Toilet paper isn't the only item people started hoarding as the coronavirus pandemic began. As gyms across the country started to shutter, fitness fanatics rushed to buy weights and cardio machines so they could continue their workouts at home. Ecommerce sales of fitness equipment jumped 55 percent in a five-day period ending March 15 compared to sales earlier in the month, according to data from Adobe Analytics.
Somer Meyers, a physical therapist with SPEAR Physical Therapy in Brooklyn, New York, says many patients she is currently seeing via telehealth have complained about gym equipment being out of stock both at stores and online. “It's really forced me to get creative with household items,” she says. While standard gym equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells and treadmills has been in high demand, she says other items such as Hula-Hoops, jump ropes and mini trampolines remain available, as well as aerobic steps, ankle weights and TRX suspension trainers. You can also get creative on a jungle gym if you have one in your backyard or at a nearby park, she adds.
When your home becomes your gym, Meyers stresses it is important to clear your workout space of clutter, and if you're starting a new exercise routine, she recommends first getting your doctor's clearance. Here, she and other experts share tips on how to get imaginative when the exercise equipment you need is sold out or too pricey.
Dumbbells and weight plates: “Soup cans usually weigh 1 to 11/2 pounds, a gallon of milk is around 8 pounds, and laundry detergent can range from 5 to 20 pounds,” says Cliff Edberg, director of strategic growth initiatives for training at Life Time, a fitness company headquartered in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
Dani Johnson, a physical therapist with the Mayo Clinic's Healthy Living Program in Rochester, Minnesota, suggests household items including bottles of water, jars of peanut butter or even books. It will be easier to grip heavier objects if they have a handle, so choose items such as jugs of milk versus a carton, she says.
Meyers notes that many people are shopping in bulk right now, creating possibilities for those looking to lift heavier items. “I have a bag of cat litter that weighs 40 pounds,” she says. “Pet food, large bags of beans or rice, and other bulk items can double as weights for squats, lunges or a farmer's carry.” She notes that filling a backpack with books or canned foods can replicate the intensity of lifting with a barbell.
Kettlebells: Having a good handle is key for whatever substitute you use, says Johnson. She suggests filling a purse with kitchen staples or household objects, such as bags of flour or sugar, or rolled-up socks or rolls of toilet paper if you need something lighter for exercises like lateral raises. For something heavier, opt for jugs of milk or water.