Exercising with Household Items

One important component of your physical therapy plan of care is the home exercise program. Home exercise programs are an integral part of your care. Each program consists of activities to meet your specific needs. When it comes to exercise, one barrier that can prevent people from participating is access to the exercise equipment. Even if you don’t have traditional exercise equipment, you can creatively substitute with household items to complete your home program. Make a quick lap around your house to find some of these items, they may be hiding in plain sight! For optimal performance, talk with your physical therapist about specific items you can use to complete your program. So, what household items can be used as alternatives to the equipment in the gym?


Your PT may provide wrist strengthening exercises if you have pain in your wrists or elbows. The hammer can be used to provide light resistance for exercises which involve pronation or supination (rotation of your forearm).



For activities which require more weight than a hammer, the following household items can be used to complete your weight activities - just remember that 1 pound is equivalent to 16 ounces:

1 pound: 1 soup can or 1 bottle of salad dressing

2 pounds: 1 carton of milk

3 pounds: 1 standard bag of oranges or onions

4 pounds: 1 small bag of cat food or 1 64-oz bottle of ketchup

One year old

5 pounds: 1 bag of rice, sugar, flour

8 pounds: 1 gallon of milk

20 pounds: 1 one-year-old baby (this can vary, but average weight is around 23 pounds for girls and 24.5 pounds for boys)

In addition, soup cans can be used in place of a bolster under your knees to perform exercises for your quadriceps after a surgery.

Belt or bed sheet:

These can be used to assist with stretches for your shoulders, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves or other muscle groups.

Pillow or couch cushion:

These are ideal to work on balance activities whether it’s single leg balance with your eyes open or your eyes closed, or performing higher level activities such as push-ups or split squats atop a pillow for a greater level of instability.


You can participate in an entire lower extremity routine to address flexibility through stretching, stability through balance, and power through strengthening. Activities performed include calf raises, single leg balance with support of a handrail, squats, step ups, step downs, side steps, and split lunges.


A chair is an ideal surface to perform an exercise from or to use for extra stability with stretching. Some exercises include sit-to-stand squats, triceps dips, glute bridges from an elevated surface. In addition, a chair can be used as a support surface to stretch your back (for rotation and sidebending) and hip flexors.