Exercise Physiologist, Healthy Connections
Exercise Physiologist, Healthy Connections
I am a member of a gym – my reasons are probably the same as why you come to Healthy Connections: it’s convenient, social and has all the fancy and expensive equipment your heart desires when exercising. It also means that you don’t have to go and buy all this fancy equipment yourself. Until situations like the one we are facing now, where you are unable to go to the gym (and also don’t want to spend too much money), pop up and you are left at home with no equipment to exercise with. Or do you?
Some of the top barriers to exercise in adults include accessibility issues, financial limitations and environmental factors (e.g. inclement weather) (Nied & Franklin, 2002). All these barriers can be overcome with one simple solution: be creative with the items you already have! Whether it be laundry liquid bottles or cans of food, using household items to exercise is an effective alternative to maintain your physical activity regime.
Why are using weights recommended?
There are four types of exercise recommended for the Australian adult (Department of Health, 2019):
- Aerobic (or ‘cardio’) training – exercise that improves heart and lung health, fitness and aids in weight loss. Cardio includes the movements that make you puffy like walking, cycling, running, sports and dancing.
- Resistance (or strength) training – exercise that improves bone and muscle strength, muscle toning and metabolism. These exercises require a resistance or load to act against for muscle adaptations to occur (more on this below).
- Balance training – exercise that challenges static and dynamic stability and the ability to change direction.
- Flexibility training (or stretching) – activities that improve your nimbleness and reduce muscle tightness or soreness. Stretching is often used in combination with strength training to achieve muscle balance.
Cardio exercise is easy enough to achieve without going to a gym or using equipment. Resistance training, on the other hand, requires a load or resistance. This could be gravity (i.e. using your body weight against gravity like in a push-up) or using weighted objects or bands.
What is happening in the body when we lift a resistance?
In order to get stronger, our muscles need to be exposed to a certain amount of stress (or work) that is greater than what they are exposed to in everyday life. For example, an office worker will require a certain level of resistance beyond their desk duties, whilst a builder who lifts heavy objects all day will need a greater amount of resistance to what is already experienced.
When a muscle is exposed to a higher level of work (or what we call ‘overload’), it creates micro-tears (or micro-damage) in the muscle fibres which can often cause soreness in the following days. The creation of these micro-tears tells the body that these fibres need to be repaired to a greater mass and strength to be able to handle this type of work again. Hence, that is how our muscles grow! For more info, check out this awesome video.
Therefore, when thinking about using household items for a resistance training workout, use objects that are of an appropriate weight for you. There are many ways to determine the correct weight including:
It is also important that over time, you adjust the level of resistance for any given movement. For example, if a bicep curl using 400g food cans is becoming easier than ‘somewhat hard’ or a 7-8/10, then increase your weights to a 2L milk bottle filled halfway with water. If you stop working your muscles hard, you will lose the strength you have gained from your past workouts.
Examples of household exercise weights
What about balance exercise?
Many of you would have been doing balance exercises in the gym using foam or other unstable surfaces for an extra challenge. At home, try using cushions, pillows or towels as substitute foam!
Let’s give these household items a go! In the below video, Renee is using laundry liquid bottles filled with water but be creative with what you have at your home. Aim for 2-3 cycles of 10 repetitions of each exercise.
Enjoy and stay safe, wash your hands and don’t forget to move!
As university-trained exercise physiologists, we use evidence from high-quality research studies to support our recommendations so many of these blogs will refer to research journal articles. If you would like to know more about this topic and the studies cited in the blog, please refer the the references below.