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Published Wednesday, 29th October 2014

Returning an injured worker to their role following an injury or illness can be likened to returning a sports athlete to the field after time away from sport.

In both cases, correct training methods are the key to a successful return to their previous level of physical fitness. Physical Conditioning programs, otherwise known as Work Hardening programs, strive to get a worker to the functional level required by the workplace.

Multi-modal Work Hardening Programs, combining functional capacity training and work-related stress management training, improves health-related quality of life, and is able to enhance the mid-term chances of work-life participation1. In addition, providing strategies to cope with existing pain while participating in a Work Hardening Program improves pain tolerance and assists with a successful return to work2.

Prior to beginning a Physical Conditioning or Work Hardening program, KINNECT’s Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists conduct a thorough interview and physical assessment, the results of which are reported to the Insurer or the Employer. The initial assessment helps the clinician gain an understanding of the physical requirements of the worker’s job role and the workers social and exercise history.

The number of weekly supervised and unsupervised sessions are negotiated depending on the worker’s current work hours and duties and the process of goal setting and monitoring to ensure progression is started.

A good Physical Conditioning or Work Hardening program will progressively simulate work tasks in a safe training environment. This reduces the risk of re-injury and reduces the time taken to achieve a full return to work. During a structured Physical Conditioning or Work Hardening Program, flexibility, stability, endurance and functional strength exercises are gradually progressed to increase the workers physical and positional tolerances towards those required by the workplace.

KINNECT Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists design Physical Conditioning or Work Hardening programs to include elements that are specific to the worker and their work demands.

KINNECT Physical Conditioning or Work Hardening Programs are directed by current research and the latest industry practices. This is why KINNECT’s Physical Conditioning or Work Hardening Programs are also careful to include education on:

  • The concept of Hurt vs Harm;
  • Correct body mechanics;
  • Pain self-management strategies.

Physical conditioning programs are designed and delivered by Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) and Registered Physiotherapists. An Exercise Physiologist holds an approved four-year university degree from one of only nine universities in Australia, accredited by Exercise and Sports Science Association (ESSA). Exercise Physiologists are Allied Health Professionals who specialise in exercise programming and prescription for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and musculoskeletal injuries.

A Physiotherapist holds an approved four-year university degree and is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Physiotherapists deliver manual and physical therapies to a broad set of patients in settings that range from hospitals to community-based private practices. Physiotherapists also deliver services for the management of chronic diseases and musculoskeletal injuries.

Contact KINNECT on 1300 546 632.


  1. Bethge, M.M., Herbold, D.D., Trowitzch, L.L., & Jacobi, C.C. (2011). Work status and health-related quality of life following multimodal work hardening: A cluster randomised trial. Journal Of Back & Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 24(3), 161-172.
  2. Joy, J., Lowy, J., & Mansoor, J. (2001). Increased pain tolerance as an indicator of return to work in low-back injuries after work hardening. American Journal Of Occupational Therapy, 55(2), 200-205.

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