Suppose you were in a situation of restricted access to calories -- at or perhaps even below what you need to sustain your weight long-term -- but wanted to stay/get in the best shape possible under those circumstances. (Hypothetical example: you're a captive prisoner-of-war, and are trying to maintain shape in case you have the opportunity to escape, but not starve as a result of exercising beyond your calorie allotment.)

What's the best exercise program you can design (with or without any equipment) that will keep or improve your strength, endurance, reflexes while consuming as few calories as possible so as not to hasten starvation? Or is that basically impossible and your best bet is to conserve energy and hope for the best?

  • Fit in what sense - strength? endurance? weight? size? Fitness for what purpose?
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 10:13
  • Well, if you want to stick to the "game", I guess the purpose is that if an escape opportunity arises, you are best equipped to take advantage of it.
    – lgritz
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 4:17

2 Answers 2


Joseph Pilates originally designed the exercise system named for him while in a WW I internment camp. The mat work portions are ideal for maintaining some muscle tone and fitness with restricted food and equipment.


If you lack calories your body will start to cannibalize itself in order to survive which means you will lose muscle mass whether you want to or not, unless you have a good store of body fat. But I would assume to stay fit you would probably need to do some aerobics to keep your joints and muscles warm and in good condition for the eminent escape, if you get the chance.

  • 1
    The term is called catabolism (muscle is metabolized for energy). Your body will also start to lose mass if you're not consuming enough protein (as protein is essential to maintain your body). Where carbs can be completely replaced by other sources of energy in the diet, protein can't. Considering that most POWs are malnourished, I seriously doubt that exercising while imprisoned would be a good idea. Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 15:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.