide your ideal.
    Then write out a plan for reaching that goal.

    If you are 5’5″ tall female and weigh 260 lbs., your plan will be different than a 6’2″ 160 lb. male. Your age and physical abilities and disabilities must be taken into consideration.

    Don’t let other people discourage you. Don’t push yourself to the point of being counterproductive. Be like the turtle, not the hare. Start out small and build up consistently with perseverance. If you stop for a while and find yourself back where you started, in stead of using energy in self criticism, use your energy to muster a restart. Don’t let anything or anybody put you down. You are worthy to be the best you that is you, and nobody like you. You are unique. Never forget. To even be alive you had to swim past millions of other fishes.


  2. No doubt! I was a competitive judo player from my teen years into my late 20’s while my training regimen is decidedly different at 41 I could still punish the VAST majority of males my age and most soft, lazy nihilistic tech addicted millennials. And the med dependant guy with the gut, all the survival equipment in the world including a alcohol and cigarettes makes me roll. You’ll be the first to go. Thanks for stockpiling all this exta gear for me.

  3. Some of us are legitimately physically disabled and will never be able to make it long terms in a dystopian post crisis world. Having said that I’m still not going to starve in the first 72 hours or 30 days. Yes I have bug out bags, no, I can’t walk a mile, however I’ll be damned if I’ll just sit by the wary side and die or use up some one else’s supplies. I’m just hoping I can crawl by until things get normalized as I doubt a true TEOTWAWKI situation is heading my way. If it does, put me down I’m fine with that. Your welcome to any supplies I might have left. For disasters that might last up to 30 days, I want to have a chance of surviving, therefore I prep for that. I’m a realist. I know Uncle Sugar won’t be helping quickly so it’s up to me to at least have the basics for disaster preparedness. Don’t write us with disabilities off completely. If your in great shape and can truck several miles God Bless You. Just do me a favor if you reach help, let them know I’m alive with supplies but am unable to proceed. Send help if possible, if not God Bless America and good luck to all!

  4. In January 2016, I finally got serious about my physical fitness…..I was a 57-year old grandma who was toting around an extra 20 pounds and I had very little muscle mass….weak!!! Tired!!! Gooshie all over! LOL At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I signed up for BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix. Three rounds later (just 63 days) I had lost 18 pounds and 16 1/2 inches. Best of all, I had core strength for the first time in my life and my energy levels soared. I feel much more confident that I can endure physical challenges when things get tough. I clean the whole goat barn now with no back pain. Lifting 50-pound feed sacks is easy now, and even those 70-pound bales of hay are do-able!!! Yay ME! You can do it, too, if you set your mind to it….

  5. I have preached this for years… Not only will you be able to physically do more BUT by being fit you will heal faster , resist disease & infection better… etc. The benefits are endless .

  6. Excellent article. I often ask people to do 10-20 push-ups and then fire the gun at the target. Only reason get them breathing and heart rate up. You must know your limits. You do not need to go to the gym and be a muscle head. Simply being active. Ride a bike, walk around the block, start with walking from one side of your house the the other and back several times. I heard a saying from a trained fighter once. The gun is not the machine. The gun is simply a tool of the machine. The body and the mind is the machine. The more fine tuned the machine, the more effective the tool becomes.

  7. I’ve learned a lot! We must be ready for anything and equipping ourselves through being fit is smart. Thanks for sharing this! Looking forward to more informative posts!

  8. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. By the same token, a family might be only as strong as its least physically fit member. Living in a multistory house will force family members to climb stairs, which gives them some exercise. Even a little exercise is better than no exercise.

  9. I couldn’t remember when was the last time I held such armor. But for sure it was heavy and not easy. Now I can make use of it as means to develop muscles. Wow, didn’t realize that.

  10. I’ve search the web up and down and cannot find an answer. Is it safe to wash your hands using river water or other “wild” water ? Or do you have to boil water every time before washing your hands. It seems excessive to have to boil enough water to wash your hands at least 4-5 times a day let alone

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