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By Sherri Richards, Published January 27 2003

Pumping produce: Groceries provide alternative exercise regimen

Take a look at your grocery list this week -- a 10-pound sack of potatoes, a 5-pound bag of sugar, two 29-ounce cans of peaches and two jugs of laundry detergent.

While you're filling up your cart, you also could be stocking a home gym.

Items in the home can be used for weight training.

Steve Sanders, an exercise physiologist with Innovis Health and Dakota Clinic's Cardiac Rehabilitation Department, says he used to recommend home products for exercise, but his patients would ask if they could use more compact, store-bought weights instead.

"Weights have become so cheap, at 40 cents a pound, it's hard not to go get a set of dumbbells," Sanders says.

But for those who may not want to invest in weights, home products are a good alternative.

"I think they're well-suited for everyone, young and old," Sanders says.

Basic equipment includes bottles of liquid, weight-filled bags and a broomstick.

"You can do almost every muscle with a broomstick and somebody else to provide the resistance," Sanders says.

For example, Sanders says, a person can perform bench presses or arm curls with the broomstick while a partner pushes or pulls on the stick for resistance.

The same can be done with leg curls or extensions, with a partner putting resistance on the ankle.

Rory Beil, exercise physiology coordinator for MeritCare Sports Medicine, says that your own body weight can be used in strength training with exercises such as single-leg squats, step ups and wall push-ups.

Old volleyballs or basketballs can be turned into medicine balls by filling them with sand. Beil suggests cutting a small hole in the rubber, filling the ball with sand through a funnel, gluing the cut piece back and wrapping duct tape around the hole to prevent leaks. The ball can then be held during stomach crunches or while turning side to side.

Rubber tubing can be used for bench presses by laying on the middle of the tubing and pulling the ends straight up with your arms.

The Mayo Clinic suggests combining household items to create exercise tools. For example, a pair of tube socks with an 8-ounce can in each, tied together, can create a one-pound ankle or hand weight.

Shoulder muscles can be exercised by doing front and side raises while holding cans.

But Beil says large cans aren't heavy enough to do any good. He says an 8-pound weight is a good starting point.

"There needs to be some challenge for it to be effective," he says. "I think a very small population would get a benefit from that."

But people can place heavier cans inside something, such as a handbag, and hang the handle over their ankle or leg for extensions. Hold the bag in your hand or wear a weighted backpack during lunges or squats. Also, old tires filled with sand serve as weights when draped over the shoulders, Beil says.

"This is a good way to start and get a good base," Sanders says. "Generally, most people can start a light or moderate exercise program at home and build up from that."

Strength training exercises should be performed two to three days a week. Beil suggests doing six or seven different exercises, with 10 repetitions of each. When the number of repetitions becomes easy, more weight should be added.

Cardiovascular exercise is another component of home exercise. Beil says people should do 20 minutes of continuous cardio, three to five times a week.

Sanders says some people choose to walk at school or community gyms or at malls. Beil suggests marching in place while watching television, or playing with children. A home exercise videotape can be followed, or a pedometer can be used to make sure a person is walking far enough.Sanders says men over the age of 40 and women over 50 should contact their doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program.

Beil recommends consulting a professional to ensure the exercises are done safely and effectively.

Beil says that when starting a home exercise program, the person must be in the correct frame of mind.

"The family and the individual really need to make it a priority," Beil says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525