How to Keep up with your Rehab while Physical Distancing

I’m sure you’ve heard your physiatrist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist tell you to keep up with your rehab exercises between each session. Now with the COVID19 pandemic and ‘physical distancing’, many of us are confined in our homes and keeping up with our exercises has gotten even harder. But it doesn’t have to be. And you don’t need fancy rehab or gym equipment either. You can use items around your house that will do just the same!

Below are a few items around your house that can be substituted for rehab equipment to help you keep up with your exercises:

*** Disclaimer ***  By participating in any exercises or using the items described below, you are in agreement that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily practicing these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Amputee Coalition of Toronto and it’s authors from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Amputee Coalition of Toronto and it’s author’s negligence. Check with your rehabilitation team before performing these exercises or using the items described below.

1. Cans of soup or beans

Many canned items, depending on what is in them or their size, works perfectly to replace 1 lb. (16 oz.) to 3 lbs. (48 oz.) dumbbells that you use in the gym. They are great for arm workouts like biceps curls, triceps push downs and arm presses. If you have good shoulders, they can also be good for overhead presses or shoulder presses.

Canned food

Tip: Put rubber bands around them to improve their grip so that it minimizes them from slipping from your hands.

2. Bags of produce, small rice or flour

A small bag of produce (like a bag of apples, oranges, onions, potatoes) make great substitutes for kettle bells. You can use them for your ‘dips’ exercises and squats. If you are further along in your rehabilitation exercise program, they are great for mimicking occupational therapy exercises for balance. For example, hold one bag of oranges (weight that you can safely carry) on one side and walk slowly while keeping your balance. Make sure to only use weights of items you can comfortably carry. If you are up for a challenge and starting to develop good balance, carry one bag in each hand. Soon you will be carrying groceries from your to your home!

bag of orange

Tip: If you are using a small bag of rice, flour or sugar for this exercise, use a reusable grocery bag so you can use the handles to carry them.

3. Jug of water, milk or laundry detergent

For those of you who are further along in your rehab and can use heavier weights like a jug of water, milk or laundry detergent. They convert to about 8 to 10 lbs. depending on the size of the jug (1 water gallon is about 3.79 Kg. or 8.26 lbs.). These are good for advanced balance exercises. Always check with your rehab team about what exercises you can do with these weights.

laundry detergent

Tip: If  you are going to use a milk jug, make sure to move the milk in another container. You wouldn’t want the milk to go bad with it being out of the fridge.

4. Sturdy furniture and kitchen counters

Use the furniture around your house and even the spaces between them! For example, use a sturdy couch or dining room table to support you while you do standing exercises. You can use it to support your balance similar to using the parallel bars in the rehab clinic. You can use the kitchen counter for these types of exercises too! You can practice getting up and sitting down with a sturdy chair (or your wheelchair) behind you and the kitchen counter in front of you for support. You can do standing leg lifts, knee raises, hip extensions and even squats while holding on to the counter for support.

kitchen counter

5. Sturdy chair or your wheelchair

You can also do workouts using a sturdy chair or your wheelchair. Seated yoga, for example is a good way to stretch, condition and strengthen the muscles we use especially when we start wearing our prosthesis. It is a great way to strengthen your balance, good way to get calm and relax, be mindful and release any tensions in our bodies. Yoga for Amputees has an amazing collection of resources that can help you with adaptive and seated yoga poses. Make sure you check out Marsha Therese Danzig’s YouTube Channel and Lucy Lomax’s video – Amputee Yoga, Introduction on YouTube to learn more.

woman sitting in a wheelchair practicing yoga

6. Towels and tea towels for stretching

Stretching is key, of course, in any fitness regimen. You want to make sure that you stretch before and after your exercises to minimize injuries to the muscles. You can use a towel or tea towel to help you stretch those hard to stretch areas.

tea towel

Tip: Always wash the tea towel after using it for your workout before putting it back in the kitchen for use!

These are just some examples of everyday household items that you can use to continue your rehab at home. There are hundreds more around your house that you can use to substitute the equipment you use in rehab. It is also a wise investment to get resistance bands or therapy bands similar to the ones used by your therapist for home use.

If you have not already written down the exercises you do in rehab, contact your physiatrist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist for exercises you can safely do at home. They are better equipped to provide you a custom set of exercises that will address your strengthening and conditioning levels. Ask them what type of exercises, how to do them, how many sets (number of times you need to do them) and repetitions (how many in each set). This way, your rehab can continue while you are physically distancing and you are progressing in your recovery.

Last tip: Always consider your safety when doing exercises. Be aware of falls and make sure your phone is within reach in case of an emergency. If available in the same household, have a member of your household watch you or join you in your exercises to ensure your safety.

Good luck and stay safe and healthy!

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