Active Seniors

10 household items that double as exercise equipment

A common misconception with exercise is that you need to have specialised equipment for the exercise to be effective, however this is not entirely true. There are many household items that can easily be used for exercise purposes. In this article we show you ten of these household items that you can use for exercise as well as our favourite exercise options with each.

  1. A towel. This household staple is easy to find and you can choose to use either a bath or a hand towel to vary the thickness of your grip as you use it. Our favourite way to use a towel is to perform upper body movements such as pressing and pulling movements while pulling the towel apart. This helps to engage more of the shoulder and arm muscles as you perform the movements. While the towel may seem light, the effort required to pull the towel apart while performing the movements certainly fatigues the shoulder and forearm muscles. The best part? You can easily modify the intensity of the exercise. To make it easier don’t pull apart so hard and take more frequent rest breaks. To make it more challenging, roll the towel so that it is thick, pull the towel apart with greater effort and maintain the tension for all of the repetitions.
  2. Wine bottle (or similar). A wine bottle is a great tool to train the upper body and specifically to challenge our gripping muscles. One of our favourite exercises with the bottle  involves holding the narrow end of the bottle with your palm facing down, and keeping the upper arm still as you rotate the wrist so that the palm faces up and the bottle performs an arc motion. One of the main benefits to using a bottle is that the load is offset. Unlike a hand weight which has a nice balanced weight either side of the handle, the weight of the bottle is all on one side which challenges your gripping muscles. Again this exercise can be made easier or harder based on the position of the upper arm with more challenge required to keep the arm extended in front of the body. To make the exercise easier, simply keep the elbow bent and by the side – and of course you can enjoy a class to reduce the weight of the bottle!
  3. Broomstick. Much like the wine bottle, the uneven load of the broomstick (due to the length of the stick and the weight of the head of the broomstick) increases the challenge on your gripping muscles as you try to keep the broomstick parallel to the ground. However the broomstick is also a versatile tool that can help to improve our exercise technique. One of our favourite ways to use the broomstick is to hold the broomstick against your back, with the broomstick ideally touching the back of the head, middle of the upper back and pelvis areas, and then bend forward trying to keep all of the above points touching the broomstick. This allows us to train how to keep our spine straight and bend through the hips which is useful for lifting objects from the ground. 
  4. Tissue box/es. We have a series of short tips that demonstrate the many exercises you can perform with a tissue box (or two). Our favourite way to use a single tissue box is as a hurdle to step over or move our leg over. The height of the box can be varied and increased easily as you get more confident. In pairs, we like to try and hold the two tissue boxes together in front of the chest area (in essence lightly squeezing them together) while moving the arms from side to side in front of the body. As with the towel, this increases the amount of muscle involvement as the muscles not only produce the movement but also need to keep the tissue boxes together so they don’t fall.
  5. Cushion or pillow. While most strengthening exercises focus on slow control, it has been recently highlighted in research that adding power exercises has at least the same if not greater benefit than just performing strengthening exercises alone. Pillows and cushions are great ways to train power safely as the load is light, and they are unlikely to damage your surrounds. We think that the best exercises to train power using a cushion or pillow is to perform a slam type exercise. You can either start a pillow or cushion fight with the wall or the floor depending on your mobility. The faster you perform the movement, the greater the power you exert and develop. However it is important to note that power exercises should only be performed if you have at least 6 months experience performing regular strengthening exercises. 
  6. Cans. As you have probably noticed in our exercise class videos, cans are one of the closest and easiest ways to replicate hand weights. Our favourite way to use cans is to perform bent over shoulder and arm exercises such as a bent over row or a reverse fly. These muscle groups are important for posture, but commonly weaker and hence the cans are a great starting weight to allow you to build and develop the strength of these muscles. They are also convenient in that they come in different sizes and the increment changes are not too large making it easy to gradually progress the weight that you are using.
  7. Rolling pin. While not everyone has a rolling pin at home, if you do it can be a very good tool to use as a massage stick for the thigh muscles. Just as you would kneed dough, your muscles can benefit from the gentle pressure and movement of the rolling pin. This helps to move fluid in the layers of the connective tissues and draws some local blood to the area. The pressure you use should only produce midl discomfort though not pain. If you have the mobility, you can also use the rolling pin on the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg or hamstring muscles. 
  8. Dressing gown cord. The cord of the dressing gown tends to be the perfect length to allow you to gently stretch the leg muscles. While many people struggle to reach their toes while sitting in a chair, you can use the cord around your foot to gently bring the toes back towards the body to achieve a good stretch through the back of the leg into the hamstring and calf muscles. You can also loop it around the lower leg and pull the heel towards the buttock from both a standing and sitting position which stretches out the quadricep muscles in the front of the thigh. 
  9. Doorway. Every house or unit is guaranteed to have one of these and they can be very useful for both exercise and stretching. As you walk through the doorway, a simple way to stretch the arm, chest and shoulder muscles is to gentle place the arms either side of the frame and step through until you feel a slight stretch. You can change the height of your arms to get a different stretch in different parts of the shoulder and chest. Doors are also usually painted in a semi-gloss pain which is perfect for sliding down when performing wall squats – just make sure that the door is securely closed when doing so!
  10. Chair. We saved one of the easiest and most common options for last. A chair is an extremely versatile piece of exercise equipment. A few of our favourite exercises with a chair include sit to stands, seated leg lifts, and lean backs to name a few. 

With all this equipment around you, there really is no excuse for not being able to exercise at home! Of course if you would like a specific home program designed by one of our exercise physiologists, please get in touch and we would be happy to help. 

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