Cedric X. Bryant by Cedric X. Bryant

This article originally appeared in the U.S. News World Report on May 29, 2020.


IN RECENT MONTHS, people around the globe have learned the value of at-home exercise. For most people, working out at the gym or in public parks has likely been – and may still be – out of the question. So, how can you develop an at-home exercise routine that is both effective and fun.

And how can you involve the whole family, which may include everyone from young children to their grandparents, all of whom need to stay active?

A home workout toolbox may be the answer.

The key to building a home workout toolbox is creativity, as everything from sidewalk chalk to bags of rice can be used during an at-home workout.


Resistance Training

When it comes to resistance training, it's essential that objects chosen as stand-ins for traditional weights like dumbbells and kettlebells are of an appropriate weight for the person who will be using them. Be careful if you're working out with your kids or older family members, as you don't want anyone getting hurt.

There are countless household objects that can be used as resistance.

Heavier options include:

  • Plastic milk jugs.
  • Gallon water bottles.
  • Laundry detergent containers.
  • Sacks of rice.

Lighter objects include:

  • Canned vegetables.
  • Small water bottles.
  • Paper plates, which are often used in classes for lower-functioning older adults. The adults hold the paper plates in their hands and work against the wind resistance.

Other objects offer variable weight, such as a backpack, which can be filled with items until the desired weight is reached and then used as a weighted vest or lifted in exercises like an overhead press.

Similarly, plastic buckets can be filled with items and then be used in place of kettlebells. If you're exercising with your family, have everyone choose a book of a suitable weight and perform weighted curl-ups or wood chops. Let the kids choose their favorite Harry Potter book while you struggle with "War and Peace" or "Gone with the Wind."

Additional options include:

  • Towels or paper plates used as sliders for exercises like mountain climbers and multi-directional lunges.
  • Folding chairs for dips and incline/decline push-ups.
  • Walls for push-ups and wall sits.
  • Add a balance challenge by standing on pillows or couch cushions.


Cardio Training

If you don't have a piece of cardio equipment at home, the best option is often to get outside to walk, jog or cycle through the neighborhood. That said, there are some creative ways to add some variety and fun to your at-home workout routine.

Climbing a staircase is an obvious way to burn calories inside the home. You can even use a backpack as a weighted vest to add intensity, as described above.

If you and your family can head out to your driveway or cul-de-sac for some playtime, paper or plastic cups can be used in lieu of cones to create obstacle course or relay races. Sidewalk chalk can be used to draw agility ladders or to mark a path through an elaborate obstacle course.


In Conclusion

The possibilities for what to include in your home workout toolbox are truly endless. Remember, the physical and mental health benefits of physical activity are more important now than ever, so use your creativity to motivate yourself and perhaps empower your family members to stay active during these trying times.