Keep in shape with five key exercises  The 5BX program involves five basic exercises, takes just 11 minutes and does not need equipment.
In these self-isolating times, I have gone back to the future for my workouts, replacing my four times a week gym therapy with just five calisthenics exercises developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Dubbed the 5BX program, it involves five basic exercises, takes just 11 minutes and needs absolutely no equipment. The program, launched in the 1950s, has also been credited with starting the fitness boom after it sold 25 million copies. Now, as we emerge from our chocolate egg comas, it offers a gentle way to kickstart our fitness routines.
Celebrity devotees include Helen Mirren and generations of British royals. I first came across it on my parent’s bookshelf when I was a kid. As someone who wouldn’t be seen dead in a gym, it suited me then, and now as someone who can’t do without gym, it suits me now. The five exercises boost flexibility , strength and aerobic fitness .
At the start, this is simply touching your toes. But as you advance, add extra touches to your left and right. The advanced level calls for upright torso circle bends. I’ll never get there.
This starts as merely raising your head and shoulders off the floor before progressing into a full blown sit-up . Keep your back straight.
Be still my middle-aged back! This is actually great for reducing lower back tightness. Lay on your front and raise your head and legs off the floor . (Vacuuming carpet beforehand is essential.)
Builds arm and shoulder strength. Starts as a simple push-up from the knees. Graduate to a full pushup and then adds a forehead touch to the floor for extra difficulty .
This is the high intensity part. Start with just 100 steps in six minutes, before increasing steps. But every 75 steps, add another exercise, such as scissor jumps, knee bends or star jumps. Developed initially for men, 5BX was soon joined by the XBX program for women, which adapts the five original exercises and adds five more.
Each original exercise starts with a basic movement modified for women, before becoming progressively harder. Then five new exercises are designed to improve flexibility , strength and aerobic capacity. Two are performed while laying on the floor : side leg raises while lying sideways and alternative leg lifting while laying on the back.
The remaining three exercises are performed standing: front knee raises, lateral side bending while sliding the arm down the leg towards the ankle and circling arms forwards and backwards.Some criticise the program as old-fashioned and potentially unsafe in its advanced phases. But the instructions are clear. Start at the very bottom of the first chart, never skip a level, and don’t fast track.‘‘ My impression is that the 5BX is a very thorough program,’’ says Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from University of Sydney’s School of Health Sciences.
‘‘ Considering all the circumstances of COVID-19 this will be very suitable for some people because it requires no equipment.’’
Find the program on Amazon or online at
Copyright © 2020 The Age  April 13 2020