You don’t need to belong to a gym or even purchase (sometimes pricey) workout equipment to get or stay in shape. If you are able to look at ordinary objects from a different perspective, everyday household items often can serve dual purposes—their main purpose and as stand-ins for exercise equipment. This can save money and also precious storage space that might be lost to bulky fitness equipment.
Household Items to Use as Weights
Although there are great strength gains to be made simply from lifting your own bodyweight (push-ups and pull-ups for example) lifting a variety of different weights using a variety of different lifts can offer the ability to better target a specific muscle or muscle group.
These are a number of household items to use as weights i.e. as stand-ins for dumbbells, kettlebells, and free weights. And they don’t take up any additional room in your home since you probably have them on hand anyway.
Although almost anything you can hold in your hands can be used as a weight provided it is heavy enough to offer at least some resistance, the potential for making a mess excludes some items from being good options. A gallon of milk is a good eight+ pounds and has a handle but the prospect of having to clean up a gallon of spilled milk is not something most people relish.
Following are some ordinary household items that you could use for strength training.
- Bottles of liquid laundry detergent: These are offered in a couple of different sizes (weights), have handles, are made of heavier plastic and have lids that can be screwed on very tightly.
- Buckets: These come in a variety of sizes as well and have handles. Fill them with a variety of different things to vary the weight, preferably things that won’t make a huge mess if a bucket is dropped—books, baseballs, golf balls, etc.
- Canned goods: These also come in a variety of sizes and won’t open and spill if dropped. The larger ones may be a little more difficult to hold.
- Dry goods: Flour, sugar, rice and dried beans come in bags of varying weights. You might consider putting them in a zippered, plastic bag before using to contain a potential spill.
- Bags of produce: Potatoes, onions, apples, oranges, and grapefruit, for example, are packaged in weighted bags and can be used for strength training. Most of these types of bags have some extra plastic at the top to make them easy to grip.
While doing pull-ups from the rafters is probably not a good idea, walking or jogging up and down a set of stairs can be a pretty good cardio workout depending on how many steps you have and the pace at which you go. (They didn’t invent the stair climber for nothing!) Variations of stair workouts can include climbing with high knees, jumping with two feet or hopping on one foot, for instance. In addition, steps can be used for calf stretches and for exercises (heel drops and toe raises) to prevent shin splints and to help recover from Achilles tendinitis.
And if you don’t have steps, you have walls, which can be used for exercises like wall sits, which work your legs, glutes, and core or wall push-ups, which work your arms, shoulder, and chest. Wall push-ups are helpful for those with weak wrists or elbow issues since they don’t put extra strain on those joints.
There are a number of variations of wall sits to make them more difficult:
- Hold something weighted and do bicep curls while maintaining the sitting position
- Cross one leg over your other leg to do a one-legged wall sit
- Hold yourself up on the balls of your feet during the sit
- Keeping your feet together, open your knees out to the side and close, alternating for the length of the hold
There are a number of different wall workouts that can be found online that include a variety of lunges, squats, and push-ups, some requiring your feet to be pressed against the wall while your hands are on the floor, which is difficult in and of itself.
Open doors to other training
If you are doing a stair workout and you want to amp up the intensity, consider wearing a weighted backpack, which also is known as rucking. You can weigh the backpack with anything that will add extra pounds in an appropriate amount. Remember to try to weigh the backpack evenly so that one side of your body doesn’t bear more of the burden.
A step stool, somewhere between four and 12 inches is ideal, can add an additional dimension to a cardio workout. Remember step aerobics? Their popularity continues because the act of climbing on and off a stool or step in different patterns and at different speeds increases the heart rate and lung capacity and strengthens muscles. You can add an upper-body component by lifting weights as you step on and off the stool.
Gliding discs (plastic circles that can be used under the hands and feet to make surfaces easier to slide on) can give you a more difficult workout because they cause instability, which makes your muscles, particularly your core, work harder during the moves. No gliding discs? No worries! You can use paper plates instead!
Don’t forget that dancing is a great way to maintain fitness. Remember jazzercise and dancercise? Now there is Zumba, a fitness program based on Latin styles of dance, and barre, which utilizes a ballet barre but also includes moves from Pilates and yoga, among others. You may think you need to go to a barre studio to do a barre work out, but you can easily do the same moves at home using the back of a chair or even the kitchen counter in place of the barre. Barre workouts that you can do at home can be found on DVDs or online.
You don’t need to belong to a gym or have an extensive arsenal of exercise equipment at home to be fit. With a little thinking outside the box and even just a few household items on hand, you can do an effective workout in the comfort of your own home.